Local Motors closes its doors but the dream of the 3D printed car lives on »
Local Motors has closed. The news fell a few days ago. We wanted to confirm this independently and we did. The decision was quite sudden and unexpected (we even had an interview scheduled for AM Focus Automotive this month) but that can sometimes be the case with American startups. For those who have seen the company come such a long way and watched its evolution since its first 3D printed car, it’s a sad day.
The company wrote a big piece of automotive 3D printing history, but AM wasn’t its main focus and that’s probably not the cause of its demise. Originally a distributed design and manufacturing company, Local Motors has evolved into a smart electric vehicle company first and foremost. The closure of Local Motors is directly related to a lack of demand rather than an inability to meet that demand profitably.
In other words, it’s not that Local Motors couldn’t produce enough OLLI 2.0s or that it couldn’t produce them profitably. On the contrary, the installation of its vehicles in 24 sites around the world to date was not sufficient to support and finance the continuation of its activity. Yet Local Motors was responsible for many firsts in the AM industry, including the use of LFAM technologies (from Cincinnati Inc first and Thermwood later) and composite material SABIC’s LFAM, to produce large automotive end parts.
“I am discouraged to announce that Local Motors will cease to exist from January 14 […]wrote Chris Stoner, former vice president of sales and customer success on his LinkedIn page. “The autonomous vehicle space is an exciting emerging market with many opportunities. Seeing firsthand the skills and dedication of the people I have worked with, I am convinced that AVs (like Olli) are the future. transportation.”
The Local Motors experience has not been lost. Projects and companies offering LFAM extrusion have multiplied over the past five years, as has the demand for granular composite materials for these technologies. Just like other great failed projects (eg the 3D printed canal house in Amsterdam), Local Motors has inspired a revolution that will continue to grow and evolve.
That said, we also have to address some criticisms of the company’s strategy. When it launched its very first 3D printed car, the Strati, Local Motors intentionally created major hype around the concept of a fully 3D printed vehicle. While the hype isn’t all bad and helps expand an industry or technology market segment, the idea of Local Motors was never really feasible and diverted some of the attention from real automotive AM applications and profitable, from prototyping to tooling and modelling. the production of certain final parts.
Moreover, targeting a large segment such as automotive mobility, even with a specialization as EV and AV, is very difficult for a small innovative company. Tesla did it successfully but there can only be one Tesla. We are partial but believe that Local Motors should have been more true to its nature as a 3D printing company, continuing to emphasize and develop this method of production and targeting other LFAM applications with the OLI.
Perhaps by doing so, the company would have received more support from AM companies as well. One of the biggest challenges for LFAM hardware vendors is finding and qualifying applications. Local Motors could have done this much more efficiently and it might have helped the company support its OLLI 2.0 vision and beyond.