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Local Motors 3D printing a Strati at NAIAS; announces two micro-factories to open

Local Motors is 3D printing and assembling a Strati—the first 3D-printed car—live from the show floor at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). (Earlier post.)

The design was chosen in May 2014 from more than 200 submitted to Local Motors by the company’s online co-creation community after launching a call for entries. The winning design was submitted by Michele Anoè who 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, 12 January on the show floor during NAIAS.

Phase One. Additive layer printing of the body shown behind the protective screen on the show floor. Click to enlarge.

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 a carbon fiber reinforced thermoplastic material 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.

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

Fender awaits the router (one support of which is seen to the right). Click to enlarge.

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.

Local Motors 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. 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.

A micro-factory, which would typically be 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, according to the company.

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

Local Motors announced 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 IACMI. Debuting the world’s first 3D-printed car at NAIAS demonstrates the success of the public-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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