Based on a design called the “ReLoad Redacted” submitted by Canadian engineer Kevin Lo, Local Motors, an automotive startup based in Phoenix, AZ has set in motion plans to complete and manufacture the world’s first 3D printed car.
Called the Strati, Local Motors has plans to manufacture and ship the cars early next year. While still in the production phase, Local Motors says they are prepping and perfecting the design for release.
Unlike many high-tech cars, the Strati is both affordable and environmentally-friendly–at just $30,000, the car is also 100% electric. The car and its parts with be assembled and printed in microfactories across the world. Local Motors calls it “the factory of the future”– “a more sustainable, nimble and flexible factory,” these factories will create jobs for their regions, increase recycling, reduce distribution costs and waste and will have faster delivery times due to their proximity to urban centers.
Founder and CEO John B. Rogers, Jr. is pairing his vision for a more sustainable, open and local car manufacturing world with the high-tech gadgetry of 3D printing. Still a burgeoning technology, 3D printing is already used by the likes of Jay Leno to make old and hard-to-find parts for his classic car collection and General Motors used 3D printers to prototype parts for the 2014 Chevrolet Malibu. Its’ manufacturing implications don’t end in the automotive industry–NASA has been experimenting with a 3D-printed rocket engine injector among countless other 3D printing projects including the SpaceX CRS-4 mission which included a 3D printer to help astronauts print and replace parts onboard their vessels. 3D printing is also a boon for the biotech and medical industries–3D printed prosthetics, including a replacement for an 83-year-old Dutch woman’s jaw, have already been successfully used and installed in humans, and scientists are currently experimenting with growing organs from 3D-printed cell replicas to replace injured organs. In Michigan, doctors helped save a baby boy with a life-threatening windpipe illness by 3D-printing a lung splint.
With implications across the manufacturing spectrum, the future of 3D printing lies not in what we can build, but how we can help improve our world and make less of an impact as manufacturers.
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