Mar 30, 2016 | By Kira

Big name car companies have been teasing us with futuristic concept cars that incorporate 3D printed and even 4D printed features for next-level driving experiences. But while Buick, BMW and Ferrari’s visions may require another 10, 20 or even 50 years to be realized, Local Motors has swerved into the picture with the real deal: the world’s first road-ready 3D printed car, which will be available for preorder as early as this year.

With many consumers still unaware of how a 3D printer even works—never mind how it could be scaled up to produce an entire vehicle—Local Motors’ decided to create the short yet informative ‘3D Printing 101: How to print a car’ video to clarify the many inevitable questions consumers have been asking.

“As the public relations guy at Local Motors, I’m constantly asked by people—whether it’s the media, business partners or folks at the grocery store who see my LM shirt—what exactly it is what we do as a company,” explained Adam Kress, Local Motors’ PR Manager. “In the interest of being as open a company as possible, we decided to simply show you how it’s done in a way that everyone can understand.”

The 3D printed car—or at least, 3D printed car parts—shown in the video are for the LM3D Swim, Local Motors’ first 3D printed car to enter production.

A few quick facts about Local Motors’ "safe, smart, sustainable" 3D printed car:

  • Roughly 75% of the LM3D is 3D printed although eventually that will go up to 90%
  • The 3D printing material being used is a blend of 80% ABS and 20% carbon fiber
  • Though the underpinnings will remain consistent, Local Motors plans to offer a wide range of fully customizable aesthetic features only possible through DDM and 3D printing technology
  • Crash testing is expected to be complete by the end of 2016, and Local Motors’ aim is to make their 3D printed cars even safer than traditionally manufactured ones
  • Consumers will soon be able to preorder their 3D printed LM3D through an upcoming Indiegogo campaign, with retail purchases available later in the year
  • The suggested MSRP is currently $53,000 dollars

In addition to using additive manufacturing, Local Motors has also partnered with industry leaders to further enhance the driving experience through cutting-edge technologies. These include IBM, to integrate IoT technology through IBM Watson; Siemen’s Solid Edge to provide CAD modeling; IDEO to renew Local Motors Labs; and SABIC to improve materials.

There is a lot of ambition and technological promise packed into the compact and sporty LM3D—yet Local Motors’ ‘open approach’ seems to indicate that they’ve got nothing to hide, and in fact, that they want consumers to understand and appreciate as much as possible the manufacturing process that goes into each LM3D vehicle.The 3D Printing 101 video, produced by Multimedia Specialist Motaz Hussein, thus shows us the steps involved in moving from digital 3D file to functional 3D printed car part.

It all starts with the 3D model, which is carefully designed, converted to .STL, and sent to the mechanical engineering team with specifications for how it should be 3D printed. Next, an operator runs the 3D model through a slicer program, which breaks it down into individual layers. Finally, everything is sent to the BAAM 3D printer.

BAAM is Cincinnati Incorporated’s Big Area Additive Manufacturing machine. One of the largest 3D printers in the world, this behemoth has previously been used to 3D print a Strati in just six days, a full-scale Shelby Cobra, and even 3D printed house-car-combo that produce and share clean energy. Needless to say, it’s extremely big, extremely fast, and extremely valuable to the future of 3D printed cars.

Once the sliced file has been sent to the 3D printer, the ABS and carbon fiber composite material, which starts out in the form of dried pellets, is heated to 410°F (210°C) and extruded, layer by layer. Five hours later, the part is complete and ready to be assembled to the larger structure.

As the first and only company to take on 3D printed consumer vehicles today, Local Motors is well-aware of its unique position within the industry, and seems to be taking advantage of this to not only bring more awareness to their product, but to the entire 3D printing process.

“Of course you will have questions,” said the company. “There is nothing conventional about this car, the way it’s made, or the company behind it.”

Whether you’re completely unfamiliar with 3D printing or have always been curious about just how exactly a 3D printed car is made, Local Motors’ 3D Printing 101 is worth a quick watch. In the future, the company plans to produce an entire video series that describes how the 3D printed pieces are prepared and finally integrated into the vehicle.

Take a look at the first 3D Printing 101 video guide below:



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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