Open Innovation and the World’s First Ever 3D Printed Car Design

Published Sep-16-14

An open innovation contest to create the world’s first ever 3D-printed car design. The winning concept inspired the full-size prototype that was printed in front of a live audience at a trade show.

Local Motors, United States

The Story:

Open Innovation and the World’s First Ever 3D Printed Car Design Local Motors is successfully driving forward a change in how cars are designed by running competitions to find innovations. It is a process that appears to be working with novel designs coming off the production line. The company claims that its approach is building cars five times faster than conventional manufacturers with one hundred times less capital expenditure.

Digitally Designed and Manufacturing

In April 2014, Local Motors launched a six-week 3D Printed Car Design Challenge. It came off the back of a partnership deal signed the previous January between Local Motors and the US Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory to produce the world's first 3D printed vehicle - a fully functional car that is digitally designed and manufactured.

By going down the 3D design route, Local Motors is hopeful that it can change the way and the speed with which cars are built.

Local Motors laid down the criteria that innovators had to work to. The car had to seat two people, have four wheels, battery pack and windshield. Also the major elements and functions of the interior, exterior and structure had to be embedded on one principle part.

Winning Concept

More than 200 concepts were submitted from innovators in over 30 countries. After a week-long adjudication period, the panel of judges selected seven winning concepts. Six of those were recognized for their innovative touches and popularity among the Local Motors community. The designers of these concepts received $1,000 in cash. The overall winning concept is called 'Strati' and was created by Michele Anoé of Italy. It went on to influence and inspire the full-size 3D printed prototype.

“Michele’s design offers an excellent balance between innovation, complexity and practicality. It has good 3D lines and the retractable roof is really cool,” said Lonnie Love, Group Leader, Robotics and Manufacturing Systems Research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Michele picked up $5,000 for his winning efforts.

The car is made from a new fiber-reinforced thermoplastic, and the chassis and body (without drivetrain, wheels and brakes) weighs 450 pounds. The finished vehicle consists of just 40 parts.

Industry Revolution

Local Motors believes that 3D printed technology has the potential to change the way cars are made, addressing some of the key issues that face manufacturers today. The technology is reducing the number of parts, lowering the weight of vehicles and cutting the initial costs of tooling when creating the cars.

The prototype was printed live at MTS – The International Manufacturing Technology Show 2014 in Chicago, Illinois in September 2014. The vehicle has just 40 parts, took less than six days to print and construct and enjoyed a successful test drive.

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