Sunday, March 26th, 2017

Digital Mfg dominates at Local Motors


February 2016 – One of the keynote of the 2016 HardwareCon to be held in San Leandro, CA on March 4-5, is John “Jay” Rogers Jr, CEO and Founder of Local Motors. We had a chance to talk to Jay about his company and engineering issues with realizing his vision in the automotive world. Local Motors is a new style car company, they use the “maker” mentality – new materials, new design methods, and a new life cycle for the car. The car itself is not a scale up of a maker design it was created to be a full size car from the start just utilizing the new materials and methods.

Jay Rogers CEO Local Motors

The car is designed using composite materials. One of the challenges was creating a workflow that understood the materials. The fiber used is directional - it is an anisotropic material – the alignment matters and it does have the same strength and flexibility if rotated. As a result, not only does the design have to take this into account, but the pieces have to be designed so that they cannot be accidently rotated in assembly. Jay described the process that the Direct to Digital Manufacturing (DDM) flow and the BioPolymer Thermoplastics engineering were the bigger challenge than the supply chain.

Most automotive engineering is based on extensive simulations based on computer models of the materials for thermal and tolerances. As the materials are new, rather than create theoretical mathematical models, they used old fashioned engineering techniques, build and test.

Jay discussed the design process was not just 3d printing and additive design. A number of the pieces are too large to be printed. Instead the pieces are designed for digital manufacturing – CNC, milling machines, thermoform presses, and waterjet. The car has been designed to use these methods to create a large remanufacturing option for parts – they can be melted down and the materials reused. As designs change, the parts can just be re-machined to create repair and replacement parts. As a result the car not only is an innovation for the design process, but also for the insurance industry and the life cycle aspects of the vehicle.

Jay’s keynote will discuss the realities of scale and product development vs prototyping. It will also cover topics about engineering, modeling, testing and lifecyle planning. The creation of a supply chain with partners and material suppliers is essential, as a company cannot make everything themselves, unlike a maker.

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