Local Motors Prints Driveable 3D Car at Detroit Auto Show

Local Motors' 3D-printed Strati at the North American International Auto Show, January 12, 2015 (Photo by John Biehler)


DETROIT, Michigan, January 15, 2015 (ENS) – Local Motors showed off its three-dimensional printed car, a world’s first, by live-printing one on the show floor at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

The electric-powered Strati is printed of ABS plastic reinforced with carbon fiber and can be manufactured by a 3D printer in 44 hours. Local Motors, a company based in Phoenix, Arizona, is working to cut the print process time down to 24 hours.

Everything on the Strati that could be integrated into a single material piece was printed at the show, including the chassis and frame, exterior body, and some interior features.

Local Motors’ 3D-printed Strati at the North American International Auto Show, January 12, 2015 (Photo by John Biehler)

The mechanical components of the vehicle – the battery, motors, wiring, and suspension – are sourced from Renault’s Twizy, a small electric city car.

And it drives! Once the 3D-printed Strati meets all U.S. vehicle rules and regulations, it will be drivable on public roads. The company’s goal is to complete this approval process and have a 3D-printed Strati on the road before the end of 2015.

“The Strati was designed by our community, made in our microfactory and will be driven by you,” said John B. Rogers, Jr., CEO of Local Motors last September when the first Strati was live-printed. “This brand-new process disrupts the manufacturing status quo, changes the consumer experience and proves that a car can be born in an entirely different way.”

The vehicle proves the viability of using sustainable, digital manufacturing solutions in the automotive industry. Local Motors plans to launch production-level 3D-printed vehicles that will be available to the general public for purchase in the months following the show.

The Strati was achieved through a collaboration between Local Motors and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) based in Tennessee.

In a three-dimensional printed twist on an automotive icon, ORNL is showcasing a 3D-printed classic Shelby Cobra at the Detroit Auto Show.

The 3D-printed Shelby was on display January 12-15 in Detroit’s Cobo Center as part of the show’s inaugural Technology Showcase in celebration of the racing car’s 50th anniversary.

Researchers printed the Shelby car at the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at ORNL using the Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) machine, which can manufacture strong, lightweight composite parts in large sizes.

Material for the 3D-printed cars was donated to Local Motors, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Cincinnati Incorporated by the Saudi Basic Industries Corporation.

Shelby Cobra
President Barack Obama examines the 3D-printed Shelby Cobra on its way to the North American International Auto Show, January 9, 2015 (Photo courtesy ORNL)

The 1,400-pound Shelby contains 500 pounds of printed parts made of 20 percent carbon fiber.

“Our goal is to demonstrate the potential of large-scale additive manufacturing as an innovative and viable manufacturing technology,” said Lonnie Love, leader of ORNL’s Manufacturing Systems Research group. “We want to improve digital manufacturing solutions for the automotive industry.”

The team took six weeks to design, manufacture and assemble the Shelby, including 24 hours of print time. The new BAAM system, jointly developed by ORNL and Cincinnati Incorporated, can print components 500 to 1,000 times faster than today’s industrial additive machines.

ORNL researchers say the speed of next-generation additive manufacturing offers new opportunities for the automotive industry.

“You can print out a working vehicle in a matter of days or weeks,” Love said. “You can test it for form, fit and function. Your ability to innovate quickly has radically changed. There’s a whole industry that could be built up around rapid innovation in transportation.”

ORNL manufacturing and transportation researchers plan to use the 3-D printed Shelby as a laboratory on wheels. The car is designed to “plug and play” components such as battery and fuel cell technologies, hybrid system designs, power electronics, and wireless charging systems, allowing researchers to easily and quickly test out new ideas.

The ORNL booth at the show features displays on energy absorption, composite tooling, printed power electronics and connected vehicles.

The North American International Auto Show opens to the public on Saturday, January 17 and runs through January 25 at Detroit’s Cobo Center.

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