History was made when the world’s first 3D-printed car drove out of Chicago’s McCormick Place during the 2014 International Manufacturing Technology Show back in September. The vehicle components took 44 hours to print, and after a swift assembly, the vehicle named “Strati” headed off the showroom floor.
The brainchild of Local Motors, Stratri was produced in one piece using direct digital manufacturing (DDM), the first time this method has been used to make a car. Obviously, mechanical components like batteries, motor and wiring were still come from third party sources; while the seats, body, chassis, dash, center console, and hood were all 3D-printed. And not only will Strati be the world’s first 3D-printed car, it’ll also be the first car that you can download and print yourself. Sorry, car salespeople!
“This brand-new process disrupts the manufacturing status quo, changes the consumer experience, and proves that a car can be born in an entirely different way,” explained John B. Rogers, Jr., CEO of Local Motors.
The technology behind the Strati was pioneered at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). Local Motors is hoping the Strati proves the viability of using sustainable, digital manufacturing solutions in the automotive industry, and plans to launch production-level 3D-printed cars that will be available to the general public for purchase in the months following the show.
“This project represents the unique opportunity DOE’s National Laboratory System offers to the industry, to collaborate in an open environment to deliver fast, innovative, manufacturing solutions. These partnerships are pushing the envelope on emerging technologies, such as large scale additive manufacturing, and accelerating the growth of manufacturing in the United States,” revealed Craig Blue, Director of Advanced Manufacturing Program and Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at ORNL.
In 2010, 3D printing company Stratasys and engineering firm Kor Ecologic unveiled the Urbee at the 2010 SEMA car show in Las Vegas. The Urbee featured a 3D-printed shell mounted on a more traditional metal chassis.
Rather the print dozens of smaller sub-assemblies and screwing, gluing or bolting them together, the concept car features a main body structure built up as a single module using a BAAM Machine (Big Area Additive Manufacturing) with a deposition rate of 40 pounds per hour.
The Strati is printed by stacking down layer after layer (212 layers in total) of a combination of filament comprised of 80% ABS plastic and 20% carbon fiber reinforcement. The three-axis printer then melts these materials and forms them to the vehicle’s mold.
AMT’s Vice President of Exhibitions and Communications Peter Eelman claims, “This feature returned IMTS to its roots as a forum where the latest technologies are first seen. This year is no exception, and we are confident that this will be the most exciting ETC effort yet.” It is hard to argue with that! Imagine two decades from now simply clicking ‘print’ on your home manufacturing machine and having a new set of wheels assembled in front of your eyes!
Rogers believes Local Motors could start manufacturing vehicles by 2015, with initial use on city streets, before getting approval for highway use down the road. The initial retail cost for a vehicle will start around $17,100 and go upwards of $30,000.
The engine consists of a 12-kW electric motor powered by a 6.1-kwh battery. With roughly 3.5-hour charge, a driver can expect a 62-mile range. Sorry speed demons, but the top speed of the Strati is 40mph.
“Because you can literally print the car any way you want, if your family goes from two people to three–with a child, you trade in and recycle the center part of your car and all the components that outfit the family. Whatever you can imagine is what this process can entail,” said Rogers.
Now, less than two months after both the International Manufacturing Technology Show and World Maker Faire, the team behind the first 3D-printed car is presenting at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas. There, they will yet again construct a Strati car before a live audience; however, this time it’ll be printed and assembled in its entirety two full days faster than the original.
Just announced, Local motors will be also be giving away 12 3D-printed vehicles to car nodders as part of their new ‘pimp’ the car ‘ModMen’ Challenge. The contest opens for entries in late January 2015, with the dozen winning design proposals to be announced in March and delivery of the 3D-printed cars to winning teams beginning in May.
“From racing, to street, to show, car modification has always been the true soul of vehicle innovation,” Rogers added. “At Local Motors, our goal is to fuel the next great generation of ‘Hot Rodders’ by putting the newest technology in their hands, and the ModMen Challenge does exactly that. These are not just 12 cars customized with aftermarket parts, but a peek into the future of automotive re-imagination. I cannot wait to see how this group pushes the boundary of 3D-printed cars.”