Founded in 2007 and operating out of Phoenix, Arizona, Local Motors has grown into one of the most innovative and forward thinking automotive companies in the world. Earlier this week, at the International Manufacturing Technology Show, they once again upped the ante on this innovative reputation by embarking on one of the craziest projects seen in recent memory: generating an entire vehicle from 3D printing!!
“This project represents the unique opportunity DOE’s National Laboratory System offers to the industry, to collaborate in an open environment to deliver fast, innovative, manufacturing solutions,” said Craig Blue, Director of the Advanced Manufacturing Program and Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at ORNL.
“These partnerships are pushing the envelope on emerging technologies, such as large scale additive manufacturing, and accelerating the growth of manufacturing in the United States.”
But Wait! What Exactly is 3D Printing Again?
For those unfamiliar with 3D printing, the technology may sound unrealistic, too good to believe. It might even sound like one of those weird contraptions that always popped up on the Jetsons. But it’s really not as complicated as one might think.
3D printing essentially builds off of our customary ideas associated with printing. Only, instead of placing toner down on paper, 3D printing puts down layers of something more substantial—typically plastic.
In an article from the Harvard Business Review, Richard D’Aveni writes about how 3D printing will change the world, especially when it comes to vehicle production; he says, “Cars today are made by just a few hundred factories around the world, they might one day be made in every metropolitan area. Parts could be made at dealerships and repair shops, and assembly plants could eliminate the need for supply chain management by making components as needed.”
Enter Local Motors…
Local Motors Most Recent Project
Yesterday, the Local Motors team began the process of printing their ‘Strati’ car, beginning with the first layers of carbon reinforced ABS plastic being extruded from their massive Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) machine (see the image right).
This machine was provided by Cincinnati Incorporated and not surprisingly is far more advanced than the 3D printers you or I would come across. In fact, this printer works at a staggering rate, printing a ridiculous 40 pounds of materials per hour.
Because of that pace, the Local Motors project will be finished later this week, ready for driving after just 6 days!
John B. Rogers, CEO of Local Motors, says, “The Strati was designed by our community, made in our Microfactory and will be driven by you. This brand-new process disrupts the manufacturing status quo, changes the consumer experience and proves that a car can be born in an entirely different way.”
As predicted in the Harvard Business Journal, this project could have huge implications on the entire automotive world. As a matter of fact, Local Motors has already indicated that if this project proves successful that they will be unrolling more 3D printed vehicles in upcoming years. Even better, these vehicles would be available for purchase to the public.
Needless to say, there is a lot riding on this, so stay tuned. We’ll keep you updated with the final result on September 13th.