How Local Motors won the DARPA contest

A few weeks ago I published an article entitled “DS clarifies DARPA crowdsource win.” A few things, in my mind needed clarification. Dassault Systemes PR rep, Jessica Harrison from fama PR, arranged for me to speak with Alex Fiechter, Local Motors Engineer. I was curious, among other things, about how crowd-sourcing was used for the design and whether it was useful. I also wondered how they handled input from 12,000 community users and what was the process they used. Finally I wanted to find our more about Local Motors.

Here is how the process worked. Local Motors (LM) massaged the DARPA specs for the contest into a “brief,” a mission statement of what they desired, and posted it onto their website, asking their community members if they were interested in responding. Most of the community members are interested in industrial design and some helped LM design their Rally Fighter. Along the way, LM developed their concept for Local Forge, an open source web-based co-creation platform. Apparently, car lovers worldwide love to design shapes for cars of their dreams. Local Forge is a way for them to share their designs via images, with all other community members.

A key aspect of the mission statement was to use the existing Rally Fighter chassis as a base upon which to build the body. With the mission statement , eventually 150 to 180 proposal were submitted, from which the final design was chosen. The proposals could be in any electronic form, such as images or even CAD files. They had to show the 3 required views at a minimum. The community then voted on the submissions. Only the winning submitter gets paid. LM used SolidWorks for the mechanical design and Catia for the body design.

What next? Will it be produced? DARPA owns the design now that the contract is complete. A research arm of the DoD, the DoD may or may not choose to produce the design.

Has Local Motors discovered a new way of doing business that involves minimal plant investment, a way to solicit valuable (and mostly free) input from leading designers, and deliver an exciting new product? You be the judge. Visit some of the links from my previous article quoted above and provide some feedback via comments on this blog.

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DS clarifies DARPA crowdsource win

A few days ago Dassault Systemes (DS) released a press release announcing that the first online, co-created military vehicle was delivered through the collaboration of Local Motors, DS, and 12,000 community members.

I was really interested in this announcement because of the concept of crowdsourcing, I had never heard of Local Motors, and what in the heck was a co-created military vehicle? After delving into more details about Local Motors, and trying to find out if this military vehicle could withstand IED’s (improvised explosive devices, as often used in Iraq and Afghanistan) I was a bit confused. The DS PR people were kind enough to put me in touch with Al Bunshaft, Managing Director of DS North America.

Al and I spoke recently, and you might be interested in what I found out.

First of all, this is a DARPA initiative (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). By the way, DARPA is the agency that provided the early funding for what later became the Internet. So, when I hear that DARPA is involved my ears always perk up. This project appears to be one of a series of projects DARPA is initiating to see if there are better ways to provide defense sourcing differently than in the past; namely, cheaper, more rapid development, faster deliveries, and the delivery of specialized vehicles without a massive dollar commitment.

Here is what DARPA had to say about the requirements for this vehicle. “It is important to note that even though this is a militarily relevant vehicle, this is not an offensive fighting vehicle. The goal of this vehicle will be to transport items and/or people around quickly and efficiently in a potentially hostile but mobile environment.” I found it interesting that the design requires no body armor to protect against IED’s. Apparently the military feels that a fast off-road vehicle for emergency transportation can be effective, especially if it can avoid heavily traveled roads. This winning design appears to do just that.

DS was heavily involved with Local Motors, supplying much of the core CAD, CAE, and PLM technology, namely Catia, Simulia, Enovia, and visualization tools. The winning design was based on Local Motors’ Rally Fighter chassis, a street legal rally vehicle. Contributors were invited to submit their design concepts using any design tool, even paper based drawings and ideas. Both Local Motors and DS personnel were heavily involved in converting and assembling the submitted designs into a workable CAD model. To vote on the final designs a panel of military and commercial experts was assembled.

Then Local Motors sourced the components and assembled it at their micro factory in Arizona. Here is what it look like.

XC2V winning entry

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Click here for the DS press release.

Related websites for more information:

About the DARPA design challenge:

http://www.darpa.mil/NewsEvents/News/DARPA_issues_Experimental_Crowd-derived_Combat-support_Vehicle_(XC2V)_Design_Challenge.aspx

About Local Motors and their participation:

http://www.local-motors.com/XC2V Click on the description for an excellent description of the vehicle mission.

Check out the video on this page of the XC2V being assembled:

http://www.darpa.mil/NewsEvents/Releases/2011/2011/06/24_DARPA%E2%80%99s_Defense_Manufacturing_Efforts_Support_White_House_Vision.aspx