In the early days of cars, artisans would be responsible for assembling the entire car from start to finish. Then, in 1901, Ransom Olds patented the assembly line to manufacture the Oldsmobile Curved Dash. In 1913, Henry Ford installed conveyor belts in his factory and managed to produce a Model T in 93 minutes. Since then, car manufacturing has undergone many changes but it still operators on the basis that a metal skeleton starts at one end of the production process and at the other end, a complete car rolls out. Modern cars are considerably more complicated than the Model T but it still only takes 17 to 18 hours to go from stamping to inspection to the finished car and all 30,000 parts.
But now a potential game changer is coming to the market. Local Motors (LM) has developed a 3D printed car with just 50 components which can be built in just a few hours. At present, 75% of the LM3D is printed but the goal is to have 90% of the vehicle printed. As can be seen from the video, the size of the 3D printer is much smaller than current assembly line factories and therefore, doesn't require the hundreds of square meters typically used. These micro factories will mean that cars can be built in areas where they'll be most required therefore taking less time and energy to travel to show rooms. If you want to read more about the LM3D and keep up to date with their process, you the link in this blog.
But LM isn't the only manufacturer to investigate printing technology. Audi has just produced a 1:2-scale 1930's sports car. Instead of plastic, Audi's 3D printer laser melts steel or aluminium metallic powder. Also unlike LM, this process doesn't print the entire car, it prints 8 inch cubes which are then cut into their required shapes and creates parts which were considered impossible to create using traditional casting and machining.
Scheduled for release in 2017, the LM3D looks like it could change the face of car manufacturing and one day soon, we may be able to go back to driving cars with personalities.