|Local Motors CEO John B. Rogers, Jr. takes 3D car for a spin|
An actual car.
The manufacturing of the "Strati" as it is being dubbed by Local Motors, was done almost non-stop over the entire length of the 5-day event, with the help of other American companies playing different roles in this entirely new "microfactory" chain. From IMTS's press site:
"The Strati was built in three phases during the six-day show. In phase one the car was 3D-printed on a Cincinnati Incorporated BAAM (Big Area Additive Manufacturing Machine) over 44 hours using cutting edge technology called additive manufacturing. Phase two, known as subtractive manufacturing, included one day of milling on a machine provided by Thermwood. Once complete, the third and final phase was rapid assembly, in which a team led by Local Motors put the finishing touches on the world’s first 3D-printed car. Then, the key was turned and the vehicle set off on its maiden voyage, marking an important moment in history."
That maiden voyage was Local Motors CEO John B. Rogers Jr taking a long drive around Chicago's McCormick Place, proving the car's function. Although 3D printing and additive manufacturing have shown applications in previous automobile projects such as the Kor Ecologic/Stratasys collaboration on the Urbee, the Strati goes one step further. Where the Urbee was an additive manufactured chassis design over a regular vehicle system, all of the Strati's parts that are not mechanical are 3D printed.
There's obviously still competitive issues to work out. Five days to make one automobile doesn't exactly scream "practical" to investors interested in mass production. Still, there is obviously tons of room to refine this process. Throw in more labor, experts, automation, and assembly strategies, and the Microfactory could soon be the norm in the auto industry.
Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.