10172017Tue
Last updateSun, 15 Oct 2017 11am
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Additive manufacturing helps reduce lead-time and production costs of self-driving bus Olli

American vehicle manufacturing company Local Motors is disrupting the automotive industry with the Olli, the first self-driving vehicle powered by IBM’s Watson IoT technology. Since the launch of the autonomous shuttle in June 2016, Olli (originally named Berlino) has taken around 850 trips and transported 1500 passengers safely.

Local Motors aims to redefine the automotive 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 by employing specific tools such as the MakerBot Replicator+, a cloud-enabled desktop 3D printer, to meet their production and prototyping needs at each step of the process.

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, which enables them to create durable, high-impact strength prototypes and fixtures on-demand, for each step of the process. These tough parts feature similar tensile, impact and flexural strength characteristics as ABS plastic and are ideal for functional printing applications.

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.

“We really don’t have the time to wait for the parts we need,” said Alex Fiechter, director of product development, Local Motors. “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.”

“There’s a huge difference between using an outside part manufacturer and having that capability in-house,” said 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.”
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