Nov 3, 2015 | By Kira

Local Motors, the Pheonix, Arizona-based company that previously brought us the world’s first road-ready line of 3D printed cars and partnered with UNLV to create the first ever self-driving 3D printed cars, today revealed significant details about the expected launch of their first 3D printed, highway-ready consumer vehicle, the LM3D Swim. What we know so far: that the vehicle will be produced at a Knoxville microfactory slated to open next year; that the customizable LM3D Swim will be manufactured mostly with 3D printing, although they have yet to name an automotive partner for the production of the vehicle’s powertrain and chassis; and that pre-sales are expected to begin in Spring 2016 via an Indiegogo campaign at a cost of about $53,000.

The LM3D Swim is based on a design by Kevin Lo, who won Local Motors’ Project Redacted challenge in back in July. He also designed a model known as Sport, which is under development alongside several additional models in the LM3D series. The company will be releasing and testing these new models throughout 2016 as they pursue the federal crash testing and highway certifications necessary to get their car on the road, and to validate their “Safe. Smart. Sustainable.” slogan.

As for the Knoxville factory set to open early next year, it will be equipped for four to five 3D printers, have the capacity to produce roughly 2,400 vehicles per year, and double as a retail showroom. It is also the company’s first digitally enabled microfactory, meaning it can 3D print finished pieces directly from digital designs, eliminating extra steps such as tooling or casting. This will greatly reduce production times and costs. In fact, the company already boasts seemingly breakneck production speeds, saying that the Swim design was chosen on July 7th, and by September 18th, the full prototype had been completed.

“In the past few months our engineers have moved from only a rendering, to the car you see in front of you today,” said Jay Rogers, Local Motors CEO, at the SEMA auto show this week in Las Vegas. “We are using the power of DDM (direct digital manufacturing) to create new vehicles at a pace unparalleled in the auto industry, and we’re thrilled to begin taking orders on 3D-printed cars next year.”

Though made with up to 90 percent 3D printed parts, using a 3D printing material that consists of 80 percent ABS plastic and 20 percent carbon fiber, the company has said that some parts, including the wheels, tires, drivetrain and steering parts will be manufactured with traditional means.

3D printing isn’t the only futuristic technology the company plans on using. Local Motors has said that they will be utilizing partners such as IBM and their Internet of Things platform to launch a series of apps and connected vehicle products, which they say will increase driver safety and efficiency in traffic. Given that the company has also partnered with leading R&D universities such as UNLV to create fully autonomous, self-driving cars, it’s highly probably that these same apps and IoT connected products could eventually be driving the LM3D for us.

As for actually getting your hands on one of these? Local Motors has announced the somewhat surprising decision to begin pre-sales via an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign. The campaign will launch in the Spring of 2016, with estimated delivery dates of early 2017 (pending those crash tests and highway certifications). The car is expected to cost around $53,000, depending on a wide variety of customization options inherent to the 3D printing manufacturing process. Retail options will also be available later in the year, however at about the same cost as a mid-range luxury vehicle, $53,000 is a very attractive starting price.

Images credit: Local Motors

In addition to the upcoming microfactory in Knoxville, the company has another microfactory in Las Vegas, a smaller factory in Crystal City, and its headquarters in Pheonix. Earlier this year, announced a dealership opening in Beijing and plans to open another in Berlin, showing that their aspirations are truly on the global scale. Additionally, they hope to open 100 new locations over the next 10 years.

Back in 2014, Local Motors and ORNL built the first 3D printed car, the Strati, and took it for a successful test-drive. Ever since, they have been ‘hell-bent on revolutionizing manufacturing,’ and making self-driving 3D printed cars an everyday reality. When we last wrote about them, they had plans to release a highway-ready 3D printed car in the next year, and it seems as though they are sticking to that promise. With more and more companies creating smart and sustainable solutions for clean energy-driven cars, it’s an exciting time for 3D printing to be hitting the open road.

 

 

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