May 6, 2016 | By Kira

Local Motors, the company behind the world’s first consumer 3D printed car, has a vision for revolutionizing automotive manufacturing, and it involves using some seriously large-scale 3D printers across a series of micro-scale factories.

The 3D printing startup has recently purchased two BAAM (Big Area Additive Manufacturing) machines, one of the largest 3D printers in the world, to outfit its first automotive microfactory in Phoenix. In the coming decade, it plans to open 100 more of these microfactories, where customers will be able to design, customize, and build their own 3D printed vehicles on-demand and directly on-site.

Cincinnati Inc's Big Area Additive Manufacturing Machine

It’s a truly unique concept that turns traditional car manufacturing on its head. Rather than relying on the ‘economy of scale’ model popularized over 100 years ago and still in use today by the world’s auto giants; Local Motors envisions an economy of scope, wherein low-cost tooling, co-creation, and local partnerships will result in faster and cheaper production and more relevant vehicles for the people driving them.

BAAM Large-Format 3D Printer

The BAAM large-format 3D printer is at the heart of that strategy. Jointly developed by Cincinnati Incorporated and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the BAAM has an impressive work envelope of 2.4 x 6 x 2 m—nearly 10 times larger than most additive manufacturing machines—and build speeds of up to 200 to 500 times faster.

This gives Local Motors the ability to produce large-scale, finished and entirely customized thermoplastic parts directly from a digital file, saving cost, time, and labor. In fact, the BAAM has already been used to 3D print an entire Strati Car and a full-scale Shelby Cobra. The extruder-type 3D printer is linear motor-driven and uses the chassis, drives and control of Cincinnati’s laser cutting system as a base.

“We worked with CI early in the development of BAAM and were one of the initial purchasers of the machine,” said Elle Shelley, Chief Marketing Officer for Local Motors. “We knew in short order that BAAM could provide the right platform for the microfactory concept.”

Each Local Motors Microfactory will span 40,000 square feet and have an output of up to 250 3D printed cars per year. Three already exist in the Phoenix, AZ and Las Vegas, NV areas; two additional sites are slated to open this summer in Knoxville, TN and National Harbor, MD; and nearly 100 more locations are set to open around the world, from Beijing to Berlin, within the next 10 years.

Local Innovation & Co-Creation

Two other unique concepts incorporated by these microfactories are a focus on local communities and ‘co-creation.’ According to Local Motors, rather than imposing a cookie-cutter structure in their worldwide facilities, each factory will partner with local business, governments and ‘global charter partners’ in order to work with and help benefit the communities they serve.

Secondly, the factories will include Co-creation and Build spaces, designed to facilitate innovation and empower designers and engineers. Through the Co-creation program, customers will be able to submit their car design ideas to the Local Motors website and receive feedback. The Build Program then allows them to collaborate with the company to have their tailored vehicles actually brought to life. This is a major advantage of 3D printing, since rather than having to mass-manufacture identical parts, individual pieces can be designed, tailored, and manufactured on-the-spot.

“Ultimately, we will create relevant vehicles tailored to the needs of specific markets, all printed on the BAAM,” said Shelley.

The LM3D Swim 3D printed Car

The first car in Local Motors’ line up is the LM3D Swim, a highway-ready consumer vehicle first unveiled about a year ago. The $53,000 LM3D is roughly 75% 3D printed from a blend of ABS and carbon fiber, and will offer a range of fully-customizable aesthetic features made possible only through Direct Digital Manufacturing (DDM) and 3D printing technology.

In the near future, however, Local Motors will use its microfactories to produce a range of 3D printed vehicles, including highway-ready models, premium off-road vehicles with on-road capability, and ‘Neighborhood Electric Vehicles.’

LM3D Swim

While other auto companies are still working in the realm of 3D printed concept cars, Local Motors has spent the past few years “hellbent” on bringing us the real deal. LM3D pre-sales are expected to begin this summer.



Posted in 3D Printer Company



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Casey Czarnomski wrote at 5/6/2016 7:08:39 PM:

Good job local motors! One question. Why on earth did you bother with a BAAM, when that is years old technology? Didn't the same company manufacture the BERTHA, an improved, faster, larger build space? Why print a car in a week, when you could in a day? Seems like a poor business plan.

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