World’s First Printed Car Takes To The Road


They are claiming a world’s first in Chicago after an outfit called Local Motors successfully printed and assembled and then drove what is billed as the first ever working car made by a 3D printer. The vehicle was printed live on the floor of the recent International Manufacturing and Technology Show and although the first 3D printed car body can be claimed by Kor Ecologies Urbee, Local Motors utilises a design that incorporates things like doors and seats into the design, resulting in the Strati car that has a mere 40 printed parts.

The printer that created the car is not like the little one we have sitting in the corner of the office; the 3D printer that created the Strati has a specialist filament that is a combination of plastic and carbon fibre, and the vehicle is built up layer by layer. In fact the printer, which was created by Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Cincinnati Inc., is called a BAAM or Big Area Additive Manufacturing machine that can print about 20 kilos of materials per hour at present.

The whole car took just 44 hours to print and once the printing was finished, engineers moved in and fitted the things that at present are not printable – like the wheels, suspension, brakes, engine and wind screen – to complete the construction; after which, it was just a matter of taking the vehicle out for a test drive at a rather snail-like 4mph.

We’re not sure if they are getting carried away in the euphoria of the moment but it would seem so when Jay Rogers of Local Motors told a local TV station that he believes the Strati could begin actual manufacturing by 2015 with a potential price tag between US$18,000 and 30,000.

The model tested was installed with an electric powertrain that can achieve a very modest 60kph only, but the choice of engine would be up to the buyer to specify what they wanted. The Strati is not likely to be seen on any highways anytime soon either, simply as it was not designed for highways and, thus, in the US of A this means that the vehicle can be licensed without undergoing any of the standard safety tests. If the ambitions of Local Motors seem a little far-fetched, then perhaps you should know that General Electric has already announced a partnership with them to build and commercialise the next generation of GE products using the open source platform developed by Local Motors. The ability to make complex shapes using fewer parts and less material without sacrificing strength is one of the main benefits of 3D printing, said Anthony Vicari, a research associate at Lux Research and author of a recent 3D printing market report. Lighter-weight designs also have direct energy-saving benefits for the aerospace and automotive industries in terms of reduced fuel burn.

One of the aims of the project is to be able to build a car faster than the manufacturing titans can in, say, Detroit. At present though, the 44 hours it took to make the Strati is a lot longer than the average of ten hours it takes Detroit to churn out a car.

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