The critique of 3-D printing by certain hedge funds has centered on the technology’s inability to produce cost effective products. Don’t tell that to Local Motors.
World’s first 3-D printed car
The Phoenix, Arizona-based company launched the Strati this weekend in Chicago, a 3-D printed car that sells for $18,000.
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The production time for the vehicle is under 45 hours. The frame was custom “printed” using a large 3-D printer with carbon fiber and plastic materials. While the frame was printed, the key components in the vehicle were manufactured in a more traditional fashion. The glass windows, headlights, mirrors, battery and motor, for instance, were mass produced and added the 3-D printed frame.
The car was produced with under 50 parts, an achievement in its own right as traditional cars can have thousands of individual parts to produce the car. While the lack of components in the car is being touted as a benefit, it can also be considered from the point of view as not being as sophisticated as a mass produced car. The 3-D printed car only goes 40 miles per hour, about the speed of a top line motor scooter. The battery in the car only lasts for 120 miles before it requires a charge. It is unknown if safety tests on the plastic and carbon frame were conducted and if so the results of a plastic car crash are not known.
While questions persist, Local Motors is optimistic it can further revolutionize the production process to compress the manufacturing time.
3-D printed car: Duration of printing to be reduced
“We expect in the next couple of months [printing a complete car] to be below 24 hours and then eventually get it below 10 hours, [down from 45 hours currently]” Local Motors CEO John Rogers was quoted as saying in a report. “This is in a matter of months. Today, the best Detroit or Germany can do is 10 hours on a [production] line, after hundreds of years of progress.”
In a twist on the benefits of mass production that were evangelized by Henry Ford in production of the Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F), the CEO of Local Motors views mass production as a market disadvantage.
“In the future, you’ll still have … your Detroits that make one product the same over a million units,” Rogers was quoted as saying. “And then I think you’ll have examples of microfactories that do things profitably at lower volumes—10,000 units, 15,000 units per year—and show the mass factories what they ought to build next.”