Airbus Ventures, the European aerospace giant’s Silicon Valley spin-off, says the first investment from its $150 million venture fund is going to Local Motors, a Phoenix-based company that aims to sell 3D-printed cars based on open-source designs.
“Not since the space race has there been a bigger opportunity for aerospace innovation,” Tim Dombrowski, managing general partner of Airbus Ventures, wrote in Friday’s announcement on Medium’s website.
The $150 million fund, Airbus Group Venture Fund I, will take advantage of opportunities to “accelerate innovation in near ground, air and space flight,” Dombrowski wrote.
He acknowledged that Local Motors “may seem like a surprising investment” for Airbus but argued that the deal was a “perfect fit.”
Local Motors’ development model involves crowdsourcing engineering designs, and then translating those designs into customizable products that are made on 3-D printers through a distributed factory manufacturing system.
Its first commercial product is a 3D-printed car with a body made primarily from carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic. The company says the first model, the LM3D, will be available for purchase later this year.
Dombrowski suggested that Local Motors’ model could be extended for aerospace applications as well. “We see great promise in companies like Local Motors who improve the speed with which new products can be brought to market,” he wrote.
He did not disclose the amount that Airbus Ventures was investing in Local Motors.