Tag Archives: 3D-Printed Cars

Local Motors plans to begin selling 3D-printed cars next year

Local Motors will be releasing two models of the ReLoad Redacted car in Q1 2016 at a price tag of $18,000 to $30,000. 

If it’s up to Local Motors, not only will the vehicles of tomorrow be autonomous, they’re going to be 3D-printed as well. That’s because the Phoenix-based company, who introduced the first 3D-printed automobile (the Strati) back in September 2014, has unveiled the electric car that it plans to sell next year. The design for the coupe was chosen by the company’s crowdsourcing community and a panel of well-known judges from among 60 other entries. Among the judges in the contest was former “Tonight Show” host and auto enthusiast Jay Leno, who said “You need something that makes you go ‘what’s that?’”


The winning entry, named Reload Redacted Swim and Sport, was submitted by mechanical engineer Kevin Lo, who envisions a reconfigurable, low-speed neighborhood car. Set to debut during the first quarter of 2016, it will be priced in the wheelhouse of $18,000 and $30,000, with a fully-homologated highway-ready version to follow towards the tail-end of next year. Lo, who works for Hewlett-Packard on advanced printer systems, received $7,500 plus royalties from future sales for his mockup.

“In addition to its revolutionary design, the entry showcases many benefits of Direct Digital Manufacturing (DDM), including the ability to create a completely customizable vehicle. What’s more, its design boasts a flexible foundation that can support many different styles and technology options,” Local Motors writes.

According to Lo, Reload Redacted – Swim and Sport has some clear benefits over Local Motors’ original 3D-printed car. For instance, any part can be easily removed, reprinted and replaced in the event of an accident. Having chose form over function, the vehicle is built around a skateboard-style chassis that houses the powertrain, battery, steering and suspension. What’s more, both redacted versions feature external speakers for the audio system, and interchangeable front, rear and roof panels to accommodate different styles. The target audience for such a vehicle will be the “social, outgoing, adventurous type,” Lo notes.

The battery technology in the test platform, which will also serve as a base for the development of the 3D-printed car’s powertrain, employs the same lithium ion chemistry used in existing electric vehicles (as well as iPhones). Local Motors is already working to identify numerous cutting-edge battery options, such as exploring lithium sulfur battery technology, which creates three times the energy at half the weight of lithium ion technology.

Meanwhile, the company has launched a program it calls the Local Motors Co-Created (LOCO) University Vehicles. Three colleges have already signed up to participate: the University of Michigan, Arizona State University and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. Several projects will focus on developing an autonomous vehicle.

“Think Uber, but with low-speed, autonomous cars,” explained Ed Olson, an associate professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at University of Michigan, who leads the project. “The goal of this program is for us to begin to understanding the challenges of a transportation-on-demand system built around autonomous cars.”

3D-printed cars shine at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show

3D printing is allowing carmakers to go from concept to completion in just days.

According to latest reports, the use of 3D printing in the auto industry is expected to quintuple over the next five years to a value north of $1.25 billion, up from just $267 million today. This comes after history was made last year when the world’s first 3D-printed car drove out of Chicago’s McCormick Place during the 2014 International Manufacturing Technology Show. Well, the Local Motors crew is back at it again, this time 3D printing the main structure of a car right on the 2015 North American International Auto Show floor.


The Strati is first-ever 3D-printed vehicle and is a refinement of a design created by Michele Anoè, who submitted the concept as part of an online co-creation community project. The initial Strati models began printing today in Detroit in an example of what the company dubs a micro-factory, a lab that 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. The first two will be opened in Knoxville, Tennessee and Washington, D.C.

“Gone are the days of an economy of scale in order to introduce and commercialize a technology,” explained Local Motors CEO John B. Rogers, Jr. “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.”

Throughout the two-weeklong event, Local Motors showed off its proprietary manufacturing process for 3D-printing cars, which consists of three phases: additive, subtractive and rapid assembly. 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. And while it won’t hit Formula 1-like speeds anytime soon, the two-seater can reach 25 miles per hour.


The end result is a completed 3D-printed Car Structure™. 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. Finally, the Car Structure is printed and refined, while the non 3D-printed components like the drivetrain, electrical components, gauges, wiring and 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.

While the company may not be ready to talk definite price just yet (which will most likely sell for $18,000 to $30,000), it does want to shorten the production process from just under two days to a day. CEO Jay Rogers notes that the Strati is first of three vehicles Local Motors plans to sell, with the current model launching this year.


However, as impressive as they may be, the first batch of printed cars will be categorized more like golf carts as “neighborhood electric vehicles.” Yet, the company does intend on offering a ride that can be driven on all roads in the U.S over the next two years. This, of course, will first require passing safety requirements set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, including crash tests.

“We like to think of it as Build-A-Bear, mashed up with Ikea, mashed up with Formula One,” Rogers recently told the New York Times.

Strati isn’t the only 3D-printed vehicle shining in the NAIAS spotlight, as the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has also debuted a fully-functional 3D-printed Shelby Cobra. The car, which honors the 50th anniversary of the Shelby Cobra 289 FIA, weighs 1,400 pounds, with nearly a third of the parts used on the vehicle having been printed in just 24 hours.


From concept to completion, the team took six weeks to design, manufacture and assemble the Shelby, including the 24 hours of print time. The new Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) machine, jointly developed by ORNL and Cincinnati Incorporated, can construct components 500 to 1000 times faster than today’s industrial additive machines. ORNL researchers say the speed of next-gen additive manufacturing offers new opportunities for the automotive industry, especially in prototyping vehicles.

“You can print out a working vehicle in a matter of days or weeks,” explained Lonnie Love, ORNL Senior Research Scientist. “You can test it for form, fit and function. Your ability to innovate quickly has radically changed. There’s a whole industry that could be built up around rapid innovation in transportation.”

3D printing BMW concept cars

A Swedish designer by the name of Erik Melldahl has teamed with BMW to introduce a 3D-printed concept vehicle named Maasaica — stemming from Latin word for the lion species in Kenya, Panthera Leo Masaica. Although this next-gen car is still likely a couple of decades away, the concept certainly brings clever futuristic ideas and alternative designs to the forefront.

“Imagine a third industrial revolution where sustainable energy and manufacturing set the standards for production. Maasaica is a concept from BMW which is locally built in Serengeti using 3D printing technology, degradable materials and traditional handcraft,” expained Melldahl.


“The intention with Maasaica was to do a concept, which will leave questions and thoughts about how to best design a sustainable, locally produced car. Another aim with the project was to question the methods and ideas of the conservative automotive industry. However, Massaica doesn’t give all the answers to how to produce and design sustainable car, but is a step in the right direction on how the automotive industry can contribute to a more sustainable society.”

The vehicle, which could one day be locally constructed in the Serengeti, uses 3D printing and degradable materials to demonstrate the various ways that the automotive industry could take part of the 3rd new sustainable industrial revolution. Melldahl believes this can be accomplished by taking advantage of traditional craftmanship, new manufacturing methods and existing African mentality of up cycling.


“As designers we have a great opportunity to influence a product early in the process. However, one can also see it as we have a great responsibility to do our best to design products for a better society. That is what Massaica is about.”

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen BMW associated in 3D printing. As recently covered in Bits & PiecesBMW has reportedly begun 3D printing a limited number of flexible finger cots for production line workers to prevent excess strain on thumb joints.