Apr 26, 2016 | By Alec

Remember Local Motors? Though numerous car manufacturers have been showing off concept cars that feature 3D printed interiors, this Arizona-based startup is working on the real deal: the world’s first road-ready LM3D 3D printed car, which will be available for preorder as early as this year. To cope with the immense logistic challenges that open source development and large scale 3D printing production bring to the table, Local Motors has just revealed a partnership with German engineering giant Siemens. This will enable Local Motors to use Siemens’ product lifecycle management (PLM) software technology to realize the release of the revolutionary LM3D car and its successors.

As Local Motors’ CEO Jay Rogers revealed, this new partnership is actually building on years of collaboration with Siemens. “We have been partners with Siemens since 2011, and today’s announcement takes that partnership to the next level by enabling our community of co-creators to innovate even faster,” he said of this new partnership. Siemens’ Solid Edge CAD application has already been used by Local Motors for years, and has been around for all the major breakthroughs in their car development process.

The most important goal of this renewed collaboration is to enhance the productivity of Local Motors (LM) Labs by adopting Siemens’ immense software portfolio. These open-source labs are spread out throughout the world, and enable engineers and designers everywhere to make significant contributions to future Local Motors concepts. It’s how the LM3D was born. To do so efficiently, a clever software platform that allows easy design integration is absolutely crucial, and that is where Siemens comes in. Their PLM platform has already been used by Ford, Maserati and even for the production of the Mars Rover, and will now thus also come to the LM labs.

Solid Edge was already used in these labs, but the full adoption of PLM software should form a huge boost to development and, ultimately, production efforts. “We developed the world’s first co-created vehicle and 3D printed car, and now our LM Labs program is providing the world’s makers with a way – both online and offline – to create new technologies to advance the future of transportation. Open to anyone, LM Labs helps brilliant minds create new technologies the world needs. While our primary focus is on developing vehicles, LM Labs is a place where the community can advance any technology,” Rogers said.

Among others, Local Motors and its Labs will become able to import non-native CAD models into the Solid Edge CAD platform, thus making it easier to collaborate with outside developers. Siemens’ manufacturing simulation software NX and their Fibersim portfolio for composite engineering will also become available to LM Labs everywhere. The expectation is that these platforms will enable Local Motors and it’s community of co-creators to increase their productivity and design quality, save time and reduce costs by integrating and streamlining production. Access to high-fidelity digital twins will further enable LM engineers to test the functionality of new concepts in the digital world.

The timing of this announcement is also excellent, as Local Motors is planning to open a further three facilities – complete with LM Labs – this year. One lab and showroom is expected to open in National Harbor, MD in the summer, followed by a lab facility in Berlin, Germany. Later in the year, a full-scale 3D printing microfactory is expected to open its doors in Knoxville, TN – which will be the production HQ of the LM3D car. All will feature Siemens’ software integration.

As Helmuth Ludwig, CEO of Siemens’ Industry Sector, explained, a company like Local Motors simply needs a clever software platform to support their decentralized manufacturing process. “Having a pool of 60,000 contributors all working on a design is a very broad group of inputs,” he explained. “To make this all possible, our computer-aided analysis software is crucial in simulating the final product before it ever arrives physically. If you want to optimize your designs and know how certain parts will adapt dynamically, this can all be done from a computer. Additive manufacturing isn’t only about manufacturing though—it’s the ability to design honeycomb structures, cooling mechanisms, and generally complex systems. That’s our integrated view.”

According to Chief Strategy Officer of Local Motors Justin Fishkin, it will also make small-volume production commercially viable. “Since the days of Henry Ford, the automotive industry has defined efficiencies based on economies of scale—limited product mix, high volume production, low profit margins, and amortization of product-specific tooling and productive capacity over many years,” he says. “ Local Motors is defined by our economy of scope—we generate higher profit margins on fewer units of more models, because we don’t need to re-tool to produce new products.”

Siemens’ PLM platform will allso, he concludes, enable them to safely reuse, recycle and repurpose existing vehicles and designs efficiently. This closely aligns to Local Motors’s core values and goals, which also see 3D printed parts as reusable through melting and reprinting. Together with a flexible software platform, Fishkin is even imagining a future in which cars can become truly modular and adaptable – even after production. Exterior and interior 3D printed car parts can be swapped or remade, while even electronics and power sources (electrical or gas-powered) can be changed. The car of the future is coming.

 

 

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