I had the opportunity to attend the North American International Auto Show this past Friday in Detroit, and boy was I in for an awesome surprise. One of the vehicles catching all of the headlines was the Local Motors Strati - an electric car with a fully 3D printed body.
They were actually manufacturing cars right on the show floor! I will now share with you some of the manufacturing magic I was presented with.
How to 3D Print a Car 101
The 3 stage process was well displayed including 1) 3D Printing, 2) Part Finishing, and 3) Car Assembly. The material used in the FDM style 3D printer is ABS plastic reinforced with carbon fibre - a very stiff and durable material great for automotive parts.
Take a look at the images below to follow the process from start to finish.
The Finishing Touches on the 3D Parts
The cars on display show both finished and unfinished parts to pay homage to the fabrication technique, but this is not required. LM has optimized the parts finishing to make them look uber-shiny. First the 3D printed parts are CNC milled into the proper tolerances, then they are sanded smooth. Finally, paint or just some plain old elbow grease will make the parts road ready. See below for some up close photos.
My First 3D Printed Ride!
One thing I did not expect from my trip was that I would actually get to take a ride in the 3D printed car. I managed to get the last spot in line for a spin around the track in the first ever production Strati, boy was I lucky (and a little giddy). I managed to get a great selfie and a couple videos racing around the track, make sure to check them out.