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Could 3D Printed Cars Lead to Another Revolution in American Manufacturing? We Think So!

local motors stratiWe’ve mentioned a lot of great stories on what 3D printers can accomplish these days. They have a hand in everything from food to human skulls and even building houses in a single day. But this next story out of Arizona may have the potential to lead a revolution in the American manufacturing sector.

Introducing the Strati, the world’s first 3D printed car! This electric sports car was designed entirely from an idea submitted all the way from Italy and is currently being fine-tuned for a live print on location in September at the International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago!

It’s the latest design of Local Motors, a Phoenix-based automotive and industrial design and manufacturing company. This company was one of the pioneers of cloud-based co-creation, meaning that their community of over 150,000 members can submit ideas and suggestions directly to the company heads, dramatically speeding up the process of production.

Since 2007, the company has built the Rally Fighter (a high-speed off roader built from original parts and off-the-shelf components), electric bikes, home appliances and even a military vehicle prototype, which FoxSports.com reports only took four and a half months. That last one shouldn’t be a surprise: the company’s CEO, Jay Rogers, is a Princeton and Harvard-educated U.S. Marine and a veteran of the Iraq War.

Rogers says that he has a clear vision of how to get things done effectively and efficiently, much like this 3D printed car concept. Local Motors is collaborating with two other companies—Cincinnati Incorporated, an industrial parts shaping specialist, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, who built a custom designed printer for the car—to bring this vision to life in September.

The car is produced from a new fiber-reinforced thermoplastic strong enough to handle the roads out in the real world. The chassis and body, without drivetrain, wheels and brakes, only weighs 450 pounds and is only made up of 40 different components, a number that gets smaller with every revision. Rogers calls the car, “rock solid and squeak free.”

Everything is built right into the car, including wing brackets and channels. It took two technicians three days to assemble a prototype car after it was printed in just 40 hours. Rogers hopes to cut the printing time in half by September and down to 2.4 hours within a year. He believes the entire manufacturing process could be cut down to a single hour in the future. “If this works, even a little,” he says, “it will reform parts or all of the industry.”

This production design could be scaled up exponentially—once the printing speed increases, Rogers envisions a mass production assembly line, where shipping container-sized printers are constantly pumping out 3D printed cars by the thousands. He also has a vision for disposable military vehicles that could be built on site for specific missions. The printers would be deployed with the troops and could drastically cut back on waiting times for much-needed equipment. The vehicles’ parts could then be recycled once the missions are completed.

“People in the know are familiar with the massive overhead required by traditional manufacturing,” Rogers said to FoxSports.com. “[The Strati] is an experiment to prove this method works. If we can do it, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be doing it.”

And if this experiment does work, think of the boom in manufacturing that would take place right here in America once this technology gets up and running. We’ve mentioned time and time again that manufacturing is the way to go for a fun and fulfilling career and the millennial generation has been warming up to the idea of getting into manufacturing. Combined with the dexterity—and popularity—of 3D printing, this project seems like the perfect storm of ingenuity that will lead to a revolution in how we build our cars and maybe even more!

Photo credit: Local Motors

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