It seems like every other day we read about some far-out, new technology that makes us scratch our heads and say, "What the heck?" In this series, we'll take a look at all types of crazy new gadgets, apps and other technologies -- and the entrepreneurs dreaming them up.
The applications for 3-D printing are being driven in a new direction.
If you were planning a cross-country road trip, how much would you budget for gas? For Cody and Tyler Kor and their dog, Cupid, they'll be figuring just 10 gallons each way for the 2,900-mile journey from New York to San Francisco and back. And Hint: it has a little something to do with 3-D printing.
The brothers will be following in the footsteps of car enthusiast Horatio Nelson Jackson and mechanic Sewall K. Crocker, who made the same journey with their dog Bud in 1903. It took Jackson and Crocker more than 63 days and 800 gallons of fuel to accomplish the first cross-country automobile journey in a 20-hp Winton. The Kors, by contrast, have planned their journey to take a bit more than 44 hours, allowing for human and canine potty breaks, in a considerably more futuristic vehicle: the largely 3-D printed, three-wheeled electric car dubbed the Urbee 2.
Cody and Tyler are part of a team led by their father, Jim Kor, who is president of Kor Ecologic and one of the key designers of the incredibly efficient, aerodynamic vehicle. Its name comes from the three core tenets that went into its design: urban, electric and ethanol. The Ecologic team's goal was to create a small car designed for urban use, powered by an electric motor and an ethanol-fueled combustion engine.
The team hoped to enter the Automotive X Prize competition in 2009, but ran into a snag when they were ready to create a prototype. The fiberglass molding they had originally planned to use for their prototype proved to be too time-consuming to work within their schedule, and they were forced to withdraw from the competition. The team turned to an unlikely source for a solution: 3-D printing.
Working with 3-D printing company Stratasys, they created a 1/6th-scale model, and then finally a full-scale prototype. The three-wheeled car weighs about 1,200 pounds and features a single-cylinder 7-hp engine that uses either diesel or ethanol and networked batteries to drive two electric motors, giving it the equivalent of 16 hp and a max speed of about 70 mph. Steel tubing in the chassis and framing helps make the car strong enough to meet or exceed road-worthy safety standards.
Most intriguing, more than 50 percent of the car is 3-D printed. "Everything you typically see and touch on the car, as you drive the car, will be 3-D printed," Kor was recently quoted saying in Popular Mechanics. That method of production makes the Urbee 2 more affordable -- the sticker price will likely be between $16,000 and $50,000 depending on how many are produced yearly.
Even more important to Kor and his team, though, is the fact that 3-D printing allows the Urbee 2 to be manufactured with minimal environmental impact.
"Designing for sustainability can arguably be stated to be humanity's biggest and most important challenge of the coming century," says Kor. "It's something we absolutely need to get right."
What crazy apps and gadgets have you come across lately? Let us know by emailing us at FarOutTech@entrepreneur.com or by telling us in the comments below.