Forget self-driving cars. Local Motors, a barely known name in the automotive industry, is shaking things up in the market with the world's first mass-produced 3D printed car, the LM3D Swim.
Instead of taking control away from customers in the driver's seat, Local Motors is putting them in the driver's seat of customizing their very own vehicles and delivering it to them at a pace never seen before.
In fact, the Swim model of Local Motors' LM3D class of cars went from a design concept in July to a full prototype by September just this year. Looking like a cross between a Mini Cooper and a dune buggy, the LM3D Swim promises to be one-of-a-kind.
Though the underpinnings of the car will remain the same throughout the series, Local Motors says customers will be able customize the aesthetic features of the Swim which is only made possible through 3D printing. In short, all Swims will be the same on the inside, but each will be unique on the outside.
The existing prototype of the Swim is running on the same powertrain used in the BMW i3 and it's expected that the final production car will stick with it. Unlike the i3, the Swim will run solely off electricity as a gas tank and other corresponding parts would add too much complexity to the vehicles 3D printing processes.
Nonetheless, it is the 3D-printed design of the Swim that makes the car more than just customized eye candy. The 3D printing production process allows the car to design in crumple and deformation zones, essentially allowing the whole frame to act much like an elaborate roll cage. Besides being safer for humans, the vehicle is also safer for the planet. 3D printing allows for less wastage, and the materials used in the printing process are even recyclable.
Presales of the LM3D Swim will begin in the spring of next year while it continues to undergo federal crash testing and highway certification during the same year. The first units are expected to roll off the production floor by early 2017 at Local Motors' production facilities in Knoxville, Tennessee where the company expects to be able to print out 2,400 Swims per year. Depending on the different customization options Local Motors offers for the LM3D Swim, the world's next-generation 3D printed car will cost at least $53,000.