With the rise of technology-led design, more industries are opening their doors to innovation and creativity than ever before. Industries that used to rely only on internal strategies and specific rules are now facing competition from designers with the expertise and ability to innovate from outside the industry, and many are recognizing this as an amazing opportunity. The automotive industry is notoriously difficult to crack, but advancements in design software and 3D printing have made the process of designing and building cars (and other vehicles) more efficient in only a few years. Some companies have created entire departments devoted to developing their 3D printing capabilities, and other small companies have sprung up as industry disruptors able to design and print antire vehicles with a fraction of the resources larger companies have. For designers proficient with 3D printing and design methods, the automotive industry holds lots of promise.
The democratic nature of internet-based design is uncommon in the automotive industry, which frequently keeps its design innovations under strict patent-protected lock and key. However, in a time where the average person with an understanding of basic engineering and a the right software can print car parts at home instead of buying them from car companies, a challenge has arisen. Not only is there a financial challenge to companies who generate revenue from the sale of replacement parts, but there is also a new ability to turn the car manufacturing process on its head and make the entire endeavor of building a car more efficient, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly.
Making a car in the traditional way can require thousands of hands, tens of thousands of parts, and diverse resources that can be expensive and difficult to source. New entrepreneurs using digital design methods and 3D printing can circumvent these problems with ease, and build an entire car in only a few days using a fraction of the resources and parts. Arizona-based company Local Motors introduced the Strati in 2014, a 3D printed car made of plastic and carbon fiber that has only 49 parts and can be printed and assembled in two days.
New ideas in the area of automotive development stand to see huge successes, as entrepreneur Bill Busbice demonstrated with his HWY Pro app that has revolutionized the trucking industry. Transportation Design student, Josh Sandrock, on the other hand, showed with his new Volkswagen Pickup design that won the Michelin Design Challenge this year.
For designers, the opportunities are nearly infinite in the automotive industry. Cars are one of the most pervasive consumer goods, even as the industry undergoes massive change. Industrial designers will be the ones creating technology and tools to accommodate these changes, product designers will be creating new ways to augment old cars and conceptualize new ones, and designers from all areas have insight to offer at every stage of the production process as it becomes more democratized and sustainable.