Local Motors Printed a Car Live in Detroit
You really have to admire Local Motors’ ability to think outside the box. Without its holistic, crowd-sourced approach to automotive development we wouldn’t have cars like the bonkers trophy-truck, grand touring car mash-up 2013 Rally Fighter, or its new and exciting 213 Strati electric-powered track day car.
The Phoenix, Arizona-based company picked the Strati from over 200 lightweight sports car design concepts submitted by Local Motors’ online co-creation community. Its open-top chassis features a carbon fiber reinforced thermoplastic polymer body. The electric motor is available with up to 17 horsepower and 42 pound-feet of torque and will power the rear wheels through a single-speed transmission. A regenerative braking system harvests energy under deceleration and top speed is approximately 50 mph. Not exactly Earth-shattering numbers, but the Strati is all about minimalist fun rather than setting lap records.
But, perhaps even more interesting than its performance is that Strati happens to be the world’s first 3D-printed car. Its latest iteration is being printed on the show floor of the Detroit Auto Show at COBO Center in a small version of what Local Motors call a micro-factory. Printed parts include the chassis, body and a few interior features, while more complex parts, like the suspension and motor, are added later.
This is no gimmick either. Local Motors wants to completely revamp the way the auto industry builds cars. “Since launching in 2007, we have continuously disrupted the way vehicles are designed, built, and sold,” says Local Motors CEO John B. Rogers, Jr. “We paired micro-manufacturing with co-creation to bring vehicles to market at unprecedented speed.” Local Motors says it currently takes about 44 hours to print a Strati but wants to cut that time to 24 hours.
Click past the jump to read more about Local Motors’ 3D-Printed car.
Why it matters
Local Motors’ agile development process combined with its new micro-factories will allow it to take cars from the conceptual phase to the road in an incredibly short amount of time. The company sees traditional assembly-line car plants as antiquated relics, and wants to decentralize the design and manufacturing process by establishing micro-factories near city centers across the country. It has already committed to building two new micro-factories near Knoxville, Tennessee and Washington D.C.
Local Motors claims its micro-factories will reduce freight and distribution costs by an astounding 97-percent and provide over 100 local jobs. The roughly 40,000-square-foot facilities will allocate about half their floor space to research, design and education. The other half will be divided into space for manufacturing and a retail showroom. The idea is that all the equipment and personal needed to take a vehicle from the drawing board to the showroom will all be under one roof.
It remains to be seen how much of an impact 3D printing will have on the car industry, but it has enabled companies to do things that weren’t possible just a few short years ago. No other company has embraced the technology like Local Motors has, and the range of possibilities is virtually limitless. Local Motors is the guinea pig, and the entire industry will be watching to see how all this plays out.