I'm a Mechanical Engineering student in Richmond, Virginia. In class recently we've studied 3D Printing. Its an amazing piece of technology and it's becoming cheaper and cheaper to use.
We were shown an example of a 3D printer used in Afghanistan by the US Army to create new tank parts that broke, straight from raw steel. Then the same machine was used to create new forks for the mess hall!
Knowing the VW and Audi community, my question is how willing would people be to pay more money to have customized parts for their cars? Can you imagine having wheels that you designed yourself, color, size ,spokes, and design. All original and one of a kind!? Personal engravings and such, really what ever you wanted. Custom/replacement engine/car parts. You could customize body parts such has valence's and spoilers, side skirts, anything.
This is part of an assignment and research I'm doing for class, after going to H2Oi 2012 I'm sure there are some people who would be interested in this. Let me know your thoughts and if you would be willing to pay more for wheels, parts, etc. for you car! Throw out some more ideas as well if you want!
it does sound like a pretty cool idea. but how hard would it be for someone with no knowledge of engineering to design their own custom part for this machine? and how expensive would it be to actually create the part? i feel like its still something a little ahead of our time period for the average consumer
Good question, you would have to find a way for people to create their own parts using an interface that is usable by anyone. In the case of wheels, maybe create a few templates that you can mix and match? i.e. 5 types of spokes, 5 center pieces, choose a color, and sizes 14-22" wheel size(you could even make it higher for those people who like to customize trucks) that you can put together and substitute different combinations? Sort of like those websites where you design your own t-shirt like zazzle.com. Obviously this is far off from reality, but a lot of common household items nowa-days used to be far off items!
the whole problem with something like t shirts versus car parts is that t shirts are 2 dimensional (of course they technically do have depth but not in the purpose of the designs) where as a wheel has length, width, and height that need to be created. This might be a little hard to have very personal customizations, and if you just stuck with having a couple different lips, centerpieces, etc... thats already somewhat do-able for probably less than it would to have a custom made piece of aluminum.