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5 things you need to know about 3-D printed cars

5 things you need to know about 3-D printed cars
PHOTO COURTESY OF LOCAL MOTORS

If you've ever seen or heard how a car is manufactured, you know it's a long, tedious and expensive process. Long before your car arrives on the showroom floor, designers can spend months or years designing it, tweaking it, testing it, going back to the drawing board and starting over again.

Once in production, they use massive conveyor belts and motorized carriers inside huge factories, where workers and robots piece together metal, glass, wires, hoses, and fabric. If this happens overseas, your car can spend several days getting from its factory to your car dealer.

That process may soon be a thing of the past, thanks to 3-D printing. Companies like Ford have been using 3-D printing for years to cut down on costs to build prototypes and parts. But, the first mass-produced 3-D printed car won't come from Ford, General Motors, or Chrysler. It won't be an import, and it won't be built by Tesla, Google or Apple.

U.S.-based Local Motors is taking a 180-degree approach to building cars. Instead of a heavy metal body, about 75% of the all-electric LM3D Swim is printed on a 3-D printer. (Local Motors' expects that to eventually increase to 90%.)

You've probably heard about Local Motors' LM3D Swim. It got a lot of media attention a couple of months ago, when it debuted at the car parts show, SEMA. The car took about four months to go from an initial design to a driveable prototype. By comparison, that process takes about two years for traditional cars.

A mass-produced LM3D will hit streets sometime next year, after the company spends this year earning federal road-readiness certifications and works on more designs. Are you ready to strap into a car that's printed on a 3-D printer?

Here are five things you need to know about Local Motors' 3-D printed cars, including how to get your hands on one. (Plus, keep reading for a bonus item about pricing.)

Next page: 3-D printed car: How it's made
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