Local Motors, a disruptive tech and automotive company that designs and builds vehicles, is redefining the industry. By setting up localized micro-factories that design and manufacture cars directly in the region they serve, the company has achieved a small-batch, on-demand business model. In turn, this allows the company to focus on big ideas while keeping their footprint small. The Olli self-driving bus, powered by IBM's Watson, is just one of those big ideas.
Olli isn't just another autonomous vehicle—it's an entirely new way of thinking about transportation. In order to build disruptive products like the Olli, the Local Motors team depends on specific tools to meet their production and prototyping needs at each step of the process; tools like the MakerBot Replicator+, a cloud-enabled desktop 3D printer.
"We really don't have the time to wait for the parts we need," explains Alex Fiechter, Local Motors' Director of Product Development. "We need to set the making of them in motion and forget about them while we work on other things. The MakerBot Replicator+ has been the ideal example of this 'set it and forget it' experience for creating 3D printed parts on both the production and the prototyping side."
With streamlined 3D printing, Local Motors design engineers are able to reduce tooling costs by 50% and reduce overall production time by a staggering 90%, all while keeping part production in-house.
"There's a huge difference between using an outside part manufacturer and having that capability in-house," says Design Engineer Frederik Tjonneland. "The convenience of being able to print a part and have it in your hand in a couple of hours is not only cheaper, but also reduces lead times and allows us to iterate that much more quickly."
With Tough PLA, engineers are able to create durable, high-impact strength prototypes and fixtures on-demand, for each step of the process. These tough parts feature similar tensile, impact and flexural strength characteristics as ABS plastic and are ideal for functional printing applications.
"We like Tough PLA because we can thread directly into the part and mount other components to it," explains Mechanical Engineer, Tony Rivera. "In the time it would have taken to order a metal part and have it shipped here, we already finished the entire project."
"Fast and iterative desktop 3D printing is absolutely critical at Local Motors... it's integral towards what we do" adds Tjonneland.
Sorrce and top image: MakerBot