Local Motors unveils designs for the world's first road-ready line of 3D printed cars
Over the past few years, the Phoenix, AZ-based Local Motors company has been repeatedly praised by the 3D printing community for their efforts to realize actually functional 3D printed cars. And they have gotten increasingly good at it, unveiling their signature Strati car last year. In September 2014; they actually took it for a test drive. But they are now set to take things to the next level, having picked Kevin Lo’s 3D printed car designs for an actual commercial production line that is set to become available next year.
For those of you who’ve mysteriously missed this story altogether, Local Motors is an innovative high-tech design company that designs, builds and commercially markets unusual vehicles. From bytes-to-bits, they are known for creating local micro manufacturing with large scale global innatives, complete with tons of hardware innovations to make every vehicle more unique than the next. They also work together with universities and various other research partners to further develop 3D printing technology.
'At Local Motors, we are hellbent on revolutionizing manufacturing,’ CEO and co-founder John B. Rogers, Jr. told reporters. ‘Car manufacturers have been stamping parts the same way for more than 100 years. We now have the technology to make the process and products better and faster by linking the online to the offline through DDM. This process will create better and safer products, and we are doing exactly that.’ A key role in their innovative process is also played by an active design community filled with car enthusiasts who love the possibility of customizing each and every vehicle. And that 3D printing is perfect for that was already illustrated by the Strati, designed by the Italian Michele Anoé (somewhat resembling a beach buggy).
But with a design competition called Project Redacted, Local Motors has attempted to get a more unique and classy design f or its first fleet of 3D printed cars. The winner of this design competition is an entry called Reload Redacted – Swim/Sport by Kevin Lo. This design not only looks fantastic, as you can see above, but has also been expressly designed to incorporate a wide variety of styles and technological options. And what’s more, it’s completely customizable. When compared to the Strati, these designed definitely look more practical. It’s slender design incorporates two more seats – making it more realistic in use – and rollover bars to make them safer. Like the Strati, the Swim/Sport is set to be licensed on Creative Commons for optimal design freedom.
While an active community member, Kevin Lo is a Vancouver, Washington-based engineer in his daily life, working at Hewlett-Packard Co. ‘The reality is that I won because I didn't know what I was designing,’ Lo told USAtoday. He also revealed that most of the work went into discussing and exploring options and design possibilities with the community. ‘This car is really about the community. I learned from the community members.’ Lo was awarded $7500 for his winning entry.
As he explained, Lo spent nights and weekends working on his design using PTC Creo Design software, as he had just three weeks to complete it. ‘The idea behind my entry was you build that carbon-fiber tub [which would hold the batteries, motor, chassis and wheels] and you can put whatever body you want on it,’ he explained. ‘If you look at Strati, it was meant to be a one-piece body — which is a beautiful idea — but the reality is if you take it to a highway level... you have to include safety,’ said Lo. With his design, any part is easily removed and replaced with another 3D printed component, which is very useful in case of a collision. As the competition also required the use of off-the-shelf parts, the designs incorporate the tail lights from the Mazda Miata.
The winning entry was chosen by a complex voting process involving the Local Motors community and a professional judging panel that includes famous car nut Jay Leno, John Waraniak (SEMA Vice President of Vehicle Technology) and Geert Jan Schellekens (SABIC Senior Manager). The plan is to build a Low Speed Electric Vehicle (LSEV) version of the Swim/Sport by early 2016 (costing something around $18,000 to $30,000), with an full highway-worthy machine to debut later in the year.Jay Leno was one of the judges who picked Kevin Lo’s design as the winner. ‘You need something that makes you go ‘what’s that?’’ he said of it. ‘My top choice would be Reload Redacted - Swim/Sport because it’s sporty, fun and you can commute in it.’
And, as you might begin to expect from Local Motors, this first fleet is set to be a high tech driving machine. For the 3D printed car will be equipped with a battery technology developed through an electric powertrain test platform in collaboration with its community. It revolves around the same lithium ion chemistry used in existing electric vehicles and smartphones, but is set to be more efficient. One reportsuggests that they could produce three times the energy of existing motors, but weigh only half – perfect for a lightweight car.
But Local Motors has been doing a lot more than just develop a commercial fleet of cars, as they have recently also created a fleet of LOCO (Local Motors Co-Created ) University Vehicles. Created in collaboration with the University of Michigan, Arizona State University and the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, these are intended to further explore manufacturing options (including 3D printing) as well as autonomous driving. If one thing is clear, it’s that we will be hearing a lot more about Local Motors in the near future.