Imagine if you could go online, customise a car, then have it printed out and delivered to your door. It sounds futuristic, but this concept will become a reality when Local Motors rolls out the first production level 3D printed car later this year.
The Strati car hit the headlines last September when it was unveiled as the world’s first 3D-printed electric car at the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) in Chicago.
The Strati was taken from concept design through to development and production in just 4 months. Which may seem like an impossible task, but Local Motors is no ordinary car manufacturer.
“Since launching in 2007, we have continuously disrupted the way vehicles are designed, built, and sold.” Local Motors Co-founder and CEO John B. Rogers, Jr
The Arizona-based company has an online ‘crowd sourcing’ platform where design ideas and prototype projects are shared and evaluated by a global community of enthusiasts, hobbyist innovators and professionals. They work remotely with the designers, engineers and makers at Local Motors to bring bright ideas to life. Effectively it is an online hot-house environment for developing concepts and pushing them through into production very rapidly.
The Strati (which is Italian for ‘layers’) started out as a design challenge posted online for the co-creator community in May 2014. Just 4 months later the winning design by Michele Anoé was ready for production.
This unprecedented speed is achieved by pairing the ‘co-creation’ design phase with ‘micro-manufacturing’. Rather than mass-producing vehicles at a large centralised plant, Local Motors believes vehicles should be created on demand locally in a Micro Factory.
Visitors to the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in January got to experience this concept at first hand when a Strati car was printed and assembled live within a Micro Factory set up on the show floor.
The first stage of this process involves printing the car’s main body and chassis structure using a thermoplastic polymer filament reinforced with carbon fibre.
Creating the body as a single unit eliminates the need for multiple assemblies requiring fixing, bolting, or gluing. Simply put, fewer parts equals fewer problems. The entire body module can be printed in around 44 hours – and the aim is to cut this to 24 hours in the near future.
A CNC cutter is then used to refine the printed form and give shape to the Strati’s bodywork.
The last phase is rapid assembly, where non 3D-printed components, such as the engine, electrical components and tyres are added. Vinyl wrapping and bodywork finishes can then be added to create a showroom ready vehicle.
Local Motors believe the digital manufacturing (DDM) process could change the shape of how cars are made and sold.
A key advantage of DDM is that it allows for a high level of customisation at far lower cost. Designs can be easily modified and then printed, so the expensive tooling processes involved in traditional car production are eliminated. No doubt this creative freedom will be welcomed by design lovers and car enthusiasts alike.
In theory, the micro-factories could be distributed around the globe to enable car manufacturing to be done locally. Local Motors reckon that each micro-factory would typically create more than 100 local jobs, as well as reduce freight and distribution costs by 97%. Recycling is increased, waste reduced, and delivery times speeded up. So you can see how micro-factories could be a game-changer for the car industry.
These diminutive factories drastically decrease the negative environmental impact using both additive and subtractive manufacturing to produce large consumer goods for unique local needs. Local Motors
Two new micro-factories have recently been opened, one in Knoxville, Tennessee, and the other at National Harbor, just outside Washington DC. The micro-factory in National Harbor will be where the first fleet of 3D-printed cars will be manufactured and sold later this year. Local Motors are currently seeking partners to open and operate more micro factories around the globe.
If you love all things automotive, we highly recommend a visit to the Local Motors website. The company has already produced an interesting range of innovative vehicles, from their Verrado electric tricycle, through to the Rally Fighter off-road/on-road car.
The Rally Fighter was also ‘co-created’ by the online community, and part of its attraction is that new owners can take a ‘hands on’ approach to the build of their car alongside Local Motors mechanics.
Budding designers can explore new co-creator projects on the Local Motors website – or join the community and get involved in developing new projects.
If you like the idea of owning one of the world’s first 3D printed production cars, you can put your name down on the waiting list at the Local Motors website.
- Visit the Local Motors website >
- Explore Local Motors’ latest Co-Creator projects >
- Get latest news updates on Local Motors on Twitter >
- Follow Local Motors on Facebook >
- Great time lapse video of the Strati Car being printed >
- Strati Car debut at Detroit Auto Show >
Image credits: Local Motors Inc.
The Strati Car features in the Rhine Capital Partners monthly investment update for March.
- On 31st March 2015