Local Motors Could 3D-Print Itself Into the Future


A few weeks ago I made a statement on these pages that said something to the effect of how vehicle production hasn’t changed much over the last century or so.

Cars are still built on assembly lines using metal parts, a process that isn’t likely to change on a mass scale anytime soon.

There are companies, however, that are looking toward the future and coming up with innovative ways to build, and recycle, cars in the decades ahead.

Local Motors wants to be the one that disrupts the auto industry, and it wants to do so with 3D-printed cars.

The Financial Post said,

Local Motors’ business model is so radical that it’s hard to comprehend at first: crowd-sourced, 3D-printed electric vehicles built in local microfactories the size of grocery stores, then sold directly to consumers.

The company plans to go much further into uncharted territory with its next vehicle, which has begun crash-testing and is expected to hit the market by early 2017. Dubbed LM3D, it will be the world’s first 3D-printed car series, an approach that will keep capital costs low and allow cars to be “recycled.”

Imagine walking into a dealership that is also a mini car factory. You choose the type of vehicle you want, choose the powertrain, choose the desired options, and then wait while the car is made for you.

This is a real possibility. Local Motors will use a thermoplastic material that’s infused with carbon fiber, giving it incredible strength.

Building and selling cars on-demand like this would be less expensive and more efficient than the current model of building cars in a large factory, then shipping them across the world.

In the Local Motors model, recalls would be a thing of the past, because a vehicle’s template could be changed before the next vehicle is printed. People needing modifications would simply bring the car back to the factory where the unwanted components would be stripped off, then recycled into the desired configuration.

Local Motors is accumulating investors and has plans to build 50-100 of these microfactories around the world in the next decade to build a car that will cost somewhere around $53,000.

One of the largest unknowns is how the public will receive a concept like this. Will they trust a printed car? Will they accept a new way of building and buying a car? Will Local Motors secure the funding it needs to truly disrupt the auto industry?

Time will tell.

Would you be willing to drive a 3D-printed vehicle?


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