Source: The Motley Fool | Beth McKenna
If you live in the Mid-Atlantic region, you should soon be able to buy a 3D-printed car — or at least see one made. Developers at National Harbor — a 350-acre waterfront property in Prince George’s County, Maryland — announced their plans earlier this month to open a facility for Local Motors by year’s end. The facility, which is expected to be approximately 40,000 square feet, will include a 3D printing microfactory, lab, and showroom.
The business model of Phoenix-based Local Motors, founded in 2007, involves crowdsourcing the designing of vehicles, and then building and selling them locally. Its ultimate goal is to open microfactories near all major urban centers. Manufacturing autos close to their ultimate buyers should cut down drastically on distribution costs.
The company currently has locations in Phoenix and Las Vegas, but according to theWashington Post, the National Harbor site would be “the first Local Motors outpost to print, refine and assemble a fleet of cars via 3-D printer.”
“It’s like an IKEA. People will come from all around to experience it,” the Washington Postquoted Justin Fishkin, chief strategy officer for Local Motors, as saying. I think that might prove true. Surely, many 3D printing aficionados, as well as tech lovers and auto enthusiasts, will probably find something of interest to do and see at the facility, which promises to have a major demonstrative — and perhaps even a participatory — bent.
Additionally, there reportedly will be hundreds of other 3D-printed items for sale. So, members of the general public who don’t fall into the above-mentioned groups might also find something that appeals to them — and their wallets.
Autodesk: Local Motors’ public-company partner
OK, so this is cool, but where’s the investing link?
The Strati will initially be classified as a neighborhood electric vehicle, limited to driving on roads with posted speed limits of 45 miles per hour or less, according to Popular Science.However, PopSci also reports, “Local Motors is seeking approval from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for highway-capable vehicles.”
If the Autodesk-Local Motors team-up can demonstrate that the Spark platform increases the ease and efficiency of Local Motors’ 3D printing efforts on its Strati project and beyond, Spark could accelerate the adoption of 3D printing for industrial applications. This in turn would likely benefit Autodesk, which makes computer-aided design, or CAD, software for 3D printing as well as for other applications.
The bigger picture… a bigger 3D printing industry pie
If Local Motors’ efforts help light a fire under the adoption of 3D printing for industrial applications, the entire size of the 3D printing industry could grow faster than projected. And estimates are already robust: Industry analyst Wohlers Associates expects that the global 3D printing industry will grow from $3.07 billion in 2013 to more than $21 billion by 2020; that’s greater than a 31% compounded average annual growth rate.