Local Motors Will Use Siemens PLM for 3D Printing Cars
Michael Molitch-Hou posted on May 05, 2016 |
Siemens will supply software for Local Motors’ car 3D printing facilities.

As Local Motors (LM) preps to send the first fleet of road-ready, 3D-printed cars onto U.S. highways in 2017, the company has announced the implementation of Siemens PLM software across its growing number of auto manufacturing facilities worldwide.

LM is an active demonstration of how the future of auto manufacturing might operate. An open community of diverse designers worldwide is encouraged to contribute ideas for a given vehicle project. In the case of 3D-printed cars, Local Motors has announced crowdsourcing campaigns in which these co-creators submit concepts for 3D-printed cars, eventually selected by the community and a panel of judges.

Because LM co-creators rely on a variety of CAD tools, LM implements Siemens’ Solid Edge software, capable of working with a number of file types, to translate these designs into manufacturable models. A new deal with the German software giant will see LM not only expand the use of Solid Edge, but also adopt Siemens’ NX software and its Fibersim portfolio across multiple facilities.

Local Motors’ 3D-printed LM3D Swim vehicle, to be made highway-ready by 2017. (Image courtesy of Local Motors/YouTube.)
Local Motors’ 3D-printed LM3D Swim vehicle, to be made highway-ready by 2017. (Image courtesy of Local Motors/YouTube.)

LM is currently working to open three new facilities this year, complementing the firm’s existing “microfactories” in Arizona, Nevada and Virginia. Earlier microfactories focused on a more traditional approach to assembling automobiles, while the new facilities will be all about 3D printing. The first, to open in National Harbor, Md., this summer, will be a combination showroom and lab space;the second is a lab, debuting in Berlin, Germany. The third, a full-scale direct digital manufacturing (DDM) facility, opens in Knoxville, Tenn., to develop and build 3D-printed vehicles. All the sites will now implement Siemens Solid Edge, NX and Fibersim software to enable the design and construction of 3D-printed cars.

Jay Rogers, CEO of Local Motors, said of the agreement, “We have been partners with Siemens since 2011, and today’s announcement takes that partnership to the next level by enabling our community of co-creators to innovate even faster. We developed the world’s first co-created vehicle and 3D-printed car, and now our LM Labs program is providing the world’s makers with a way–both online and offline– to create new technologies to advance the future of transportation. Open to anyone, LM Labs helps brilliant minds create new technologies the world needs. While our primary focus is on developing vehicles, LM Labs is a place where the community can advance any technology.”

In addition to the ability of Solid Edge to import non-native CAD models, NX will be used for manufacturing and engineering simulation purposes. Fibersim will be leveraged for use in engineering composite materials. In the case of Local Motors, this may mean the acrylonitrile butadiene styrene-carbon fiber composite used to 3D-print their vehicles. Altogether, the software is meant to enable the creation of what Siemens refers to as “digital twins” for LM’s manufacturing process. By creating an exact digital replica of what will become a physical product, LM will be able to first simulate a product, such as a 3D-printed car, including its mechanics and performance, in the virtual world. Upon fabrication, the car can then be validated against this digital twin and, should problems occur in the future, the twin could be utilized to understand what to do.

Helmuth Ludwig, executive vice president and chief digital officer of Siemens PLM Software, contributed, “By focusing on initiatives like Industrie 4.0, the Industrial Internet of Things, big data analytics, cloud computing and much more, Siemens leads the way in advancing the future of manufacturing. As part of this leadership, we recognize the growing importance of additive manufacturing and 3D printing for the global manufacturing industry. That is why we are delighted to partner with innovative companies like Local Motors who are leading the way for large-scale 3D printing. By working closely together, we can help advance this technology so that all manufacturers can better realize innovation.”

If, on the one hand, Siemens software is capable of creating a robust digital twin and, on the other, Local Motors can translate this data into a DDM vehicle, the two will be demonstrating the manufacturing pipeline of the future. 3D models that accurately reflect the final outcome represent a pre-physical prototype that will ultimately save time, money, and materials that would have gone into an actual physical prototype. In addition to being used to manufacture the end product, those same models could serve as the basis for additively manufactured replacement parts. In other words, Siemens may be right in envisioning that an Industrie 4.0 is beginning to take shape.

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