3D printing technology has made a lot of advancements lately, prompting people to create more useful objects. People have always dreamed about being able to select a car online, download a design, and print it in the privacy of their own home. That dream is quickly becoming a reality thanks to developments from Local Motors. Innovative technology has made it possible for the car manufacturer to create the world’s first ever working 3D-printed vehicle.
The idea of a 3D-printed car is not a new one. Before the LM3D Swim, Local Motors built the world’s first ever 3D-printed car, the Strati. Built and printed in Detroit, this electric car was the first step in mass producing printed cars.
Strati changed the way the world thought about 3D-printed vehicles. In 2010, printed cars were created, such as the Urbee, but they weren’t as mechanically involved as the Strati. In the past, car panels and features were printed, then placed on a traditionally-built structure. This meant that important components, such as the battery or motor, were not created using the 3D-printer. The Strati used direct digital manufacturing for the majority of the components.
Building a 3D car isn’t easy. To “print” a Strati, Local Motors had to first create the body using a Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAM) machine. After the body was printed, subtractive manufacturing using a computer numerical control routing machine, or CNC, was used. That still didn’t include all of the features. Additional components were added over the course of several days. Manufacturing took a total of five days, with 44 hours of printing.
Local Motors plans on using this innovative process to further explore car customization and, eventually cut manufacturing costs. While the Strati was a small electric car, the company hopes to appeal to a wider audience by offering several different 3D-printed vehicles. Sport versions of the LM3D Swim, for example, are expected to be produced in the future.