DETROIT -- We've seen 3D-printed forks and body parts. There's even a 3D printer in space. But now 3D printing is even hitting the open road.
The big thing at this month's Detroit Auto Show wasn't made on an assembly line, but on a 3D printer. Local Motors CEO Jay Rogers believes it'll revolutionize the way cars are made.
"I like to think about it as, you go to a car wash today and you stand in front of the window and you're like, 'look at my car getting washed,'" said Rogers. "It's the same thing, look at my car being made, being printed."
Right now, that takes 40 hours -- but the goal is to get it under 12. Rogers says about 95 percent of the volume of the car is printed.
"Structure, body, close-outs, all that stuff is printed," explained Rogers. "We don't print tires right now, we don't print wheels, we don't print springs, and we're not right now printing the motor."
Rogers says an electric version of this vehicle could be available by the end of the year and start anywhere from $18,000 to $30,000. And instead of picking from the dealer's lot, each consumer is a designer.
"You can come in and say: 'I want four seats, I want five seats, I want six seats,'" said Rogers.
But there could be roadblocks ahead. These first models are built to cruise around neighborhoods at under 40 miles per hour. To get on the highway, they'll need to meet rigorous federal road safety standards. And he'll need to convince customers that a printed car is safe.
I asked Rogers about concerns that plastic may not be enough protection during an accident.
"This is carbon-fiber reinforced thermoplastic so what we're talking about is something that actually is an aerospace grade material," he said.
The car of the future - just a click, print, and drive away.