After a grueling process of simplifying car design and manufacturing, Local Motors has given us Strati, an electric two-seater that’s known to be the world’s first 3D-printed car. The American motor vehicle manufacturing company unveiled its newest creation last September at the International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago.


So how’d they do it? Strati’s body and chassis components were printed in ABS (carbon fiber reinforced thermoplastic) and the car has a maximum speed of 40 mph (64 km/h). The company sourced Strati’s mechanical components (batteries, motor) from Renault’s Twizy. Here’s another thing that makes Strati remarkable and sustainable: it’s comprised of only 49 parts. Compare that to the usual automobile that’s made up of around 5,000 parts and the margin is astronomical. It’s not yet allowed on highways, but Local Motors is driven to achieve its goal of making the car drivable on public roads by the end of 2015.

Local Motors didn’t come up with Strati’s design; they encouraged their community to flex their creative muscles and create a workable vehicle design that fits the company’s production technique (a combination of subtractive machining and 3D printing). All told, they got over 200 submissions.

After selecting a design, Local Motors set their sights on finding a company that could print the car. They found a partner in Oak Ridge Labs, which retrofitted their large laser printer with a 3D extruder. Another collaborator, Thermwood Corp., refined Strati’s overall look with its manufacturing routing machine. It took around 44 hours to print the car, and another full day to polish it to perfection.

As of now, Strati sells at a price comparable to a full-sized sedan. However Local Motors believes that it can be made affordable by 2016, with prices ranging from $18,000 to $34,000.

24 Comments
  1. Wow, that is amazing! 44 hours to make a fully functioning car is something else entirely! Obviously, it needs a lot of tweaking butthis is a real advance. However, I do wonder what effect this new technology will have on jobs in the motor industry.

  2. I think this will REVOLUTIONIZE the auto industry. Think back to when Kodak refused to go digital and look what happened there. If car companies don’t quickly adapt to 3D printing (which I think will save them money in the long run) then they’re not going to keep up. Heck, I’d buy a 3D printed car just for the novelty

    • This I agree with. I am working as an engineer that is related to the automotive industry, and I see a future in this one. Mini-industries can pop out and manufacture 3D printed cars and cars can be more affordable.

      Now, the task of car safety is an issue. The industry may need to set-up guidelines on how the car should be tested and if there is a need to create a separate set of standards for 3D printed cars.

    • Not really. 3D printing is not very well suited for large production.
      Great feat of engineering none the less and very interesting to see very high mechanical properties in 3D printed materials, but I don’t believe we will see 3D printed cars anytime soon.
      Maybe for spare parts though! This could REALLY change the spare part game (less warehouses, shipping, inventory to maintain..)

  3. In a way this is good, cars would be churned out cheaply and quickly. Yet at the same time, wouldn’t this diminish the need for human workers? Nevertheless, we should be excited whenever there’s progress in technology, and especially in something like this, the possibilities for other things are limitless.

    • The human need may already be diminishing. Car companies are already automating car manufacture; Hyundai factory in Alabama already uses robots to manufacture cars. Of course you still have human intervention to manage the robots. The amazing thing about 3D printing is an even smaller dependence on humans, since the manufacturing process mainly involves just one machine.

  4. It sounds like a novel idea, but I’m not sure I would want to start out with my vehicle as my number one priority to be “printed out”. I think I would start on a smaller scale and pick something that was a little less likely to be in a life or death situation at some point. Once the process was tried and true, then I would move to the more important items in life, like vehicles, hospital equipment and the like.

  5. This is amazing, but I might sound a bit ignorant when I ask… is this car supposed to be a fully functional one? Because after reading headlines on things like ”3D printed gun” and seeing the big fuss it caused, I really wonder if those 3D printed stuff, like this car, are supposed to be fully functional? If not, what is the point of 3D printed stuff?

  6. Incredible. That’s one word to describe this. When I was growing up, cars always fascinated me. Now in the 21st century they are PRINTING cars. This can effect the industry because now cars will be more available. 3D printing has come a long way, and I can’t wait till we are able to 3D print other products!

  7. I suppose the “You wouldn’t download a car.” anti-piracy joke is pretty relevant under these circumstances. Truthfully though, if I could I would. Using 3D-printing instead of traditional assembly lines would definitely revolutionize the automobile industry. I even see the prices for these things going lower than the assembly models. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing one can only speculate. It may make quality cars available for the regular Joe’s out there, but it could also lead to congestion and traffic. I bet we’ll be seeing increased regulation when it comes to 3D-printing by 2017.

  8. I love that they are trying to make this amazing vehicle affordable for the masses. I would like to see an increase in the maximum speed – at 44 mph it would be limited to city streets for the most part. It’s funny how the design makes it look like it’s going to be fast and expensive (if that makes sense). It’s a great looking car and I look forward to the day when I spot one on the road. I wonder, with the decreased number of parts, if it will be easier and cheaper to repair, as well as need repair far less often than a traditional vehicle.

  9. While this is certainly a step in a very interesting direction, I can’t see the practical reason to buy this kind of car for 18-34 thousand, it’s just not worth the price. Yes, it’s sustainable, which is amazing, but it’s practical purposes are little, and whats more sustainable is not owning a vehicle at all. (I get that it would work for small trips, but for those kind of small trips, it would be cheaper, and not very environmentally harming, to just get a similar priced car

  10. That’s pretty cool. Something that every grown up kid would be interested in. 3D technology is evolving amazingly fast and I can only imagine what types of things will be talking about even in a year or two time.

  11. It’s certainly a neat milestone, however as it stands 3D printing is still too expensive a technology for the masses. To print a car you would need a much larger 3D printer as well, which I assume would be extremely pricey as well.

    India is already making cheap cars below a thousand dollars. I don’t think 3D printed cars can beat such a price level anytime soon.

  12. Wow! That’s insane. This 3D printing technology is really gaining ground quick. I never imagined they would already be producing things like cars and the like in such a short period of time. Great for whoever invested in that industry! It’s really taking off. While it’s really cool, I would never spend that much money on a 3D printed car when a regular car is the same priced and used is a fraction of the cost, haha. Still an amazing technology. Good read.

  13. I hope this is not a one-off thing. It’s really cool that we can 3D print a car and have it ready for use in just a couple of days. But if it’s not sustainable, it looks like some kind of a trap for me. Like, what’s the catch? Is it just an advertising ploy? Will it still be on the road in a couple of days? People are always going to be interested in the longevity of modern design, especially if products are quick in gaining popularity.

  14. 3D printing has come a long way in the past few years. I’ve heard of people 3D printing houses, and now cars. This technology is definitely going to start becoming extremely useful to use in the coming years.

  15. Only 44 hours? That’s so amazing! I bet that soon, many products such as smartphones and books, will be 3-d printed. Strati also looks really awesome, much better than a regular car. Of course, all cars look like that when they’re new.

  16. This is great! I loved the 3d printing concept from the day the printer was starting to become more than just a crazy idea. Building a car with just printed details is very amazing and it only shows how much high the technology level is nowadays.

    I hope to see more and more things getting printed in the upcoming years and I think this car should really be allowed to be driven on public roads. Only downside is that it costs quite a lot, from 18,000 to even 34,400$, so it’s not very affordable to typical human and that might stop it from becoming popular soon..

  17. It is very cool to see how far this technology has come. For a while, people did not believe that things like this could be built. Now we see that 3D printing can be used to build all sorts of things that we use in our everyday lives. What is even more amazing is that the materials used to build this car can stand up to the conditions. 40 mph results in a lot of air resistance that must be sustained by the car.

  18. Well this is a way better thing to do with a 3D printer than food. I like the usage they have in technology rather than kitchen, so they should stick 3D printing to material-manevrability. I’d love to see a 3D printed house with usable furniture, but that’s still far off. However, a 3D printed car that works is great and I’d love to buy it, but the price is astronomical for me. I hope they’ll eventually get cheaper.

  19. At $18K the car is quite expensive and to be honest I doubt there’ll be many people eager to ride in a 3D printed car. I wouldn’t want to be in one.

    Whilst talking about cheap cars, it took 5 days and $1770 to print a car in China. Cheap though it might be again, it’s not something I’d want to be in.

    • I know right? I would be low key scared to be on it on a daily basis, it’s a pretty good and useful technology, but I’m not sure if it’s safe as a regular car would be.. but at the end of the day the accidents still happen right?
      $1770 seems… dangerous, and I’m also not a big fan of china products, though.

  20. I’m not really sure if I see the difference between print a car and just building a regular one… but it’s still kind of shocking, the fact that it’s printed, I can definitely see how this can make big changes when it comes to… basically everything! It’s an easy way to literally make things up, I will look forward to see if this technology can be more accessible for a lot of people.

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