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3D printing shows promise to revamp automotive industry

06 Feb 2015  | Ariella Brown

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That kind of reduced lead time allows the manufacturer greater flexibility in responding to market demands In addition to the time saved, there is a saving on material, as printing out just what is needed reduces waste. There is also a savings in capital outlay, as the study said, flexible "on-demand and on-location production" reduces the need for on-hand inventory. A shortened supply chain that can keep the manufacturing process closer to customers of the final product is also made possible by moving more of the production into a single place.

That kind of localised self-contained manufacturing is the vision set by a car company that intends to bring 3D printed cars to the mainstream market within a year. Local Motors, printed the carbon fibre of its Strati car body over 44 hours, as it demonstrated live at the 2015 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS).

Local Motors intends to cut its production time by half when the cars are produced in its micro-factories. They are intended to shorten the car supply chain substantially and reduce the expense of tooling with 3D design and manufacturing techniques. Location is also key. Their proximity to cities is intended to cut down on "freight and distribution costs by 97 per cent" plus an expedited trip to the customer. Local Motors aims to open one hundred of those self-contained buildings for designing, building, demonstrating and selling innovative cars around the globe over the next decade. Two are scheduled to open in the U.S. this year.

The third industrial revolution has really arrived now, and we may be seeing a whole new paradigm for the manufacturing supply chain in the immediate future.

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