Watch Local Motors 3D Print A New Car

In this technological age 3D printing is big business, and it’s only set to get bigger. Illustrating this point and the ability to print pretty much anything given the right equipment, crowd-sourcing company Local Motors has released a time-lapse video of the winning design from its 3D Printed Car Competition being built at the International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago.

The ‘Strati’ concept, designed by Michele Anoe of Italy, beat 200 other entrants to become the winner of the inaugural design competition held by the US-based company back in June. The competition called for entrants to create a two-passenger, rear-wheel-drive sports car that would reduce the initial investment in producing a design, reduce the part count and reduce the follow-up investment required if the design were to be changed.

Presumably built on the same platform as the Renault Twizy — the car is propelled by the same electric powertrain as the French urbanite — the Strati’s suspension, wiring and battery come from other donors, in true crowd-sourcing form.

Jay Rogers, Local Motors CEO, calls the process “hybrid Direct Digital Manufacturing” and points to the benefits that stand to be gained from this new production method:

“Currently, producing a new car from a new design represents either a significant investment in tooling, or a large commitment in time for someone to produce a design free form if the tooling does not exist. In addition the need for all that production tooling is the result of just how many parts are required to produce the structure of a car. Just to create the cabin of a car, there are exterior body panels, trim, internal structure for rigidity, interior panels, dash covers… even the seats themselves contribute to a seriously overblown bill of materials.”

Seeing the electric sports car take shape is probably akin to watching the city of Las Vegas emerge from the desert 50 years ago, though in this case the form is grown out of a mixture of plastic and carbon fiber in just 44 hours. Developed by Oak Ridge National Labs, the hybrid additive/subtractive machine uses a large-diameter extrusion head to create the body, IP, mounts and even the seats. Each layer is added on until the final object eventually takes form.

But what’s even more remarkable is the massive reduction in parts 3D printing the car has enabled just 40 parts are required in the complete assembly, down from an average 25,000 parts required to create today’s cars. That’s simply unheard of in current industry standard.

If this type of project can be undertaken by a small company with relatively little funding, imagine what the future could bring once the technology becomes increasingly prevalent? Exciting times definitely lie ahead.


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