The Future Of Car Modification
Future Now

Everyday aspects of life are changing all the time, and in the last 10 years you’ll have no doubt experienced a significant shift in your daily routine.

Electric vehicles and autonomous driving are the hot topics in automotive news, mainly because they drive excellent click bait arguments and engagement on social media, but there’s a lot more going on besides that. The sort of tech that doesn’t make an internal combustion enthusiast feel threatened. The sort of tech we love.

The project itself is called ‘3i-PRINT’ and this is everything you need to know.


My favorite of these is rapid prototyping, or ‘additive manufacturing’. You’ll  have no doubt seen sinter-metal printed guns, musical instruments and all manner of oddities on your Internet travels. It’s this sintered metal printing that holds the most interesting prospects for the car world. It means that it’s truly open season for engineers to create forms and structures otherwise impossible in conventional fabrication or manufacturing.

If you’re reading this thinking ‘what does cutting edge, super-expensive OEM level technology have to do with modified street cars’ then just glance at the opening image.

Granted, it is a design study by six of the worlds leading industrial manufacturing companies and includes considerable input from AP Works, a subsidiary of Airbus; the guys who make aeroplanes, but don’t let that put you off. It is still a Volkswagen Caddy, it still has a fully 3D printed front end and it is still awesome. I even like the project ethos; the team says that metal additive manufacturing already works today, but that they wanted to make 3D-printing graspable.


It makes total sense to me; the familiar shape of the MK1 Caddy is immediately jarring when you realize what lies beneath and immediately sparks an intrigue to learn more.

Design Freedom

As an engineer, you always have to consider the actual manufacturing process when designing. It’s an annoying reality but one that becomes much less stringent when you ditch conventional machining and fabrication. There are no CNC machining constraints and no material restrictions, in fact you can even print with transitional materials. That means you could make an exhaust header that utilises Inconel at the hot end and taper it to stainless steel towards the collector.

With additive manufacturing the sky really is the limit for design. This means complex lattice structures, long sweeping forms and interactions between surfaces that you would ordinarily only see in organic structures.

The entire frontal substructure in the Caddy is created from a sintered aluminum alloy, called Scalmalloy®. It allows the whole thing to weigh just 34kg, substantially less than the steel structure and associated cooling parts that the 3i-PRINT piece replaces.


Brace yourself, because this is the really cool bit. The structure isn’t just designed to carry the powertrain; it’s also responsible for the fluid transfer for the cooling system. Just like the show cars water-cooled VW heads will be familiar with, the 3i-PRINT structure uses the strut brace and strut towers as the header tank. There has to be a modified VW fan on the project, I’m convinced of it.

The thermal management goes even further than this though; the inner wing portions also include ducting for the brakes the structure itself even includes cooling fins for the liquid cooling inside.

Crash Optimisation

To be a truly viable, modern solution the team had to integrate design features that automotive designers require in current designs. This includes crash structures and pedestrian safety. While these are not sexy subjects the solutions integrated into the 3i-PRINT structure are pretty cool.

Crash load paths are optimised through the load bearing structure and crumple zones are incorporated to isolate occupants from crash forces. Likewise, pedestrians receive their own collapsible members, exceeding the crash safety of the MK1 Caddy design by absolute light years.

You see, a century ago the motor-car as we know it was a very different beast. It’s come a long way and it’s all down to innovation. It’s all the better for it. Embracing new technologies is what car enthusiasts do best and you can’t argue that you’re not glad to see the back of mechanical fuel injection on daily drivers.

My point is; when you peep over the parapet, past the EV noise, we’re on the brink of a modifying revolution.

Ryan Stewart
Instagram: 7.nth

Photos by 3i-Print 



Comments are closed.


by Oldest
by Best by Newest by Oldest

Its nice to see something that is completely outside the box and beyond anything that I could ever of imagined and executed so flawlessly in such a classic looking shell. It will be really great to see this with an engine in it, but what would they use?


They have designed it so they are able to fit either an EV powertrain or a smaller IC engine. I'd imagine it will end up with EV power and the cooling system used for the batteries and motors. It may not ever get to that point though, but let's hope. It's actually on display at the formnext show in Germany until tomorrow, so if you're in Germany you might be able to see it:


I'm a mechanical engineer, and I only graduated a few years ago, but it's crazy to see processes that were talked about in class as being exotic and rarely used (3D printing was just starting to become widespread, laser metal sintering was still pretty uncommon) becoming relatively much more wide spread in such a short amount of time. It's exciting stuff!


It's this rapid rate of progress that is SO exciting. I mean you can even buy a rapid prototyping machine that will fit on your home desk and enable you to print no longer available OEM parts. A friend of mine has used it to do all sorts of trim pieces for a Sierra he is restoring.


A friend of mine is currently giving his Z28 Camaro a refresh over winter and the amount of 3D printed parts he is using is amazing, its even more impressive that he is designing, making, testing and fitting it all himself. Huge fan of what the future holds. I love the fact the wing mounts on my car are 3D printed and I'm slightly obsessed by the thought of buying my own printer! It gives the the home building the power to build some really impressive stuff.


For years, I've been trying to figure out how to do a folded-hands intake for the old 440 Chrysler I've got out in the garage. 3D printing gave me my answer.

The aftermarket TBI kits you can get just don't do it for me - I want something unique. Like a first-gen 488 Viper with two cylinders missing.


Which type of print material do you use for the intake?

Matthew Everingham

Also very keen on updates! Keep us in the loop!


Sounds awesome Jay - you'll have to send me a link to the project so I can check it out!


Some edits you may want to look at:

"My favorite of these is rapid prototyping, or ‘additive manufacture’. "
try manufacturing

"As an engineer, you always have to consider the actual manufacture when designing."
try manufacturing process

"With additive manufacture the sky really is the limit for design."
try manufacturing

As for my comments on this project:

Id like to see them put an actual engine in that bay first. From a packaging standpoint, it looks a little tight to fit a 4cyl and trans in there with the things needed to make it run (like half shafts and steering rack.) I applaud the idea and i think it will have more impact with electric vehicles due to the different packaging requirements. Other than that its a pretty cool tech demo, unfortunately there is no future to car modification. This is because as technology advances like this it will put these methods out of reach of your average person, and make no mistake that is exactly what bureaucrats and business men want. They want the ability to sell you all of the different options they want to sell to you with no deviation under the guise of safety. The people with the most power will always try to consolidate it with in their own camps.


" future to car modification."

Yeah, that's what they said back in the 80s when fuel injection systems began to replace carburetors in earnest.


Check out the 3i-PRINT site - it's designed to be able to take an EV power plant primarily. I understand what you are saying with bureaucratic restrictions, but it's in these tight spots that innovation really thrives. The reality is we do not know what the future really holds, just as in the 1930's no one had a clue that most family hatchbacks would have a level of automation. Adaptive cruise control would be an alien concept... in fact just a FWD hatchback would have been mind blowing.


I hope you don't think that i am not impressed, Ive been impressed with everything coming out of the 3d printing world ever since I've had the chance to ride a titanium printed mountain bike frame. It was printed on one 8" by 8" pallet and glued together. I love that they are working on new applications, materials and ideas in the 3d printing world and look forward to the new products and ideas that are still to come out. I will agree that 3d printing in plastics will become a part of automotive modification in the short term(replacement parts, seamless integration of new parts, etc), but in the long run i just don't see it. 3d printing in metal is resource intensive and dangerous and when you combine the bureaucracy of the automotive sector combined with skyrocketing population densities in larger cities and the ever constant push to move closer to the city centers, it just seems that in the long term car ownership will be a luxury and thus will lend it's self to custom manufacturing over modification which isnt necessarily a bad thing! But you are right, we do not know what the future will hold although i do like the idea of custom manufacturing of cars and the level of uniqueness in the builds that it will bring.


I'd argue that rapid prototyping for aftermarket is very much the norm now. Most aftermarket parts manufacturers are using CAD, CFM and rapid prototyping to design and develop intake systems, intercoolers and other things at an alarming rate. Likewise the cost of printing at home had fallen like a stone in the last few years and I know several people here in the UK making parts for their projects one a minimal budget with a little CAD experience. Items like brackets, ITB trumpets, switchgear and the like can be made must faster and less expensively than traditional turned metal or fabricated means. I think we are of a similar viewpoint though, more excited to see where this goes than being at the forefront pushing it forward!


Wrong, i work in the aftermarket, at least in australia its pretty fucking rare and its quicker for me to cnc a bracket than it is too print, this shit will never be common in a shop, that printer is for sure owned by Airbus and id bet my years pay check worth 10's of millions and probably took days to print

Printing a prototype at home and this kind of stuff are worlds apart, nothing you car really buy for home is nice, will work for interior trim stuff but nothing structural


This is my shit right here. Real innovation that will actually bring classic cars into the modern era. Reminds me of RUF and their completely new yellowbird that masks a brand new car under the familiar old 911 silhouette. My dream project is getting closer to the realm of possibility..


The current technological headache is manufacturing large single pieces accurately, consistently and inexpensively. Once that threshold is crossed, the sky's the limit.


In my eyes it's just one step forward from the highy developed Pro-Mod type builds where the entire car is re-engineered for modern purposes. CAD/CAM and all of those modern design paths were quickly adopted by car builders. To me this is an obvious progression.


This design reminds me of the famous architect Gandhi. The organic lines are kind of similiar to his style. Impresive never the less, love that they chose a pickup Rabbit for the prototype.


I think you mean Gaudi, but you know what, you're right. I hadn't thought about drawing this design parallel but it's the same freedom that creates the form. Who says a window has to be square, ok cool... let's make it whatever shape we like!


Indeed I was going to say Gaudi...I dont know how I got those two confused, good thing you understood my point! ;)


Reminds myself of the uprights created by the Brno Formula Student team. Endless opportunities to alter load paths, whilst saving weight and production time!


That's so awesome! I can imagine this breathing life into a lot of forgotten or busted up cars old and new. The idea of bringing the structural integrity of a modern car into specifically old VW's makes me very happy lol.


Use the right materials and coatings and you can even make engine parts.

Hello, LS-based straight-6 turbo!


You can use a relatively cheap 3D printer to make the shapes needed for low-cost sand or investment casting, right now. It's pretty cool.


That's so dope! I love their approach of the subject; while they could have taken any ol' car, they chose to work with a retro VW and make it into a non-plus-ultra resto mod, nice!

I just really hope that when this technology becomes affordable, the iconic cars we all love will still exist in large enough numbers.


If they don't, we can just print them ;)


Haha. Can you imagine!


Oh man, you just made my day with that reply haha


Maybe in the future we will be able to 3d print original body kits rather than overfenders


No, it's NOT an authentic '69 Daytona / '99 V-Spec II / '63 Split-window / Whatever.

No, I don't care.


I love 3D printing and can definitely see a place for this technology.

Buy a skateboard chassis with standardized batteries, motors and connectors and either design your own body & interior for it, or have the work done by someone else.

Like giant RC cars.


Confused about why you would want to taper inconel into stainless steel. Inconel not only repels heat, but is a lighter material. Seems like more of a cost benefit than a performance benefit.


There's always optimization to be had, and not just in performance. If steel will do the job of inconel after a certain point in the system, why waste the expensive material? Also, inconel is slightly more dense than both stainless and chromoly steel.


Makes sense.


It would be pain in the ass to fix and welding, especially the bent damage.


cut at the weld, print a new piece, weld it in.


Hope that won't affect its structure.


why would it? it's welded together already.


Now we're talking! I can see this being the next thing. Something break or want a custom job, just print and weld it!


As someone who develops these "printers": Scalmalloy is not sintered it is melted in a SLM-process. Sintering gives you porous materials, SLm gives you materials with the full density. Thats a huge difference in the atual use of the part. Also there is quite some design restrictions for SLM-parts and not all 3D-printing processes work like you described, it is a pretty widespread and complicated field.


I really like the idea of combine cooling system (at least the pipe) with the chassis structure, although I do wonder if impurity of coolant (tap water) would slowly corrode the structure?

Actually, this coolant transferring in chassis just makes me wonder if one day, people would take this & apply to a vehicle that has radiator at opposite end of the engine position like mid-mounted engine car, or rear-mounted radiator car?


Thank you glencore and ian glasenberg and your stupid lobbying cobalt is worse than petrol but everyone doesnt give a F thankfully mad max show us how to find petrol in our nearest apocalyptic world !


most awesome thing I have ever seen for classic car restoration....I want a '70 Challenger with the same 3D printed skeleton. I was always cautious about possibly driving a classic because of crash worthiness and am constantly thinking how to integrate crash/crumple zones into classics. This seems ideal.


Great to see our car here. Thanks Ryan.

I wont make advertisement but if if you are interested in printing or designing your parts for your industrial use, get in touch with me.


Caddy by Gaudi