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EDAG Light Cocoon Concept Saves Weight With 3D-Printed Body, Cloth Skin

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 3/5/2015 Frank Markus
EDAG Light Cocoon Concept Saves Weight With 3D-Printed Body, Cloth Skin

At last year’s Geneva show, German automotive engineering firm EDAG displayed its Genesis concept, an elegant single-seat vehicle body structure inspired by the “intelligent design” of a turtle’s carapace. That one-piece monocoque was 3D printed, using laser-sintered metal, but it didn’t look like much of a car. This year’s Light Cocoon concept looks like a handsome little fastback coupe, and shows what might be possible in the way of 3D-printing an extremely lightweight car.

Research

EDAG calls this “bionic design,” and says it was inspired by the structure of a leaf, which features a spiderweb of fibrous support material covered by a thin skin. Here the metal material -- presumably laser-sintered aluminum -- is used only where absolutely necessary to define the shape of the car and provide necessary crash protection. Careful finite-element modeling and analysis produce sort of a spiderweb of this thin metal, and the skin covering this cocoon needs contribute nothing to the strength of the body, so it may as well be something very lightweight -- like a fabric.

In this case, the fabric is a highly-waterproof, stretchable cloth made by Jack Wolfskin, a German supplier of outdoor sportswear, tents and such. It is light permeable, so LED backlighting can change the color of the car at the touch of a button, permitting a high degree of personalization.

EDAG Light Cocoon Concept© Provided by MotorTrend EDAG Light Cocoon Concept Because the fabric is flexible and stretchy, it’s possible to have moveable aerodynamic elements in which the substructure just flexes the fabric, eliminating the need for additional cut-lines and joints in the bodywork.

EDAG has not computed the total vehicle weight-saving potential of this technology, but it did conduct a thorough study of substituting a hood of this bionic design for one of stamped aluminum, and found that the new construction technique would likely trim the weight by 25 percent. Of course, additive manufacturing (3D printing) has a long way to go in terms of cycle time reduction before bionic-designed cars threaten stamped and welded ones in the volume sales race.

EDAG Light Cocoon Concept© Provided by MotorTrend EDAG Light Cocoon Concept
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