Executive Briefings

On Your Mark, Get Set, Print Your Plastic Car - Go!

One of the most atypical things seen this year at the Specialty Equipment Market Association show was a prototype of a 3D printed car from the company Local Motors.

It's a cute little two-seater that looks a lot like a Mazda Miata, but don't think for a minute that this is just a novelty. Local Motors, according to chief financial officer Jean Gally, has established factories in Chandler, Ariz., Knoxville, Tenn., and will start building one in Washington, D.C., in December. The plan is to have DOT-approved, 3D-printed Local Motor cars for sale to the public by 2017, says Gally. Eventually, the company hopes to have five factories turning out 2,400 to 3,000 cars every year. The cars will be all-electric drive and cost between $30,000 and $50,000.

Of course a car can’t be all plastic. It needs the strength of steel to anchor the wheels, brakes, engine and axles. Gally says the Local Motors printed thermoplastic body sits on top of a structural “skateboard,” if you will. “The car is about 80 percent thermoplastic,” says Gally. “We are still sorting out if there needs to be some reinforcement with traditional metal structures for side impact. We’re experimenting with different types of polymers, different concentrations of carbon fiber and thermoplastic for specific qualities. We’re also printing out elastomers for different pieces of the body like bumpers and side skirts. The thermoplastic materials are impact resistant and can usually be bent back out when they’re dented.”

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It's a cute little two-seater that looks a lot like a Mazda Miata, but don't think for a minute that this is just a novelty. Local Motors, according to chief financial officer Jean Gally, has established factories in Chandler, Ariz., Knoxville, Tenn., and will start building one in Washington, D.C., in December. The plan is to have DOT-approved, 3D-printed Local Motor cars for sale to the public by 2017, says Gally. Eventually, the company hopes to have five factories turning out 2,400 to 3,000 cars every year. The cars will be all-electric drive and cost between $30,000 and $50,000.

Of course a car can’t be all plastic. It needs the strength of steel to anchor the wheels, brakes, engine and axles. Gally says the Local Motors printed thermoplastic body sits on top of a structural “skateboard,” if you will. “The car is about 80 percent thermoplastic,” says Gally. “We are still sorting out if there needs to be some reinforcement with traditional metal structures for side impact. We’re experimenting with different types of polymers, different concentrations of carbon fiber and thermoplastic for specific qualities. We’re also printing out elastomers for different pieces of the body like bumpers and side skirts. The thermoplastic materials are impact resistant and can usually be bent back out when they’re dented.”

Read Full Article