Local Motors installs massive LSAM composite 3D printer to manufacture autonomous Olli shuttle

Local Motors has completed the installation of the world’s largest composite 3D printer, the Thermwood LSAM, at its Knoxville, TN microfactory. The large-scale machine will be used to produce Local Motors’ autonomous Olli shuttle.

Local Motors has relied on large-scale additive manufacturing systems for quite some time now. In 2016, for instance, the Arizona-based company invested in two BAAM 3D printers by Cincinnati Incorporated. Now, the company seems interested in scaling up its AM capacity even more, as it has installed an LSAM system by Indiana-based company Thermwood Corporation.

Thermwood’s LSAM technology was built specifically for producing large-scale structures and parts using composite materials and an additive approach. The system is part of its line of dual gantry additive manufacturing machines that are capable of printing parts and then trimming them down for precision. The machines are also scalable and can reach up to 100 feet in length.

The LSAM system recently installed at Local Motors’ facility spans 10 feet by 40 feet (approximately 3.05 x 12 meters) and will be used to print production parts for the company’s innovative Olli vehicle, an autonomous 3D printed shuttle bus that has created a fair amount of buzz in both the AM and automotive sectors since its unveiling in 2016.

“LSAM is intended for industrial production,” writes Thermwood on its blog. “It is not a lab, evaluation or demonstration machine, but is instead a full-fledged industrial additive manufacturing system intended for the production of large scale components.”

Earlier this month, Local Motors announced the founding of a new company, LM Industries Group, Inc., a technology-enabled manufacturer that is being heralded as the “the world’s first digital OEM.” The company also announced that it had successfully secured over $1 billion in third-party operational support and vehicle financing for clients of its Olli vehicle.

(Photos: Thermwood Corporation)

FIT Additive Manufacturing Group expands into Japanese market with new subsidiary

Headquartered in Germany, FIT Additive Manufacturing Group has been increasing its global presence over the years, with sales and project management operations in the U.S., Romania and Russia. Now, the additive manufacturing and rapid prototyping group has entered the Japanese market with the founding of a new, fully owned subsidiary: FIT Japan K.K.

Founded in 1995, FIT Additive Manufacturing Group has served customers in the automotive, medical and special machinery industries. Presently, it operates the world’s largest aluminum additive manufacturing facility in Lupburg, Germany, as well as manufacturing sites in Southern Germany and Boston, a software development center in Romania and sales and project management operations in Russia and the U.S.

With its recent expansion to Japan, FIT AG is hoping to introduce its prototyping and manufacturing services to the Japanese market, a move it says is both strategic and logical. According to FIT AG, an analysis of the Japanese AM and services market showed a shift in the country’s manufacturing strategies, transitioning from prototypes to the production of final parts and tools.

Despite this shift, FIT AG notes that the country’s technical development still “lags behind” that of Europe, which means there is opportunity for the company to establish itself there. The overall growth in the AM market in Japan, says FIT AG, is owed to the growing demand from the healthcare, architecture and, above all, automotive manufacturing industries.

“Step by step, we will evolve from a foreign contract manufacturer to an insider in the Japanese innovation system,” said Carl Fruth, CEO of FIT Additive Manufacturing Group. “To this goal, we have established a Japanese subsidiary to serve as a direct interface for our ADM services to the market and to introduce us to important Japanese customers. Starting from a position as a global technology leader, we intend to open up the Japanese as well as the Asian markets and to consolidate business in the long run.”

Fit Additive

Notably, the new FIT Japan K.K. subsidiary will not be starting from scratch, so to speak, in the Japanese market, as a number of FIT AG’s existing clients are Japanese companies. The company will leverage FIT AG’s expertise in volume manufacturing of AM parts and its Additive Design and Manufacturing (ADM) approach, which emphasizes the importance of design for additive manufacturing.

Heading the new subsidiary is Mr. Yasushi Murata, who has been an “experienced insider” in the Japanese industry (and especially its automotive sector) for roughly three decades. “When learning about FIT AG and its ADM concept for the first time, I was immediately intrigued by its potential.” said Murata. “I’m overjoyed to empower Japanese companies with FIT’s expertise. I’m not exaggerating… I’m convinced that FIT AG can act as a game-changer for the Japanese productive industry of today.”