For over a year, billionaire Elon Musk has been teasing the press with hints that he was developing "the public transport system of the future." Last week, he finally went public and open-sourced his alpha design for the transport system. It's a solar powered tube system capable of rocketing passengers from place to place at near-supersonic speeds.
Along with the release Musk stated that he didn't have time to pursue the project right now because he's too involved in other projects at Tesla Motors and SpaceX. Instead he invited anyone who is interested to jump in, modify his design and develop the project in their own way.
Now, a company called White Clouds has taken him up on his offer. It's not a full sized demo, but they have produced a 3D printed concept model of the transport system and put it on display. "When we saw the plans that Elon Musk was laying out for the future of transportation, we were really excited about the technology aspects and wanted to help promote the concept through 3D printing," said White Clouds CEO Jerry Ropelato.
Ropelato challenged five of his engineers to create a printable model and less than a day later, he was holding it in his hands. "It took us 21 hours from concept to final build," Ropelato said.
The engineers worked up the printable design in SolidWorks, Maya and 3DS Max Design. After that they used three different models of 3D printers to build the mini-prototype. First they used a Connex 500 to print the pillars that hold the tubes up. Then they used a ProJet 3500 HDMax along with a clear resin to print the outer transport tube. The station platform and the inside of the pods were build on a ZPrinter 650, because it can handle using multiple colors in a single build session. "To combine the finished three parts took five minutes. That was part of the beauty of 3D printing, allowing us to easily connect the various parts." Ropelto said.
When asked whether or not building a scale model gave him any insight into the feasibility of the project Ropelato was hesitant. "When you build a scale model, it really brings into perspective how large this project really is," he said. "We are excited to see if Elon's project will be given its due consideration."
Elon Musk told CNN that while the design is now open source, he is still tinkering around with the idea of building the first working prototype himself; especially if it looks like no one else plans to do it. "If somebody else goes and does a demo, that would be really awesome, and I hope somebody does," Musk said. "But if it doesn't look like that's happening, or it's maybe not happening in quite the right way, then that's when I might allocate some time to this."