When you see an incredible looking and innovative device of any kind today, it is almost certain that it was developed and prototyped using 3D printing technologies. If it comes from former Tesla and BMW engineers—two of the most vocal adopters of these technologies—those chances increase. So when the UrmO electric self-balancing scooter was launched and successfully funded on Kickstarter, it did not take long to confirm that the “prototype 0” was 3D printed. The only question was how much and which parts.
With prices ranging from €1,299 for early birds to €2,499 for the special edition (€2,000 for the final retail price), the UrmO looks as stylish and modern as any electric Tesla and BMW car. Perhaps more importantly, it integrates a patent-pending folding mechanism for your last mile, which means you can fold it up and easily carry it (it weighs about 7kg) anywhere you go. You might even be able to transport it in your carry on luggage on a flight.
During the key prototyping phase—which enabled the designers to come up with a functioning proof of concept—the carbon fiber parts were produced using a hydraulic press, other parts were 3D printed out of laser sintered plastics, while the subshell of the device was 3D printed from aluminium parts using powder bed fusion.
“These are the real materials that the prototype is made from. In short, we did everything that constitutes rapid prototyping,” the UrmO team wrote on its blog. “And then the moment came when we turned it on for the first time. The first step on the UrmO, it beeps and then it gives a slight jolt: it drives off. Success!”
It is still not clear if the first batches will be produced using 3D printing technologies. The roughly €138,000 collected so far on Kickstarter indicate that about 100 devices were sold, meaning that metal powder bed fusion 3D printing could be a cost-effective production method for several—if not all—of the aluminum parts, while some other polymer parts could also be made using AM technologies.
The UrmO team confirmed that they have already built several prototypes, to prove the technology and to be able to evaluate parts suppliers. The final product will be assembled by a contract manufacturer under the team’s supervision. 3D printing may prove a useful technology to reduce the need to adjust tolerances or redesign tools as production is scaled up, thus also reducing the risk of delaying the production and delivery.