Called the "Strati," the vehicle is being printed at the International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago as I write this. After every part is squirted out, Local Motors will lead a team of "rapid assembly" engineers who will put it together. Then on Saturday, September 13th, they'll drive it off the show floor.
The whole construction process is slated to take 44 hours.
Body, seats, and other major components of the Strati are being churned out as one piece using "direct digital manufacturing, (DDM)," another term for "3D printing" and a method Local Motors says has never been used to make a road-going car. As you may or may not know, 3D printing basically involves an industrial robot creating a three-dimensional shape by spraying layers upon layers of fast-hardening material.
To be clear; the entire car is not 3D printed. Propulsion will come from an electric motor out of a Renault Twizy, a comparably-sized French economy car. The battery, wiring, suspension, and other such mechanicals are coming from "a variety of suppliers" according to Local Motors.
Craig Blue, Director, Advanced Manufacturing Program and Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL):
"This project represents the unique opportunity DOE's National Laboratory System offers to the industry, to collaborate in an open environment to deliver fast, innovative, manufacturing solutions.
These partnerships are pushing the envelope on emerging technologies, such as large scale additive manufacturing, and accelerating the growth of manufacturing in the United States,"
Andrew Jamison, CEO of Cincinnati Incorporated elaborated on the assembly infrastructure:
"The BAAM (Big Area Additive Manufacturing) machine can be used for actual production. The deposition rate of 40 pounds per hour of carbon reinforced ABS plastic and the large size mean that large parts, like a car, can be produced using additive technology."
The vehicle is intended to "prove the viability of using sustainable, digital manufacturing solutions in the automotive industry." Local Motors plans to start selling 3D printed vehicles to the general public in "the months following the show," so, very soon.
The Strati was designed by Michele Anoé of Italy, who won the "design challenge" Local Motors held out of 206 entrants. His prize was $5,000 and the privilege of seeing his shape come to life. Hopefully they let him get a shot behind the wheel when the car is finished in a few days.
Images: Local Motors