Founded on the principle that co-creation and open collaboration will transform the world of transportation, Local Motors has rallied a global network of inspired innovators to confront the world’s most formidable challenges. In their relatively short history, they have proved the feasibility of collaborative automotive design and industrial 3D printing of many components and assemblies.In this interview with 3YOURMIND, we will see how one of the most creative transportation companies is utilizing Additive Manufacturing as a core ingredient to the new industrial revolution.
Before 2014, the idea of a 3D Printed car was science fiction. Now, Local Motors has created the Strati, the world's first 3D printed car. That has shifted the perception for a variety of industries. What allowed you to successfully take that risk? Have you seen those attitudes and processes move into general additive manufacturing in the automotive industry?
Local Motors uses co-creation and open-source hardware because it gives us more flexibility for testing and developing ideas. Since the printing of the World’s first 3D Printed car we have seen a number of automotive manufacturers starting to not only utilize 3D printing, but showcase it, for example, at Car Trade Shows exhibiting displays of 3D printed parts and prototype models that have been created by OEMs.
What is the primary competitive advantage you get from 3D Printing? What are the barriers you face?
Local Motors' primary competitive advantage from AM is to reduce tooling cost and reduce production time. 3D printing allows you to utilize the same piece of machinery for multiple models, parts and applications while traditional automotive manufacturing requires large capital investments in tooling that is only fitted to a specific model for a specific amount of time. Local Motors also benefits from reduced development time as we are able to make digital changes to the part file being printed instead of going back to the drawing board completely and creating a whole new part. What takes Local Motors minutes to do, can take some manufacturers months.
What is the material you work the most with for 3D printing, and why?
Local Motors has produced vehicles for public viewing using an ABS and carbon fiber blend. But we have a library of materials we are testing at our facility in Knoxville, TN. We started with the ABS/Carbon fiber blend due to its ease of processability, strength, and relative low cost.
Do you use different materials while moving from the design to implementation phase?
We test multiple materials during the designing phase, so while the design of the vehicle is probably produced in one material, over the course of engineering the product we have run through a variety of different materials.
Where do you put the emphasis during each stage?
Safety is a priority. We want to ensure we are using the safest and most durable material possible for any application. We are constantly testing and co-developing new materials to help produce better products.
Where do you see the role of “mass-customization”? Are you already implementing that into your current production?
The role of mass-customization comes more into the realm of consumer products. We want the consumer to feel they have a hand in developing their vehicles, giving them more pride of ownership and desire to be a part of the process.
We feel that 3D printed cars are absolutely a way of the future and aim to make that a reality everyday.