Local Motors to Open 2 New Car 3D Printing Facilities This Year

As 3DPI’s Andrew Wheeler promised last month, Local Motors has gone ahead and 3D printed another copy of their famous Strati car.  This time, at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit.  Over the course of the past two days, the Phoenix, Arizona-based startup printed and assembled its crowd sourced, open sourced vehicle for a second time before an audience of auto enthusiasts at Cobo Center.

Gif via The Verge.

The process of printing all 212 layers of the 3D-printed Car Structure™ took just 44 hours on Cincinnati Inc’s BAAM printer.  Then, the Strati body was milled into its more refined shape using a Thermwood CNC machine.   Next, all of the mechanical and electrical components – drivetrain, gauges, wiring, and tires – were added were added to the auto. In the typical Local Motors manufacturing process, surface treatment, like vinyl wrapping or paint, is laid on for a final touch.

Local Motors Co-founder and CEO, John B. Rogers, Jr., said at the event, “Since launching in 2007, we have continuously disrupted the way vehicles are designed, built, and sold. We paired micro-manufacturing with co-creation to bring vehicles to market at unprecedented speed. We proved that an online community of innovators can change the way vehicles go from designed to driven. We pioneered the concept of using direct digital manufacturing (DDM) to 3D-print cars. I am proud to have the world’s first 3D-printed car be a part of our already impressive portfolio of vehicles.”

local motors 3D printed car in detroit
The second Strati 3D printed in Detroit. Photo via AutoBlog.

According to Local Motors, the design, fabrication, and assembly of one of their 3D printed cars can take place in the space of a 40,000 square foot micro-factory.   In addition to proving it on the floor of trade shows, the company will be doing so at two new micro-factories to open in Knoxville, Tennessee and Washington, DC this year. The first location is ideally located near Local Motors partner, Oak Ridge National Laboratory.  There, Local Motors means to rapidly commercialize the knowledge and technology from the federal lab’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility.  At this second location near National Harbor, which is slated to begin construction in the third quarter of this year, Local Motors will begin selling their first fleet of 3D printed cars.

Local Motors described in greater detail the general blueprint for their micro-factories.  These mini manufacturing hubs are meant to be set within 100 miles of a major urban center, in order to create, Local Motors suggests, more than 100 local jobs.  The company also claims that such a location can reduce freight and distribution costs by 97%, in addition to bring greater recycling, less waste, and improving the delivery time of products to market.

The layout of the micro-factories consists of 40k square feet, 20k devoted to the Local Motors Lab, which is designed for co-creation, research, education, and free community events.  Another 10k square feet is set aside as a Vehicle Showroom and Retail Store, while the final 10,000 sq ft is designed to be the Build Floor, for light assembly of products and vehicles.

Local Motors CEO Jay Rodgers in 3D Printed Car Drives at IMTS
Local Motors CEO, Jay Rodgers. Photo by Danielle Matich of Volim Photography

Rogers continued, “Gone are the days of an economy of scale in order to introduce and commercialize a technology. 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.”

Having seen the Strati driving in person, I can tell you that I’m excited to see these micro-factories launch this year.  And, hopefully, I may even get to be there in person.  Fingers crossed!