Source: Knoxville News Sentinel | Shelley Kimel | October 5, 2015
Local Motors — which is capitalizing on local resources in 3-D printing to create vehicles through open-source designs — is nearing completion on its 40,000-square-foot “micro-factory” overlooking Pellissippi Parkway between Knoxville and Oak Ridge.
“It’s going to be really a different version of retail,” says Local Motors CEO Jay Rogers. “We think about it as ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ for cars. It’s a very serious program that we have. This is industrial tourism at its finest.”
Rogers hopes to pull visitors from Charlotte, Louisville, Nashville and Chattanooga for an extended stay to check out the factory.
The facility — being built with the help of local firms Partners Development, Jenkins & Stiles and Studio 4 Design — will include areas for office, research and development, manufacturing and retail.
The Knoxville location is the company’s first digitally enabled microfactory, meaning it can 3-D print finished pieces directly from digital designs with no extra steps like tooling or casting.
Just-released vehicle designs, the Reload Swim and Reload Sport, will be one of the first things to be made there, says Rogers, although the names will likely change before release. Pre-orders for those vehicles are expected to begin next month through crowdfunding website Indiegogo.
The Swim and Sport designs are the result of the contest Project Redacted where the company challenged its community to design the world’s first road-ready 3-D printed car.
Local Motors plans to design, build and sell a low-speed electric vehicle iteration — what Rogers calls a neighborhood vehicle to be driven on local streets at up to 45 miles an hour — which it hopes to debut in first quarter 2016. The price will start at $18,000 and climb to $30,000 with options and customization, he says.
Due to federal crash testing regulations a certified highway-ready version won’t be ready until late 2016 or early 2017, but should cost between $50,000 and $60,000.
Last year, Local Motors created and built its first 3-D printed car, the Strati, in partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The two have a cooperative research and development agreement for Local Motors to use ORNL’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility to develop new and efficient methods of vehicle construction.
The company has microfactories at its headquarters in Phoenix, Las Vegas and a smaller “mobifactory” in Crystal City, Va. Another is planned in the Washington, D.C. area. Earlier this year it went global with a dealership in Beijing and another location is planned for Berlin. It hopes to open 100 new locations in the next 10 years.