Leveraging an intelligent combination of Stratasys PolyJet and FDM 3D printing technologies, a German start-up, Floatility GmbH, has developed a lightweight, solar-powered, electric scooter. Known as the “e-floater,” this rentable scooter has an electric motor and is a stabilized by three wheels. It is also an “intelligent” vehicle and communicates its location and condition with its owner.
Floatility used Stratasys 3D printing during the product development phase to quickly and cost-effectively create a working prototype in advance of the e-floater’s November 2015 launch date. Using both FDM and PolyJet 3D printing technologies, they achieved a fully-functional, 3D printed prototype 50% faster than using silicone molding for the prototyping process.
“The need to build prototypes that exactly resembled the final product and that would enable us to test everything thoroughly was vital to the successful launch of this product,” said Oliver Risse, Floatility’s founder. “3D printing was essential in this regard as it allowed the team to physically test the design and concept of e-floater as if it were the final product. This not only sped up the product development cycle, but dramatically reduced our product development costs. We would have not been able to take this product from concept to launch without using Stratasys 3D printing to develop a working prototype – it’s as simple as that.”
Multiple 3D Printing Technologies Yield Multiple Benefits
As well as improved time and cost efficiencies, the decision to use multiple Stratasys 3D printing technologies was also based on the need to combine different materials in the product. Floatility produced soft components — such as the lights for the front and tail, wheels and grips — using the PolyJet-based Objet500 Connex3 Color Multi-material 3D Printer. Components that required outstanding ruggedness were 3D printed using the mechanically-strong and UV-stable ASA material on an FDM-based Fortus 450 3D Printer.
Choosing 3D Printing over Traditional Molded Prototypes
Risse elected not to use silicone molding to create the prototype for the e-floater. Silicone molding “was not ideal for a number of reasons,” he said. “Not only would it have entailed an assembly of up to 20 parts, but the costs would have been significantly higher and the production time would have been double to that achievable with 3D printing.”
“The e-floater is a perfect example of how 3D printing enables designers and inventors to turn their concepts into fully-operational products quickly and cost-effectively,” explained Andy Middleton, President of Stratasys EMEA. “In this case, the blend of both our core 3D printing technologies proved instrumental in bringing another exciting and innovative product to market and, as a company, we’re delighted to play a part in helping Floatility – and other start-up businesses like them – bring their ideas to reality.”