One of the world’s most exciting open source co-creation initiatives is Local Motors. Part online platform, part physical business, Local Motors combines co-creation and micro-manufacturing to bring hardware innovation to market at unprecedented speed. The platform consists of a global co-creation community made up of enthusiasts, hobbyist innovators and professional. Besides the online platform, the organisation operates an international network of so-called micro-factories.
The way it works is as follow. On the Local Motors Platform, users are able to share and evaluate ideas, prototypes and projects for motor vehicles with a global community of like-minded innovators. Through a voting process, users decide what projects get continued and developed. If a prototype is chosen, it will be produced in a micro-factory in low volume. As it is brought to market for sale, Local Motor’s sales team and e-commerce platform help to sell the product. Finally, if successful, each one’s contributions get rewarded. A percentage of sales revenue for each co-created product is paid to the community members who made a contribution to the vehicle.
The use of micro factories is revolutionary in its own right. A micro-factory refers to a small factory able to produce small dimension products. Such micro-factory’s main advantage is to save great amount of resources in terms of space, energy, materials, money and time. Micro-factories are highly automated, containing automated systems such as tools, assembly systems, quality inspection, replacement and material input. Each of Local Motor’s micro-factories is a place where innovators could develop their own projects and consumers are welcome to visit, watch progress and potentially buy their products.
Local Motor’s motto is “We make the coolest machines together.” And hell, they do. In 2015, the company is expected to launch the world’s first 3D printed electric car, named the Strati. As the company puts it, “There is nothing conventional about this car, the way it’s made, or the company behind it.” First to note is that the Strati is fully functional and is aimed for (small) production for the road. The car is developed according to Local Motor’s principles of designing and developing open source with a global community. It is made from ABS plastic in combination with carbon fiber. In order to get the material right, the company has been through a process of extensive material testing, sponsored by SABIC. All car parts that could be brought down to a single material piece have been 3D printed, including the frame, the exterior body and interior features. Mechanical components such as batteries, motors and wiring, however, come from the electric powered Renault Twizy. Currently, the Strati takes about 44 hours to print, although the organisation aims to bring printing time back to 24 hours. As soon as the Strati is cleared by US regulations later this year, it will enter public roads.
The Strati is an amazing outcome of open source co-creation. The automobile shows that a global community of innovators could complete the design and development of complex products. Interestingly, the business model of paying royalties according to one’s role in the development process works motivating enough for engineers to participate in these projects. One wonders what this may behold for the future.
What else will we be co-creating in the future according to Local Motor’s principles?