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.

Local Motors 3D Printed Car - Live Stream (Recorded)

Press Release

A new kind of vehicle and manufacturing process will debut at the 2015 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). Local Motors will 3D print, assemble and debut the world’s first 3D-printed car – live from the show floor.

Called the Strati, the vehicle is the first in a line of 3D-printed cars from Local Motors. The design was chosen in May 2014 from more than 200submitted to Local Motors by the company’s online co-creation community after launching a call for entries. The winning design was submitted by Michele Anoèwho was awarded a cash prize plus the opportunity to see his design brought to life. Less than a year after the original design was chosen, Local Motors will premiere a mid-model refresh, which began its inaugural print on Monday, January 12 on the show floor during NAIAS.

“Since launching in 2007, we have continuously disrupted the way vehicles are designed, built, and sold,” said Local Motors Co-founder and CEO John B. Rogers, Jr. “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.”

Three-Phase Process: Print, Refine, Finish

Local Motors will showcase the proprietary three-phased manufacturing process for 3D-printing cars during NAIAS 2015. The first phase in 3D-printed manufacturing is additive.Made from ABS plastic reinforced with carbon fiber provide by SABIC, the current model of the Strati takes approximately 44 hours to print 212 layers. The end result is a completed 3D-printed Car Structure™.

“SABIC QUOTE GOES HERE ….”

The second phase of 3D-printed manufacturing is subtractive. Once 3D printing is complete, the 3D-printed Car Structure moves to a ThermwoodCNC router that mills the finer details. After a few hours of milling, the Strati’s exterior details take shape.

The last phase of 3D-printed manufacturing is rapid assembly. After the 3D-printed Car Structure is printed and refined, the non 3D-printed components, including the drivetrain, electrical components, gauges and wiring, plus the tires are added. A vinyl wrapping, paint or other surface treatment is used to complement the 3D-printed texture, resulting in a showroom-ready vehicle.

Micro-factories: The Future of Manufacturing

Local Motors will also offer the automotive industry a glimpse into the future of manufacturing. The technology company has built a working micro-factory on the show floor, giving a front-row seat of how cars will be made in the near future. A micro-factory is home to additive manufacturing, which uses digital 3D-design data, called Direct Digital Manufacturing (DDM), to make a product to exact specifications, without traditional and costly tooling.

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

What’s more, a micro-factory, which is typically located within 100 miles of major urban centers, creates more than 100+ local jobs, reduces freight and distribution costs by 97%, increases recycling and reduces waste while speeding delivery time to market.

A Local Motors micro-factory is typically 40,000 sf and includes 20,000 sffor a Lab, used for co-creation, research, technology, education and free community events; 10,000 sffor a Vehicle Showroom and Retail Store; 10,000 sffor a Build Floor to accommodate light assembly of products and vehicles.

Two New Micro-factories to Break Ground in 2015

Local Motors is pleased to announce two new micro-factory locations: one in Knoxville, Tenn. and one at National Harbor, just outside Washington DC. The Knoxville location highlights the collaboration between Local Motors and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), which signed a deal a year ago to design, build and print the world’s first 3D-printed car.The Local Motors Knoxville micro-factory will focus on rapid commercialize of advanced manufacturing learning’s from ORNL Manufacturing Demonstration Faculty and highlights the company’s commitment to being a member of the newly announced iACME. Debuting the world’s first 3D-printed car at NAIAS demonstrates the success of thepublic-private partnership.

The micro-factory in National Harbor will be where the first fleet of 3D-printed cars will be manufactured and sold. The location is set to break ground in Q3 2015, with the first 3D-printed vehicles to be delivered and on the road shortly thereafter.

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