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The work that goes into building a physical model of a concept car is usually hidden behind closed doors, known only to engineers sworn to secrecy and similarly tight-lipped subcontractors.

Printing cars in 3-D

One company, however, has opened up its secret vault. The Citroën Hypnos. We took great delight in teasing the automaker for their outlandish interior, but never imagined it could actually be built. Of course 3-D printing service I.materialise proved us wrong by printing up some pod-like seats (shown above) one can actually rest in — if you dare. The same goes for the futuristic interior of the Renault Ondelios, another I.materialise creation.

For the 2008 Paris Motor Show, the folks over at I.materialise built parts of a concept car for Citroën based on the GT supercar from the Gran Turismo 5 video game. The only reason they’re able to talk about it is that the car is three years old, and they got the OK from all parties involved.

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“Concept cars are meant to stretch the imagination,” said Joris Peels of I.materlialise. “This means that on the engineering front they often stretch what is currently possible in manufacturing. The methods and concepts that lead a car manufacturer toward new insights in design and manufacturing is something that the car manufacturer would rather keep close to its chest.”

Most people don’t even realize that the parts and panels of concept cars gracing turntables from Los Angeles to Geneva are often the work of a 3-D printer. Those that do, but aren’t closely familiar with the process, might imagine a giant version of a desktop printer that spits out a final product, ready for installation. The actual process involves just as much art as science.

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