Local Motors and the 3D-printed Car
Written by Nicole James
Photo by Hans Marquez
Since launching in 2007, Local Motors has continuously disrupted the way vehicles are designed, built, and sold. A new kind of vehicle and manufacturing process has begun as Local Motors has been building 3D-printed cars live from auto show floors.
The latest model of 3D-printed vehicle from Local Motors is called the Strati, the vehicle is the first in a line of 3D-printed cars. The design was chosen in May 2014 from more than 200 submitted to Local Motors by the company’s online co-creation community after launching a call for entries. The winning design was submitted by Michele Anoè who was awarded a cash prize plus the opportunity to see his design brought to life.
These 3D-printed cars have a three-phase process. Simply, they print, refine, and finish.
The first phase in 3D-printed manufacturing is additive. Made from a carbon fiber reinforced thermoplastic material by SABIC, the current model of the Strati takes approximately 44 hours to print 212 layers. The end result is a completed 3D-printed Car Structure.
“SABIC is pleased to have contributed the materials and processing knowledge to support Local Motors and help enable this advanced additive manufacturing approach,” said Scott Fallon, general manager, Automotive, SABIC’s Innovative Plastics business. “We have built expertise in additive manufacturing to further strengthen the product development support that we can deliver to our customers, from ideation through prototyping, testing and validation. We will continue to invest in the technology to help the automotive industry realize as much potential from it as possible.”
The second phase of 3D-printed manufacturing is subtractive. Once 3D printing is complete, the 3D-printed Car Structure moves to a Thermwood CNC router that mills the finer details. After a few hours of milling, the Strati’s exterior details take shape.
The last phase of 3D-printed manufacturing is rapid assembly. After the 3D-printed Car Structure is printed and refined, the non 3D-printed components, including the drivetrain, electrical components, gauges and wiring, plus the tires are added. A vinyl wrapping, paint or other surface treatment is used to complement the 3D-printed texture, resulting in a showroom-ready vehicle.
Local Motors will also offer the automotive industry a glimpse into the future of manufacturing. The technology company has built a working micro-factory on the show floor, giving a front-row seat of how cars will be made in the near future.
“Micro-factories are a great counterpoint because they employ an economy of scope by taking advantage of low cost tooling and co-creation, resulting in the ability to get products to market faster and in less time while using less capital to find a winning concept,” said Local Motors Co-founder and CEO John B. Rogers, Jr.
A micro-factory, which is typically located within 100 miles of major urban centers, creates more than 100+ local jobs, reduces freight and distribution costs by 97%, increases recycling and reduces waste while speeding delivery time to market.
Two new micro-factory locations are in the works: one in Knoxville, Tenn. and one at National Harbor, just outside Washington DC.