Local Motors Forms LM Industries, “the First Digital OEM”
Michael Molitch-Hou posted on June 20, 2018 |

It began as a small crowdsourcing company that let car customers come in and build their own vehicles and grew into an ambitious outfit that worked on 3D printing autonomous vehicles, through Local Motors, and crowdsourcing advanced projects for Airbus, HP and the U.S. Marines, through Launch Forth. Now, the team behind and Local Motors and Launch Forth have formed LM Industries Group, “the world’s first digital OEM.”

Olli is the first self-driving vehicle featuring the IBM Watson platform. (Image courtesy of Local Motors.)
Olli is the first self-driving vehicle featuring the IBM Watson platform. (Image courtesy of Local Motors.)

LM Industries, based in San Francisco, is “a technology-enabled manufacturer focused on mobility products.” To understand what this means, you have to look at its two subsidiaries, Local Motors and Launch Forth. Local Motors is responsible for developing what is meant to be the first highway-ready, 3D-printed car, as well as an electric, autonomous, 3D-printed mass transit vehicle called Olli. Launch Forth is a social media platform dedicated to crowdsourcing projects, both developed by the Launch Forth community and corporate partners. This includes a modular logistics vehicle and an unmanned cargo system currently in development for the U.S. Marines.

Under the broader LM Industries parent company, these two subsidiaries are working to change the way products are brought to market. These products are first designed with a crowdsourcing community, via Launch Forth, and then manufactured in small batches via Local Motors microfactories using technologies like 3D printing. In this way, the company means to challenge the sluggish and unresponsive world of mass manufacturing as it pertains to transportation, accessibility and mobility products.

“Mass manufacturing is a relic of a past era. We’re in the middle of a mobility revolt, where current modes of transportation are not sustainable and do not match up with rapidly changing consumer preferences,” said LM Industries CEO and Cofounder John B. Rogers, Jr. “We can’t keep producing products the same way we’ve been accustomed to. The world is moving too fast for traditional manufacturing to keep up. LM Industries is on a mission to transform mass manufacturing to micro-manufacturing in order to match the new pace of technology and quickly changing consumer needs.”

LM Industries has already established a number of high-profile partners. Global insurance company Allianz has teamed up with Local Motors to bring Olli to different cities, while the two businesses create new mobility solutions and associated insurance. In addition to Olli, Allianz and LM are developing an accessibility device that is meant to improve upon the classic wheelchair design with its inclusive design, customizability and upgradability.

In the Elevated Mobility Concept Design Challenge on Launch Forth, participants were asked to create a device for new sports or activities designed for all abilities. (Image courtesy of LM Industries.)
In the Elevated Mobility Concept Design Challenge on Launch Forth, participants were asked to create a device for new sports or activities designed for all abilities. (Image courtesy of LM Industries.)

Jean-Marc Pailhol, head of Global Market Management & Distribution at Allianz SE, is joining the LM Industries board in an effort to help with product development and partnerships. Pailhol had a unique take on the deployment of technologies like Olli:

“Because they will be pushed by pollution and traffic constraints, the large cities will be the first to accept and implement the disruptive mobility products such as autonomous or flying vehicles for public transportation. LM Industries checks all the boxes with its product features: 100 percent electric, 100 percent autonomous, 100 percent connected and 90 percent 3D printed with the ability to produce in microfactories near bigger cities,” Pailhol said. “In the future, a large part of the mobility market will be taken by small factories making solutions near the cities in which they are needed. LM Industries has a real competitive advantage in that they are a step ahead of the other AV manufacturers and have a real value proposition with their microfactories. When I met Jay Rogers nearly two years ago, I quickly recognized the relevance of his value proposition from cocreation to micro-manufacturing to mobility solutions like Olli.”

The subsidiaries of LM Industries have proven themselves capable of producing pretty striking design and manufacturing techniques. How those translate into larger-scale production—even in small batches—remains to be seen. Local Motors’ LM 3D car was unveiled in 2015 and was meant to be “highway ready” for shipment in 2017, but the vehicle has not hit the market yet.

Engineering.com reached out to LM Industries to ask about the status of the LM3D and received the following answer from CEO Jay Rogers: "We launched a challenge to design a highway-capable vehicle that Local Motors then created a proof of concept of and debuted at the SEMA show in 2015. Our R&D team is continuing the materials testing and validation through 3Dprinting, now on the world's largest composite 3Dprinter, located in our Knoxville microfactory. The highway car is not a current product offering, but that's not to say it won't be in the future! We are currently focused on Olli, our low-speed, self-driving, EV shuttle, as we see an immediate and future need for alleviating congestion and pollution, while providing a more accessible, sustainable transportation solution for all."

When considering climate change and its association with vehicle emissions, a low-speed EV shuttle for public transit could seem far more necessary than more personal vehicles. However, it’s also important to note how tech companies present themselves as compared to how they actually perform. If products like Olli actually do go to market and help improve the world, then we will be able to say that LM Industries has lived up to expectations.

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