Before you head to the dealership for the first 3D-printed car, there are a few caveats. The first model is meant as a low-speed, neighborhood car. No high-speed drag races just yet.
Local Motors, the company manufacturing the car, has put the price tag somewhere between $18,000 and $30,000. A highway-legal version is expected to be available by the end of 2016.
The initial run of production vehicles will be built at a plant in Knoxville, TN. Local Motors is promising to add more plants in the coming years as people become more accepting of 3D-printing.
I know, you have the same thought as me. Is a 3D-printed car safe? The cars are. The parts are 3D-printed and assembled much like a traditional car. Instead of one factory building brake pads, and another steering wheels, companies can remove most of transportation costs by building at one site.
Local Motors 3D-Printed Electric Car
How did Local Motors come up with the design? The company turned to the crowdsourcing community. If you’re an upstart, you don’t have the cash to burn for focus testing design ideas. Let a passionate community tell you what they like.
The winning design, dubbed Reload Redacted – Swim and Sport, was by mechanical engineer Kevin Lo. He wanted a car that could be instantly reconfigurable from a sports car to a beach buggy. Hell yeah, Kevin. Hard to fault him for that choice.
Local Motors will manufacture the car based on a skateboard-like chassis that will house the battery, suspension and drivetrain. The panels on the front, rear and roof are all removable, converting it into the beach buggy Kevin wants.
Hell, even as a neighborhood car, it already sounds cool.
3D-Printing and Cars
While we’ve all seen a 3D printer in action, how about a ‘room-size’ one? Created in conjunction with the Oak Ridge Lab, it will print the chassis of each vehicle. The printer was demonstrated at the Detroit Auto Show this past January.
Local Motors keeps its manufacturing footprint small, preferring ‘microfactories’ over the traditional model. Microfactories allow the customer to directly participate in the assembly of the vehicle they are purchasing.
It’s a great concept and brings to the forefront the ‘maker’ community that is growing by the day.
Currently, it takes Local Motors a few days to build out its current models, but the 3D-printed car will have fewer components and allow for a quick turnaround time.
Full specifications for the Reload Redacted are expected this November. Speed, power and range will be unveiled with the finished production model this November at the Specialty Market Association (SEMA) show in Las Vegas.
What do you think? Can you see yourself driving around in a 3D-printed car? I like the concept of being able to change it to a beach buggy from a sports car. Now, it just needs to fit a few kayaks on top.