In the early days of 3D printing, one of the first things to really make waves was the announcement of a 3D printed car. The first cars were printed in small pieces and painstakingly assembled into a classic body that would be fit over a less expensive vehicle. Ivan Sentch, for example, is printing out an Aston Martin DB4 body, which will fit over a 1993 Nissan Skyline. With parts measuring four inches or less each, the process is taking months and, perhaps, years. Now, however, a company called Local Motors is set to change all of that with the first 3D printed car that is printed at a large-scale and is nearly ready for market.

About Local Motors

As engineers and makers, the innovators behind Local Motors have a whole series of vehicles in the evaluation, prototype, and production stages. From a luxury off-road vehicle to a motorized tricycle, Local Motors, which is based in Phoenix, Arizona, has a different perception of how people should look at transportation. Now, with the 3D printed car, this perception is set to change even more.

The Strati

The Strati, which is Italian for “layer,” is the first of a series of 3D printed cars that Local Motors will be rolling out. Instead of printing the car piece by piece, Local Motors uses a massive 3D printer that is capable of building the entire body at once. Because of the production method, which saves millions that is typically needed for tooling and dying, the car will be made available at a price point between $18,000 and $30,000. The material, carbon infused plastic pellets, can be purchased for about $5 per pound, further contributing to a lower bottom line. While most cars contain more than 20,000 parts, the Strati will end up having about 50 parts. All of the components in the car’s interior, exterior, and frame are printed, but the mechanical parts are not.

Currently, the company is busy setting up a series of microfactories. Here, they will be able to print their cars and role them out to the local market. At this moment, a car takes about 44 hours to print. The company hopes to reduce the time to less than 24 hours soon. Because of the nature of 3D printing, individual customers can customize the look of their car. Jay Rogers, CEO of Local Motors, explained that a microfactory will be similar to a “Build-a-Bear mashed up with Ikea mashed up with Formula 1.”

The Debut

In September, the Strati made its first appearance at Chicago’s International Manufacturing Technology Show. The vehicle really made waves this week, however, at the Detroit Auto Show. Currently, the Strati is offered as a two-seater that can reach speeds of up to 25 miles per hour. At a test track that was set up at the show, attendees were able to give the car a spin. Drivers were impressed at how well the car handled and how quietly the vehicle drove. Rogers explained that the Strati is so quiet because of a combination of the electric motor and the fact that so many of the components were printed as one piece, reducing the number of parts that could clank together and cause noise.

While the Strati is still a work in process, you may be able to have one in your driveway sooner than you think. Local Motors believes that they will be able to roll out the first line of cars sometime this year, as soon as they are able to receive highway clearance. The video below includes an interview with Rogers, as well as a look of the car in action.

 

A Model Brought to Life

Interestingly, the Strati wasn’t the only 3D printed car to receive attention at the Detroit Auto Show. A Shelby Cobra replica car that was 3D printed by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory was also on hand. Because the laboratory specializes in developing new automotive technologies, the focus for this car is not retail, but to test ways that these technologies can be put to use. Throughout the process, the laboratory closely monitored the production process, taking note of factors like energy efficiency. Researchers discovered that 3D printing was actually one of the most energy efficient ways to make a car. Unlike the Strati, which has visible layers, the Cobra model incorporates finishing technology to figure out which paints and bonding materials are required to produce a beautiful 3D printed car that looks just like the original. From conception to finished product, the car took about six weeks. Check out the video below to learn more about this beautiful car.

 

What do you think about the future of 3D cars? Are you ready to order yours? If you are interested in finding out more about the powerful additive manufacturing capabilities of 3D printing, contact us at Spectra3D Technologies for more information about our products and services, or join our newsletter for updates.

 

*header images from Wikimedia and Loz Blain/Gizmag.com