Arizona Technology and Innovation: 3D Printed Car

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The world’s first 3D printed car has been developed in Arizona. Local Motors has three microfactories, including one in Chandler. We’ll tell you more about how the car was made.

TED SIMONS: Tonight's edition of Arizona Technology and Innovation looks at how instant consumer gratification is being addressed by an Arizona-based company that wants to apply that concept to cars. Producer Christina Estes and photographer Langston Fields show us how.

CHRISTINA ESTES: Behind this glass, a car is being printed. Yes, printed. The company behind the 3D printed technology is local motors.

JOHN ROGERS JR.: A platform like direct digital manufacturing is about exposing technology.

CHRISTINA ESTES: John Rogers, Jr. is the CEO and cofounder. While local motors is headquartered in Chandler, the company ignores boundaries.

JOHN ROGERS JR.: More minds are better than one.

CHRISTINA ESTES: Local motors relies on what they call a global co-creation community, an online group of people who help design products that can quickly get to market. That includes Kevin low. He traveled to Arizona from his home in Washington state to be recognized as a winner of project redacted, a design competition to lay the foundation for the first fleet of road-ready 3D printed cars.

KEVIN LOW: The way I designed the car is I spent hours just researching and reading on local motor's community.

The company's promotional video shows what the design might look like.

KEVIN LOW: I didn't give it a name. This car is about the community and customer. They can build and name whatever they want their car to be.

One of the big differences is when you're building a standard car, there's a lot of tooling and manual labor that goes into it. There's specific tools to make the frame, the chassis, doing the body with the fiberglass work. When you're making something this way with the printer, you enter in the model that you want it to build, it prints, takes about 40 hours to print the body, and then from there you can attach the wheels, attach the drive train.

CHRISTINA ESTES: In September, 2014, local motors unveiled the stratty, the world's first 3D printed car.

JOHN ROGERS JR.: There's an impressive thing that's gone on with that vehicle, not the least of which is you have a carbon fiber reinforced plastic which is a structural material that is being bonded in a low-temperature process to a thermoplastic elastomer, squishy material, which allows you to be able to have a bumper or seat or other things like that.

CHRSTINA ESTES: Rogers wants to revolutionize the manufacturing process in two big ways. Through its co-creation community where contributors receive royalties based on sales and through microfactories, small local facilities where cars are built and sold.

JOHN ROGERS JR.: You're going to be able to see these vehicles on the road and in 2016 and that's the exciting thing. You'll be able to see Kevin's vehicle on the road as the first neighborhood electric vehicle using these technologies and you're going to see the first highway-capable vehicles out there and that is an enormous goal for us to go after and we can't do it alone. Our team needs to do it with the community of people out there and so that's how we are going to achieve greatness.

TED SIMONS: Local motors estimates its first highway-ready electric car will cost between $25,000 and $30,000, with plans for 100 vehicles around the world in the next decade. The company currently has three micro-factories, including one in Chandler.

We want to hear from you. Submit your questions, comments and concerns via e-mail at [email protected].

Friday on "Arizona Horizon," it's the Journalists' Roundtable. We'll have more on the controversy over for-profit prisons in Arizona. And the state's expansion of Medicaid is ruled constitutional. Those stories and more on the Journalists' Roundtable.

TED SIMONS: That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening!

"Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the Friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

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