Instead of armies of workers toiling to turn out limited lines of identical models for consumers to choose from, Local Motors proposes that the design and build process becomes customized. It hosts design competitions to crowd-source new vehicles that reflect rather than impose the the tastes, interests, and needs of drivers and then offers the designs as open source creations for any and all to build on their own. It also has been working on the "micro factory," a small, local factory that builds vehicles on demand while also serving as a local resource for research and development centered around the fabrication tools required for designing and building a car.
Local Motors has a line of vehicles ranging from its famed "Rally Fighter" to electric trikes and motorcycles. While many may write it off as an obscure car club simply taking customization to the next level, it may instead represent a shifting paradigm amid car manufacturing.
Enter Strati - Local Motor's First 3D Printed Car
Like many "firsts," Strati doesn't boast impressive performance in any of the ways one might judge a car by. But one thing that does set it apart from other cars is the way in which it was manufactured. It was 3D printed, and more so, it was assembled with a minimal amount of parts to simply the design. What this represents is the first of perhaps many mass, fully customized vehicles printed on demand, with modular systems that allow design, fabrication, testing, and re-fabrication to be done within days. In other words, while the Strati may not become the car of tomorrow (yet), it may become the testbed of tomorrow.
Imagine a local makerspace pooling its resources to make a vehicle best suited for the community. With the manufacturing process Local Motors is pioneering, such projects will be able to produce vehicles that answer demands in ways Detroit, Tokyo, and the European auto capitals never could dream of. No longer would drivers need to compromise their needs with what was on offer via mass production. With Local Motors and Strati, the age of mass customization and personal manufacturing has finally begun wading into the auto industry.
For better or for worse, as Local Motors moves forward, and other alternative auto companies like Tesla move alongside it, traditional automakers face a shakeup unlike anything they've seen in the past century of rolling cars off assembly lines.
3D printing has once again shown its revolutionary reach is bound only by our imaginations and our innovation.
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