In a world first, automotive company Local Motors has printed and assembled a 3D printed electric car, live on the exhibition floor of the International Manufacturing Technology Show that just wrapped up in Chicago.
Though the title of first car with a 3D printed body goes to Kor Ecologic’s Urbee, Local Motors’ Strati utilises a design wherein many of the other parts of the car—including the seats and door panels —are enveloped into the body of the car, resulting in a car that has only 40, all 3D printed, separate parts.
Using a filament that’s a combination of carbon-fibre and plastic, the car’s body was assembled, layer by layer, in just 44 hours, as attendees of the IMTS looked on.
44 hours is incredibly quick, especially when you consider the Urbee’s body took 2500 hours to print. The rapid printing is possible thanks to a huge 3D printer called the BAAM (Big Area Additive Manufacturing) machine, created by Cincinatti Inc. together with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
With the BAAM, it’s possible to print 40 pounds of reinforced plastic per hour.
Once the 3D printing was done, the non-printable parts — such as the engine and wheels — were added to complete the construction.
After that, it was simply a matter of taking the Strati out for its first test drive around the trade show:
Jay Rogers of Local Motors told WGNtv that he believes the Strati could begin manufacturing by 2015, with a possible initial retail cost in the range of US$18,000 to US$30,000.
The Strati has a range of 190 km on a single charge, and weighs 680 kilograms, a fraction of what traditional cars weigh.
We’re unlikely to see the Strati on a highway — its top speed is around 65 kph. But it could be an urban city dweller and fit a niche market. Or, you know, just change completely how cars are made.