Local Motors and Oak Ridge National Laboratory will 3-D print an entire car at the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) in Chicago this September
Driving around in a 3-D printed car is all in a day’s work for Local Motors CEO Jay Rogers. “I’m driving it every day,” Rogers says of the vehicle, a prototype for the soon-to-be-built Strati. The Strati will be constructed on the show floor of the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) in Chicago this September using 3-D printing technology – also known as additive manufacturing or direct digital manufacturing (DDM). The technology facilitates fabrication of components from computer design to the actual part.
Approximately 90 percent of the two-person, electric Strati will be made from composites, with a single carbon fiber reinforced thermoplastic part that integrates the chassis, body and interior. Once the engine, lights and other components are added, the Strati will have a mere 20 parts – a marked contrast to traditionally manufactured cars, which can have up to 25,000 parts, says Rogers. “It’s about simplicity,” explains Rogers, who founded Local Motors in 2007 to “decomplexify” auto manufacturing and speed up innovation.
To that end, Local Motors’ products, which range from electric skateboards to motorcycles and off-road vehicles, are produced in small lots in micro-factories or “cells” that also sell and service vehicles. Peter says these “rapid products” can be changed very quickly, even unit by unit – a far cry from the weeks- to months-long shut downs that can occur to retool and retrain for year-end model changes in traditional manufacturing. Local Motors’ products also are co-created or crowdsourced – designed, developed and vetted through a community of professional and hobbyist contributors. The Strati’s design was created by automotive designer Michele Anoé of Italy, who won a contest held by Local Motors last spring.
The 3-D car project began several years ago as a quest to produce a car with a greatly reduced part count. Local Motors was already using additive manufacturing to construct its Rally Fighter off-road vehicle. The Rally Fighter, like other vehicles using DDM, is constructed from multiple 3-D printed panels that are affixed to a metal frame – in this case an extruded tubular steel frame – with fasteners and adhesives. Foam also is added to reduce noise. But Rogers wanted to go further and print a vehicle with one cohesive chassis, body and interior.