A 3D Printed Car Hits the Road

Local Motors 3D printed car

Coming soon to a showroom near you: the 3D printed car. Walk right in, pick out the configuration—two seats or four, convertible or hardtop, custom features—and drive it home at the end of the day.

That’s the vision from the people at Phoenix-based Local Motors who have developed the first 3D printed car, debuted at Chicago’s International Manufacturing Technology Show last week.

Jay Rogers, founder and CEO of Local Motors, a low-volume manufacturer of open-source motor vehicle designs, led the development of the Strati, the world’s first automobile to be created entirely using direct digital manufacturing. The company held a design contest, and the two-seat open-top Strati, or “layers” in Italian, was the winner out of more than 200 entries.

It took 44 hours to print the 49 car parts from the massive 3D printer. At the IMT show, the Local Motors team assembled the printed pieces, dropped in the engine and bolted on wheels, tires, seats, windshield, and interior. By comparison, your average Ford has 5,000 to 6,000 parts.

Local Motors partnered with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to find a printer that could handle the job. The BAAM (Big Area Additive Manufacturing) machine from Cincinnati Incorporated, can lay down 40 pounds per hour of carbon reinforced ABS plastic, and is large enough to produce the body as one piece, according to the company’s CEO Andrew Jamison.

The car weighs about 1,500 pounds, with a drive train from a Renault Twizy electric vehicle that propels it to about 40 mph with a range of 120 miles. A gas engine could be fitted, and the goal is to get it to run at highway speeds.

A base-model 3D printed car could sell for about $18,000 once production ramps up, according to Rogers.

The Strati design uses material science and advanced manufacturing techniques pioneered at ORNL in Tennessee. The facility, which opened in 2013, provides researchers with a test bed for the development of less expensive, better performing carbon-fiber materials and manufacturing processes.

In addition to Local Motors, ORNL works with traditional auto companies looking for lightweight technologies that will help them meet new stringent efficiency requirements.

“The only way to get to the new standards is to include carbon-fiber components, and we know manufacturers have announced plans to include carbon-fiber composites in 2018-2019 model year vehicles,” says Tom Rogers, ORNL director of industrial partnerships and economic development.

“It is true that our carbon fiber facility is going to help lead a revolution, primarily in the automotive markets,” Rogers says.

Image courtesy of Local Motors

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3 thoughts on “A 3D Printed Car Hits the Road”

  1. Douglas Chew / Oakland, CA says:

    Will it have to pass crash testing?

  2. I’m not a legal expert, but basically, no this vehicle won’t have to pass crash testing as it would fall under rules for kit cars. To drive it on the road legally it would have to meet the safety requirements of whatever state it might be licensed in, so it would need headlights, windshield wipers, a horn, etc. Cars manufactured for sale to the public in the US would have to go through the government’s certification program, including crash testing.

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