AutomotiveRapid Prototyping

MakerBot Helps Local Motors Cut OLLI Production Times by 90%

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Reinventing itself as supplier of desktop prototyping tools, MakerBot helps Local Motors in streamlining production of the its OLLI autonomous vehicle.

Local Motors, a disruptive tech and automotive company that designs and builds vehicles, is daring to uproot and redefine an entire industry. By setting up localized micro-factories that design and manufacture cars directly in the region they serve, the company has achieved a small-batch, on-demand business model. In turn, this allows the company to focus on big ideas while keeping their footprint small.

The Olli self-driving bus, powered by IBM’s Watson, is just one of those big ideas.

Olli isn’t just another autonomous vehicle—it’s an entirely new way of thinking about transportation. In order to build disruptive products like the Olli, the Local Motors team depends on specific tools to meet their production and prototyping needs at each step of the process; tools like the MakerBot Replicator+, a cloud-enabled desktop 3D printer.

“We really don’t have the time to wait for the parts we need,” explains Alex Fiechter, Local Motors’ Director of Product Development. “We need to set the making of them in motion and forget about them while we work on other things. The MakerBot Replicator+ has been the ideal example of this ‘set it and forget it’ experience for creating 3D printed parts on both the production and the prototyping side.”

With streamlined 3D printing, Local Motors design engineers are able to reduce tooling costs by 50% and reduce overall production time by a staggering 90%, all while keeping part production in-house. As a result, designers and engineers can focus on what matters most: bringing big ideas to fruition fast and reliably at the lowest cost for maximum ROI.

“There’s a huge difference between using an outside part manufacturer and having that capability in-house,” says Design Engineer Frederik Tjonneland. “The convenience of being able to print a part and have it in your hand in a couple of hours is not only cheaper, but also reduces lead times and allows us to iterate that much more quickly.”

But the seamless journey of going from idea to part-in-hand starts well before a design file is sent to a printer; it begins with the intuitive print preparation software, MakerBot Print.

With a streamlined and powerful interface, MakerBot Print features a long list of professional-friendly capabilities under the hood. Among others include native CAD file importing, automatic build plate arrangement, and the ability to save multiple build plates and assemblies as a single project — enabling critical collaboration and iteration.

Regardless of which parts the Local Motors team are printing at any given time, the real test comes down to how well those parts function for tough production and prototyping needs. For this, the team turns to MakerBot Tough PLA.

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