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3-D printed vehicles take fast lane to the future

Alpha, winning design in MakerBot GrabCAD 3D Print Challenge: 2040 Vehicles of the Future.
Alpha, winning design in MakerBot GrabCAD 3D Print Challenge: 2040 Vehicles of the Future.GrabCAD

What will you be driving in 2040? Hold on to your seats because the vehicles of the future can hover, launch straight up into space and travel at unprecedented speeds. However, you'll enjoy the road and skies alone, if the vision of this year's 3-D printing winners comes to pass.

Auto enthusiasts from around the world met MakerBot's and GrabCAD's challenge to design vehicles of the future, including cars, motorcycles, planes and spacecraft. The sponsors this week announced the six winners selected from 151 entries. For these contestants, future transportation meant one thing — everyone will drive alone. All six winners designed single-passenger vehicles.

Today, the models were printed on 3-D printers, but in 2040 full-size vehicles could be manufactured on such devices. In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama announced plans to establish 3-D printing hubs that would rejuvenate manufacturing in the U.S. And a look at the ambitious designs submitted by the winners, shows just how exciting tomorrow's factories could be.

First prize went to a German designer, one of 350,000 members in GrabCad's online community of engineers, who paired hot rod elements of today with a cold-fusion-powered engine for his winning Alpha. This vehicle was built to fly down roads and travel into space. The simulation showing Alpha on the road reminded one commenter of the head from "Alien."

Clockwise starting on left: 2040 Direct Drive, hot rod motorcycle, Firanse R3, Sampa, LB1.GrabCAD

Gaberiel Ortin of Canada took second place with his 2040 Direct Drive vehicle. He believes that though most cars of the future will be driverless, there will always be a desire to drive. Direct Drive pares down the concept of a car to its bare bones. Drivers are about as close to the road as possible, offering a suspended seat that swivels with turns, and a completely open cockpit mesh-like floor.

Third-place winner Matthew Gueller designed a personal hot rod motorcycle that keeps all three wheels on the ground.

Firanse R3, designed by Luis Cordoba of Mexico, said his fourth-place-winning vehicle would be affordable and ecologically sound. With just two parts, the cab holds seats, batteries and principal controls; and the wheels contain engines, brakes, and a suspension and direction system. Cordoba's design has been downloaded more than 400 times, twice the number of any other competitor.

The last two winners both envisioned flying vehicles. Fifth place went to Brian in the U.S. with his Sampa jet-powered flying motorcycle that would rival aircraft speeds. Marcos in Mexico took fifth place with LB1, a personal flying vehicle with a closed cockpit.

All models were printed in 3-D on a MakerBot Replicator 2 Desktop 3-D Printer and plans for each are available to download from GrabCad.