Local Motors, the innovative company with the deceptively low-key name, has been researching and developing the use of 3D printing for car bodies for some time. At the last Detroit Auto Show, they printed a car, right there at their booth. Now they have an all-new, sleeker, and more practical design.
The original Local Motors 3D printed car was impressive, in concept, but was still clearly experimental. Based on a Renault Twizzy drivetrain, it would really only be capable of 40 MPH or so — but, considering it’s a proof of concept, that’s still remarkable. That first car, Strati, weighed a bit more than a stock Twizzy, but pointed the way to a very exciting future of auto design and manufacture.
The new car, called, confusingly, LM3D Swim, was designed by a Local Motors “community” member named Kevin Lo. About 75% of the Swim is 3D printed, which mostly means basically all of the body and chassis panels. From design selection to final, working prototype only took an astounding two months.
The swim is much more finished than earlier attempts, with more glass, interior fittings, a roof, etc.
I like the design — to me, it sort of feels like a very modernized Myers Manx, or a similar ‘70s dune buggy, which is a very smart inspiration to start with, since those cars were essentially the 3D printed cars of their era.
The body is much more refined and finished on the Swim, actually being painted and all that, but the still low-ish resolution of large-scale 3D printers is still evident in the bit of aliased stair-stepping you can see on some of the curved areas. I suspect in time there will be a nostalgia for these sorts of limitation-details, like there is today for the pixellated look of 8-bit-era artwork.
This is a very exciting time, and I look forward to the day when you’ll be able to buy a chassis, and then upload your own custom car design to have it printed and mated to the chassis. The future could be pretty fun, after all.
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