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Local Motors LM3D Swim: A closer look at the first 3D printed car you can buy (pictures)

Last year, Local Motors 3D printed its first electric car. This year, it refined the EV's design. Next year, you'll be able to buy and print one of your own.

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Antuan Goodwin
Antuan Goodwin gained his automotive knowledge the old fashioned way, by turning wrenches in a driveway and picking up speeding tickets. From drivetrain tech and electrification to car audio installs and cabin tech, if it's on wheels, Antuan is knowledgeable.
Antuan Goodwin
Local Motors, SEMA 2015
1 of 22 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Just one year after the unveiling of the Strati 3D printed electric car concept, Local Motors is back at it again with a new printable ride.

Local Motors, SEMA 2015
2 of 22 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The LM3D Swim is bigger, more customizable and -- here's the cool bit -- nearly ready for public consumption.

Local Motors, SEMA 2015
3 of 22 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The Swim uses the same 3D printing techniques as the Strati, with the major body components all being composed of layer upon layer of fused composite material.

Local Motors, SEMA 2015
4 of 22 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The LM3D Swim starts its life as particles of reinforced ABS that are fed into a massive 3D printer.

Local Motors, SEMA 2015
5 of 22 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

This is just a small Makerbot printing a model that could fit in a shoebox, but the idea is the same: layer after layer of material is fused together to create a shape.

Local Motors, SEMA 2015
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The ABS used in the Swim is reinforced with glass and carbon fibers to add strength and promote lightness.

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7 of 22 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The 3D printer used to spit out the LM3D vehicle is the size of a garage bay and prints the chassis in one go. Doors and other removable panels are printed separately and assembled.

Local Motors, SEMA 2015
8 of 22 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The printed bits have a rough appearance where the layers are apparent, so parts of the body are then machined to a smooth finish.

Local Motors, SEMA 2015
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The machined bits can then be painted and hardware, such as these lights, can be affixed.

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Local Motors leaves parts of the surface unfinished to emphasize its 3D printer origins.

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The Bridgestone Ecopia EP600 tires and matching wheels are the first hint of what underpins the Swim.

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12 of 22 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Many components simply can't be 3D printed efficiently with today's technology. So the suspension components, electrical bits, steering system and powertrain are all sourced or fabricated separately.

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13 of 22 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The interior of the Swim is finished in water- and sand-resistant material, which matches the surfer theme. The vehicle is highly configurable too.

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The steering wheel is colored white and red, but the shape and button configuration looks familiar.

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And here's the final piece of the puzzle, the shifter assembly from the BMW i3 compact EV.

A representative confirmed that LM3D Swim uses the Bimmer's 125 kW (168 horsepower) electric motor and single-speed transmission. Whether it will retain the 81-mile range remains to be seen.

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Cabin electronics are custom to the Swim. Crowdsourced design that happens online is a large part of the LM3D program.

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17 of 22 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The concept displayed at SEMA 2015 was an open-air beach cruiser, but 3D printing means that Local Motors can customize each vehicle independently. So if you want a roof, a back seat or a hatchback, you can design and print it.

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18 of 22 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The LM3D Swim's wheels are traditional metal rims, but the unconventional automaker is experimenting with 3D-printed rolling stock as well.

Local Motors, SEMA 2015
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Even the chairs in the Local Motors booth were 3D printed. I found them comfortable and slightly springy.

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Throughout the SEMA show, the marks that 3D-printing tech are making on the automotive industry can be seen. Mishimoto, manufacturers of radiators and intercoolers, demonstrated how they use 3D printing to rapidly prototype designs for their products.

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The 3D models can be used to test flow rates and fitment quickly and cheaply before finally building the final metal products.

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All over the show, small 3D printers like these could be found spitting out prototype resin parts. How long will it be before widespread 3D printing of actual metal parts revolutionizes the aftermarket industry? Sooner than you think.

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