Toyota and Local Motors turn the 3-D-printed dream into a reality

The automotive industry is racing towards the future.

People create a range of amazing things with software like SOLIDWORKS. However, the next step is to turn these designs into tangible products, a process that's becoming cheaper and more efficient thanks to 3-D printing. 

The scope of 3-D printing is expanding for manufacturers.

While many designers are familiar with the technology's influence on a smaller scale, some manufacturers are quickly increasing the scope of the technology. 3-D printers possess a range of industrial applications, with each new iteration and invention creating a significant amount of hype. 

Just recently, a company in the US turned the idea of 3-D printing consumer-ready cars into reality, marking a notable turning point for the industry. 

Local Motors, global impact

US automotive manufacturer Local Motors has been toying with the idea of creating a 3-D printed vehicle for the consumer market for a while now, and have officially introduced the automobile that will put the company on the map. 

The firm is optimistic about the number of components it can fabricate using a 3-D printer. In its current iteration, Local Motors estimates that the vehicle – dubbed the LM3D – has around 75 per cent of its parts 3-D printed, including the body panels and the chassis. 

By 2017, Local Motors is aiming to 3-D print 90 per cent of all components necessary for the LM3D and have it complied for use on US roads. 

While the LM3D isn't expected to be on sale to the general public until late 2016, it remains an important milestone for the automotive industry and a valuable glimpse into the future. 

Who else is following suit?

Local Motors isn't the only company to apply 3-D printing to the automotive industry. The technology has proven to be a winner among boutique and startup organisations as well as established members of the industry. 

While Local Motors has set its sights on being the first to offer a usable 3-D printed car for the regular driver, Divergent Microfactories (DM) decided the world also needs a 3-D printed supercar. According to DM, most of the harmful emissions associated with vehicles are the result of the manufacturing process, making their supercar concept, the Blade, an environmentally friendly product. 

Toyota is also using 3-D printing to tackle green initiatives, with the announcement that it will now use the technology to produce seats for its vehicles, thereby reducing weight and manufacturing emissions.