Published on May 9th, 2016 | by Raja Sekhar Upputuri0
Local Motors set to open 100 automotive microfactories within 10 years
Local Motors, the company behind the world’s first consumer 3D printed car has some great plans going forward. The company has recently purchase two Big Area Additive Manufacturing machines to commercially produce 3D printed cars at its first automotive microfactory in Phoenix. In the coming decade, it plans to open 100 more such microfactories where customers will be able to design, customize and build their own 3D printed vehicles on-demand and directly on-site.
With this concept of microfactory, Local Motors is turning traditional car manufacturing process on its head. Over the last 100 years or so, car manufacturing evolved into ‘economy of scale’ model where huge assembly lines are set up to mass produce the vehicles thus bringing down the cost of the vehicle. Local Motors, with its 3D printing concept with low-cost tooling, co-creation and local partnerships is making it cheaper to produce even one piece. Big Area Additive Manufacturing large-format 3D printer is at the heart of that strategy. The BAAM has an impressive work envelope of 2.4 x 6 x 2 m which is nearly 10 times larger than most additive manufacturing machines and has build speeds of up to 200 to 500 times faster.
This gives Local Motors the ability to produce large-scale, finished and entirely customized thermoplastic parts directly from a digital file, saving cost, time, and labor. In fact, the BAAM has already been used to 3D print an entire Strati Car and a full-scale Shelby Cobra. The extruder-type 3D printer is linear motor-driven and uses the chassis, drives and control of Cincinnati’s laser cutting system as a base.
“We worked with CI early in the development of BAAM and were one of the initial purchasers of the machine,” said Elle Shelley, Chief Marketing Officer for Local Motors. “We knew in short order that BAAM could provide the right platform for the microfactory concept.”
Each Local Motors Microfactory spans 40,000 square feet and have an output of up to 250 3D printed cars per year. Three already exist in the Phoenix, AZ and Las Vegas, NV areas; two additional sites are slated to open this summer in Knoxville, TN and National Harbor, MD; and nearly 100 more locations are set to open around the world, from Beijing to Berlin, within the next 10 years.
Local Innovation & Co-Creation
The most important of these microfactories is local innovation. Each factory will partner with local business, government and global channel partners in order to work with and help benefit the communities they serve. Also, the factories will include co-creation and build spaces, designed to facilitate innovation and empower designers and engineers. Through the co-creation programs, customers will be able to submit their car design ideas to the local motors website and get feedback on the same. The build program then allows them to collaborate with the company to have their tailored vehicles brought to life.
“Ultimately, we will create relevant vehicles tailored to the needs of specific markets, all printed on the BAAM,” said Shelley.
The LM3D Swim 3D printed Car
The first car in Local Motors’ line up is the LM3D Swim. This car is unveiled about a year ago. The $53,000 LM3D is roughly 75% 3D printed from a blend of ABS and carbon fiber and offers a range of fully customizable aesthetic features possible only through Direct Digital Manufacturing (DDM) and 3D Printing technology.
In the near future, Local Motors will use its microfactories to produce a range of 3D printed vehicles, including highway-ready models, premium off-road vehicles with on-road capability, and ‘Neighborhood Electric Vehicles.’ LM3D pre-sales are expected to begin this summer. Let us hope this changes the way cars are manufactured in days to come.