Revolutionising the automotive industry.
Local Motors (LM) is a technology company that designs, builds, and sells vehicles. From bytes-to-bits, the Local Motors platform combines global co-creation with local micro-manufacturing to bring hardware innovations, like the world’s first 3D-printed car, to market at unprecedented speed.
Vehicles are produced in decentralised micro-factories in places where the demand exists, enabling the company to create locally relevant vehicles five times faster. That is why from the 3D-printed cars in Phoenix and cargo-Drones (partnership with Airbus), LM even turned into the production of autonomous buses in Europe. What is mostly innovative at Local Motors is the ability to leverage new ways of management and processes in order to produce new types of vehicles. The company is innovative thanks to both its internal organisation and the technology it produces all over the world.
One can review the singularity of the company through a quick overview of its very specific organisation.
Think global, create local.
A global co-creation process…
Local Motors is engaging an online community of 50 000 members, among them engineers, enthusiasts, freelancers and designers. The real strength lies in the ability to empower the community which can iterate on technological projects and challenges launched on the platform. When a challenge is set on the platform, the members can submit entries that are voted both by the community itself and the internal engineers of Local Motors. All LM’s products that are on the market have been collaboratively designed by the community that is rewarded according to its participation (the work is protected under the Creative Common License). LM has run 80 challenges online since 10 years of existence.
The last challenge that Local Motors has run on the platform was collaboratively executed with Airbus Defence and Space, the goal being to create through a co-creation process, what can be the ideal cargo-drone, based on the Airbus’ Quadcruiser. In one month the community posted 424 entries according to technical requirements and specifications, that have been defined internally by a group of engineers. Gathering plenty of ideas, the conception phase can be deeply speeded up, leading to the prototyping and production phases in LM’s labs and micro-factories in one year.
…combined with a local and decentralised production.
When the design is selected online, LM starts the experimentation and prototyping phase in the physical labs where the co-creation process continues locally. LM has 4 labs in the USA (Washington, Phoenix, Knoxville, Vegas), and one in Berlin. Each Lab is a 4000sqm space where students from local universities, but also engineers, freelancers, designers, can register and have access to different open makerspaces, trainings and seminar cycles. The lab community is worldwide, and all LM’ labs programs will be transmitted from one location to another. The lab is a physical relay to the online platform to host challenges, hackathons, workshops, lectures.
After the prototyping phase in the labs with the community, the production can start in micro-factories. The micro-factories enable a production in micro-series. The community is invited in the micro-factories for both research projects and the production.
New technologies to disrupt mobility.
A few examples showing how the combination of co-creation and micro-manufacturing can deeply speed up the go-to-market. Every single technology had an online challenge as a starting point.
The first co-created car was produced in 18 months from the conception to the commercialisation. It was the first LM’s vehicle meant to test the process of co-creation in a specific environment (the desert of Arizona, in Phoenix, the HQ). http://rallyfighter.com
Then LM used DDM (Direct Digital Manufacturing) for the 3D printed car. LM managed to flexibilise the production, making the customisation possible and reducing the production time to 20 hours, machining included. https://localmotors.com/3d-printed-car/
Another application: LM also worked together with the DARPA (Defense Army Research Project Agency) on creating together with the community what could be the ideal prototype for military purpose. The prototype was created in 5 months -ahead of schedule and on budget-.
Currently LM is building an autonomous vehicle system based on an autonomous mini-bus rammed Olli, as a result of the “Urban Mobility Challenge” led in Berlin last year. In one year, LM went from an online project sketch to a functional prototype. Some parts of the autonomous bus are 3D printed. Olli is integrating the IBM Watson technology. http://meetolli.auto
Click, print, drive
Due to the decentralised production of the vehicles, LM doesn’t invest in assembly lines but counts on some new technologies, such as 3D printing. Leveraging Direct Digital Manufacturing (DDM). LM can customise its vehicles according to the local community needs. This technology enables LM to produce vehicles and flexibilize the creation from the conception to the production. The “LMSwim” (see picture below) has been printed and assembled in 20 hours. The autonomous shuttle has as well been partly 3D printed (the bumper, the floor, the wheel-housing).
Keywords : co-creation, community, technology, automotive, 3D printed, decentralised production.