Tuesday, 13 January 2015 00:00

Local Motors Debuts World's First 3D-printed Car at NAIAS 2015 in Detroit

A new kind of vehicle and manufacturing process debuted at the 2015 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). Local Motors will 3D print, assemble and debut the world’s first 3D-printed car – live from the show floor.

“We have built expertise in additive manufacturing to further strengthen the product development support that we can deliver to our customers, from ideation through prototyping, testing and validation. We will continue to invest in the technology to help the automotive industry realize as much potential from it as possible.”

Called the Strati, the vehicle is the first in a line of 3D-printed cars from Local Motors. 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 premiered a mid-model refresh, which began its inaugural print on Monday, January 12 on the show floor during NAIAS.

“Since launching in 2007, we have continuously disrupted the way vehicles are designed, built, and sold,” said Local Motors Co-founder and CEO John B. Rogers, Jr. “We paired micro-manufacturing with co-creation to bring vehicles to market at unprecedented speed. We proved that an online community of innovators can change the way vehicles go from designed to driven. We pioneered the concept of using direct digital manufacturing (DDM) to 3D-print cars. I am proud to have the world’s first 3D-printed car be a part of our already impressive portfolio of vehicles.”

Three-Phase Process: Print, Refine, Finish

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™.

"SABIC is pleased to have contributed the materials and processing knowledge to support Local Motors and help enable this advanced additive manufacturing approach," said Scott Fallon, general manager, Automotive, SABIC's Innovative Plastics business. "We have built expertise in additive manufacturing to further strengthen the product development support that we can deliver to our customers, from ideation through prototyping, testing and validation. We will continue to invest in the technology to help the automotive industry realize as much potential from it as possible."

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.

“Thermwood has been involved within a multitude of various markets, but none, until now, has lead us to the Detroit Auto Show. Thermwood is proud and excited to be part of this Local Motors venture,” said Dennis Palmer, VP of Sales at Thermwood.

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.

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