Critical Analysis – Rapid Racer

In week 5 we get to visit the Out of Hand: materializing the digital exhibition displaying at the Museum of Applied Arts and Science, Sydney. I get to look at many different works and studies the used of the media, material, and technologies. One of the interesting artwork that I will be analysis today is Rapid Racer, 2011 by Barbara K. Andreas S. and their work partner at the university of HAWK, Germany. Rapid Racer is a first fully 3D printed vehicle in the world. ABS was used as the material due to its lightweight property, and its flexibility to use with the 3D printer that they’re developing. The artists also commenting those curve constructions on top of the vehicle was inspired by human/animals bone structure, this been done to improved strength and lightness. The most interesting aspect of this work is that artists use the wireless power drill as the power source that moves the automobile; if they didn’t say that in the statement I would probably think that it has a small engine inside or have delicate electric motors that they are specially designed to suit the 3D printed vehicle.

3D printer

3D printing or additive manufacturing [AM] is the way to describe the processes of making an object in three dimensional, in the way that putting layer material on top of another layer material under a computer control (Createitreal, 2017). First equipment like 3D printer was developed in 1981 by a guy name Hideo Kodama, at that time he is working at Nagoya Municipal Industrial Research Institute, Japan. The two first AM fabricating to make a three-dimensional plastic model at the time printer only have the capacity of making a flat object (Hideo Kodama). Later in 1984 a French inventor/engineer [Alain Le] and his co-workers wanted to file a patent on the stereolithigraphy process [part of 3D printing technology]. The good thing is it was 3 weeks before Hull an American engineer who want to file a patent on the same technology but sadly Alain’s application was rejected by a CILAS (Mendoza, 2017) due to lack of business purpose. Meaning that the right of the technology goes to Chick Hull a person known to be the inventor of 3D printing. Guess what was his first printed, it is a small cup of a size of an eyeball. Later in the 1990s the 3D printer back then cost around 100 000 USD or more, which will be around 250 000 nowadays. It was until the 2010s when 3d printing becomes a big discussion topic around the world. Why? Because there are a lot of potential uses of 3D printing technology for example in healthcare, construction, fashion, and more. In the case of healthcare, first according to V3UK medical equipment and parts are quite expensive to create and often require special components but not in the case of 3D printing technology. It allows to print basic equipment such as “adjustable casts for broken bones or affordable crutches”. This also has a positive impact on the environmental aspect due to the material used in 3D printing can be recycled or broken down. Second, a group of a researcher at the University of California successfully printed organ and blood vessels from the techniques called “rapid bioprinting method” or “microscale continuous optical bioprinting”. What’s 3D printing allows id a big step to improve the medical industry? Looking into the construction side of view, it allows for customization, for example, door handle and knobs with that also come with lower cost on sourcing parts. A private company in Shanghai has developed a 3D printer that can be used for printing houses. The owner shows the news reporter at China News TV that its can printed 10 full-size houses in one day [efficiency] and materials that he uses is come from wastes in the construction mixing with concrete meaning that it has less impact on the environmental. He believes that in the future this technology will be use to help homeless people in 3rd world countries. Lastly, I will be looking into the aspect of fashion. The technology could be a new way of creating / customization parts and jewelry at a low cost. Interesting news on ABC AU presenting that a Canberra designer created a dress by printing a rubber. She said that 3D printing technology allows more opportunity for a designer to create what she wants to do and also believe will be the fashion technology for the future as it is enabled to be custom for a customer.


I mention before that the artists of Rapid Racer chosen to use ABS as a printing material. Why? ABS or Arcylonitrile butadiene styene is an opaque thermoplastic polymer material made from monomers Acrylonitrile, Butadiene and Styrene [this is why they are called ABS]. Now, I will be looking into properties of ABS. According to Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene Properties, the material is impact resistance, toughness, and heat resistance, the best time is the properties are stability and not changing under influences of load or temperatures. There are many grades of ABS but all of them will be best to use at between -20o C to 80 o C. this is why it’s largely use for mechanical parts, for example, automotive body parts, dashboards, wheel cover, buttons, etc. why automotive using this plastic? Because the lightweight of plastic makes cars more efficient. Gerard, K. states that every 10 percent of the weight reduction will impact on the vehicle by 5 to 7 percent in gas usage and this are the list of benefit: 1. Least corrosion – allows for longer vehicle life. 2. Design freedom – plastic allow to be creative and innovative. 3. Flexibility at integrating parts. 4. Safety, comfort, recyclability, and cost effective. ABS and 3D printer… ABS is easy to operate such as sanded, glued and painted. Many people often use this material for prototyping due to inexpensive [5 AUD per kilogram] (Rogers, 2017).

My of us probably wonder what is the most common use material for the 3D printing?The answer is there are 5 materials; here is a list in order from very popular to least popular. PLA or Polylactic Acid, ABS, PA or PolyAmide, HIPS or High Impact Polystyrene, TPE or Thermoplastic Elastomer. TPE is a new material that printing a soft material similar to a soft rubber meaning that the printed object can be stretch for example as I mention before about Canberra designer printed a creating / customization parts for a dress. HIPS is a strong material like ABS but a lot more expensive, it is good for printing something small because it’s cooling property. PA or what people called Nylon is very strong and easy to operate with the machine but it’s not the cheapest option. PLA is the lowest cost printing material available in many different colors.

From my research, it looks like PLA and ABS are the most common use material for 3D printing due to availability and cost effective but why ABS was chosen for the Rapid Racer’s work? By comparing ABS and PLA I found some aspects in common and some aspects aren’t. First, I will be talking about common area. ABS and PLA are the same types of plastic known as a thermoplastic. Thermoplastics are soft and moldable when it’s heated up and return to solid when they are cooled [the processes on cooling and heating can be done as many time as you want] (Flynt, 2017). But what are the different between the two?


  • Not as strong and flexibility as AB
  • Comes in lots of different colors
  • Printer can operate quicker on this material
  • Make from corn, sugar beets – better for environmental
  • Lower heat resistance


  • Strength and flexibility
  • Have limited colors
  • Preferred plastic for engineers and professional applications
  • Make from petroleum – worst for environmental
  • Higher heat resistance

*By looking into two materials you can see that why ABS was chosen for the Rapid Racer [perfect for the application]

Screen Shot 2017-04-30 at 11.48.21 PM

Now I will be analyzing the bone structure inspiration. By seeing a picture of the Rapid Racer you can see a ribs structure on the side of the vehicle and the back curve spinal column on the top part. For the animals and the human body, spine is the central support structure that helps to connect different parts together such legs, arms, chest, and head. Even it is a central support structure, it can be flexible to support different movements. Looking back at Rapid, it has central support structure on top of the vehicle which is doing a similar job as an animal and human bones. It is connecting rear wheel, handle, bar support for the front wheels, and the power source [Cordless drill] together with its main body. For the animals and human rib cage, it’s protecting and enclose the important part for the body to function. Those parts are lungs, and heart, if one of them damages or missing the body, will not function. Looking back again at Rapid, on the side of the vehicle it’s has a similar design of rib cage to protect the drivetrain [the part that sending power from Cordless drill to the rear wheel] this rib cage design also allow more flexibility and lightweight, unlike a traditional wall.


Many of us probably want to know why a group of people gets together to create this work. The answer to that is to enter a competition at the Akkuschrauberrennen contest by the university of HAWK in Germany. HAWK is the host and having these events every year from 2003 to 2007 and every 2 years from 2007 to present. The rule of the races is that the entire vehicle should be 3D printed components and power by a battery-operated the cordless screwdriver. This is a challenging for the people who enter the contest because they have to develop the lightest vehicle as possible but need to be strong enough to carry a person weight together with flexibility enough to support turning and road condition. The team needs to consider about aerodynamic as well because the aim is to cross the finish line before others. Finally, you can see that by breaking down a work we will get understand the decision that artist made in the making processes and what could go wrong if the work has been done in different ways.


References: (2017). 3D printing process. [online] Available at: [Accessed 29 Apr. 2017].

Hideo Kodama, “A Scheme for Three-Dimensional Display by Automatic Fabrication of Three-Dimensional Model,” IEICE TRANSACTIONS on Electronics pp.237–241

Mendoza, H. (2017). Alain Le Méhauté, The Man Who Submitted Patent For SLA 3D Printing Before Chuck Hull. [online] | The Voice of 3D Printing / Additive Manufacturing. Available at: [Accessed 29 Apr. 2017].

Latest, V. and read, M. (2017). Six potential uses for 3D printing. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Apr. 2017]. (2017). Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene Properties | Technical Information (ABS). [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Apr. 2017].

Gerard, K. (2017). 13 High Performance Plastics Used in the Automotive Industry. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Apr. 2017].

Rogers, T. (2017). Everything You Need to Know About ABS Plastic. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Apr. 2017].

ProtoParadigm. (2017). The Difference Between ABS and PLA for 3D Printing. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Apr. 2017].

Flynt, J. (2017). 5 Most Popular 3D Printing Thermoplastics. [online] 3D Insider. Available at: [Accessed 30 Apr. 2017].

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