By on September 16, 2014

Printing the body of the Local Motors Strati at the rate of up to forty carbon-infused pounds per hour, the BAAM 3-D printer might be the next step in democratizing access to electric cars — or cars of any kind, really.

This isn’t truly a “3-D printed car” as some sources have reported: the wheels came from our friends at fifteen52 and much of the drivetrain was sourced from the Renault Twizy. Still, the speed with which the Strati was constructed offers some fascinating possibilities for homebrew and limited-production automobiles.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the club-racing applications here: imagine being able to order up some 3-D printed fenders for your Spec Miata or World Challenge car after a tough weekend of close running in the pack! Why not throw in some aero enhancements while you’re at it?

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25 Comments on “BAAM! Printing A Car From Scratch In Six Days...”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Depending on the printing process and materials, this exercise could have been exceptionally expensive – but great advertising.

    • 0 avatar

      I have followed this technology for decades in its various forms, I am currently working on a project that uses similar technology for large parts, was at the ITMS trade show and spent time at this exhibit I don’t think it was especially expensive.

      I want give everyone involved great credit for actually getting a one off proof of concept vehicle finished and going for a drive.

      Having said that, the technology that most impressed me was from the metal additive company PRM Innovations

      Laser deposition of a variety of alloys up to 5 feet x 5 feet x 7 feet, opens up whole new possibilities in that were costly, if not impossible before.

  • avatar

    Needs moar escorts.

  • avatar

    Only in America:

    6 days to 3D print your car.

    25 years to title it.

    • 0 avatar

      Kit cars are super easy to title.

      If people were smarter they would ship cars here without lighting, hoses, seat belts, engine, transmission, then it no longer qualifies as a car but auto parts according to customs. Ship in the other stuff, minus the engine, put it all back together and register it as a kit car.

      The engine can’t be brought in unless its EPA certified, or going in a vehicle that will be certified. I imagine old vehicles as well though that seems to be a legal grey area.

      Local motors uses this as you have to build the car, or at least help them build your car. You didn’t think these met crash regs and such? They don’t.

      • 0 avatar

        @Onus – Your comment really has me curious. For example, take the Euro model Land Rover Defenders that have been being seized lately. If the owners had them shipped over as you stated, then re-assembled here with the original parts that were shipped separately, but the engine swapped out to something American like a small block, they could be titled as kit cars and safe from the Feds? Heck even Rover V8s are plentiful and cheap here in the states and would literally bolt right in, I guess that would be just as legal.

        Makes me think of all the cool Euro cars that we could have with this method!

  • avatar

    I really do struggle with the hype surrounding 3D printing. I mean, it’s nifty, but it’s also only possible for certain applications and profitable in a limited subset of those.

    You can print basically anything you could mould and a few things you could machine. You could print a gear; you can’t print a spring. You certainly can’t have the printer assemble a bunch of gears and machines into a watch, and even for the things you can print, it’s cheaper, easier and generally better to stamp, machine mould or otherwise fabricate them in a professional assembly facility, and it would certainly be cheaper for me to order a machined or stamped part from Amazon then to try and print my own.

    I’m reminded of people trying to inkjet-print newspapers. There is a reason web-offset exists. Some technologies suit being democratized; some don’t. Fabrication seems like one of the latter.

    • 0 avatar

      Don’t let 3d printing confuse you. Its greatest strength is rapid prototyping.

      You wouldn’t use 3d printing for large scale manufacturing. That comes after.

      • 0 avatar

        I do get that; what I don’t understand is the hype. There’s a tendency (in the media) to see it as a way to democratize fabrication, which is really not what it’s suited for.

        Honestly, it seems like it’s on the same hype cycle that home automation is on, only it’s even less practical.

        • 0 avatar

          On one hand the faddish 3D printing shop that openened around me is already shutrered. On the other hand titanium commercial airline jet parts are already being 3D printed. The implications are going to be huge, but not in the ways that people think.

          For this particular purpose I find it hard to believe that the 3D printed panels are competitive with sheet molded composite with regard to weight and durability.

        • 0 avatar

          It’s a way to democratize innovation. To bring software development like agility to fields which have so far had much higher barriers to entry.

          You try something, make a few to a few dozen copies, get it out there to beta testers, and if it sticks, have something (more) solid to go on, before needing funding.

          And there’s also huge potential gains from bypassing all manners of oppressive, and oppressively enforces, laws. Guns are obvious, but in the future also drone parts, possibly parts for machinery for making guns etc., etc. IP enforcement and attendant risk is also making spare parts for lots of stuff difficult and expensive enough to source, to make repairs not worth vile. Being able to download them off of Thingster or Makester or whatnot, could be a big boon and quite transformative.

          • 0 avatar

            Please don’t tell me you’re referring to the fallacy of “agile”, which I have seen fall flat on its face now at two different medium size firms.

          • 0 avatar

            What I’m referring to is as diametrically opposed to “agile” as it is possible to get.

            The whole point is to be able to route around the kind of people hawking “agile”, or any other silly fad from Powerpoint land.

            Currently, innovating in hardware requires up front money. Which means, non innovators/non engineers gets into the gears of the process, gumming it up in order to extract value from it. And then, because the funding is a visible event, another slew of “administrators”, “lawyers”, blah-blah gets to insert themselves into the mix. All screaming like chicklets to extract a piece of the pie for themselves.

            Cut out the need for upfront funding BEFORE being able to put a fairly finished product (even if not mass produceable) in front of potential customers, and you’ll have a much easier time relegating the various classes of leeches from the driver seat, to the back seat. Or, perhaps even the trunk…

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      What you said, psar.

      The media’s fascination with 3D printing usually ignores the downsides.

      I’ve used printed parts for a decade (we have two printers in our office), and while the technology is improving, it’s not scalable for product size or production volume. Stunts like this (the printed car) only promote the illusion of scalability without discussing the costs in terms of resin expense, part weakness, or marginal cosmetics.

  • avatar

    Carbon fiber may be the key to lightweight cars. Not the hand laid aircraft grade but strong enough for auto application. 3D carbon printer ad:

  • avatar

    Ah yes, home automation: replace a $6 light switch that has 99.999+% reliability and a 40 year service life with thousands of dollars worth of computer hardware and software with Micro$oft reliability and a planned-obsolescence half-life of five years, all to avoid GETTING UP OUT OF YOUR CHAIR AND TURNING A LAMP ON WHEN IT GETS DARK. (Or, why just wait till you’re cold and then decide whether to put on a sweater or turn up the heat, when you can have the aforementioned HW and SW try to keep it all comfortable for you? And how well has that worked in any office building you’ve ever worked in?) But wait, your home automation system can also tell you if you’re running low on milk, so you don’t have to WALK OVER TO THE FRIDGE AND LOOK (and sniff, has anyone proposed a home automation system that can tell you if the milk’s gone bad?).

    Ah yes, 3d printing – There’s a lot of hype that obscures the real and present values and capabilities of this technology, but never sees the light of day in the mass media.

    I predict a long development curve before the cost of any but the smallest, least loaded final components are made in production by 3d printing. There is much more promise in using 3d printing as an alternate process for patternmaking – this is currently done by stereolithography processes (plus a whole array of older processes, all the way back to wooden patterns), which have their advantages and disadvantages, but the use of 3d printing especially for investment casting is growing by leaps and bounds. But because foundry work is not on the radar screen of the mass media, you’ll never hear about this application, where the technology really does offer advantages. Also, you could use 3d printing to form plugs for fiberglass layup, but parts that size would be awful expensive.

    One exception that I know of to my statement on final components is the production of small quantities of plastic components for model building (like ship models). There’s no mechanical load, and purchasers will pay significant money for – say – a superstructure for a model of a destroyer, which would never pay back the cost of an injection mold. There probably are or soon will be other examples. But functional components for a car? Not any time soon.

    • 0 avatar

      Excellent post.

    • 0 avatar

      I think part of the advantage is going to be the squeeze. Sure, you can make a mold and mass produce for much less than a printer, but I don’t want to mass produce. I want to squeeze out all the guys between me and the guy who does the work, and the taxmen that go with them. Most items get at least tripled in cost by the time they get to you. The original cost itself is inflated to pay taxes and legacy costs (which may or may not be reflected in the value you derive).

      The hype is because people see iTunes happening to manufacturing.

    • 0 avatar

      When I worked in consumer product design, we used 3D printers to make the prototypes.

      You’re right that they’re great for making models. Once the resolution improves to the point of equivalency with at least resin and then styrene kits, I could see downloading a model kit of pretty much any weird or low-volume subject a manufacturer wouldn’t normally tool up for, or just designing my own and having my CAD printer build it.

      The main problem right now is print resolution. In order to get a smooth, precise surface without the print ridges being too out-of-scale, you need to either make a huge model or block off a few weeks on your calendar for Bondo and sanding.

  • avatar

    >>>I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the club-racing applications here:

    I was thinking LeMons

  • avatar

    And they made it look like that.

    If they’re confident in the strength of their printed car, why is there no roof? I’d be more impressed by something that looks more “car-like”

    That’s assuming that the printing could produce a structural roof.

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