Local Motors — the micro-manufacturer that hopes to establish a chain of "microfactories" where consumers will customize and build their own vehicles — has installed two Cincinnati Inc. Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) systems at its first workshop in Phoenix. The BAAM system was developed jointly by Cincinnati (CI) and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in a project that set out to use the framework, drives, and control systems of a laser-cutting system as the basis of a 3D printing machine for polymer parts.
The system is linear motor-driven and extrudes hot thermoplastic in patterns determined by a CAD design, to build parts in layers at speeds that the developer claimed is 200-500 times faster than more standard AM machinery.
Recently, Cincinnati and its development partners were honored by JEC Composites magazine with its JEC Innovation Award for their composite innovations through Big Area Additive Manufacturing.
But, the true value of the BAAM for Local Motors is the scale of the parts it produces: its work envelope is 2.4x6x2 meters (8x20x6 ft), up to 10 times larger that other AM systems. The system’s developer sees wider applications in automotive, aerospace, appliance, and robotics manufacturing.
“We worked with CI early in the development of BAAM and were one of the initial purchasers of the machine,” commented Elle Shelley, chief marketing officer for Local Motors. “We knew in short order that BAAM could provide the right platform for the microfactory concept.”
Local Motors’ strategy is to establish 100 microfactories in the coming decade, where customers will be able to select designs for a customized vehicle, and have it manufactured and assembled locally. In addition to the Phoenix location it has opened in Las Vegas, and later this year will open in Knoxville, Tenn., and National Harbor, Md. Each 40,000 sq.ft. workshop will have a projected output of up to 250 cars per year.
The vehicles they build will be passenger cars, off-road vehicles with on-road capability, and “neighborhood electric vehicles” (e.g., club carts), all incorporating 3D printed parts.
Each Local Motors microfactory will operate in partnership with local businesses and governments, and “global charter partners.”
“Ultimately, we will create relevant vehicles tailored to the needs of specific markets, all printed on the BAAM,” according to Shelley.