Company with Las Vegas ties branching into aerospace

The LM3D Swim, the world’s first road ready 3D-printed car, is displayed at the Local Motors booth during the SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) trade show at the Las Vegas Convention Center Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015.

A venture arm of Airbus Group is investing in Local Motors, a startup with close ties to Las Vegas that believes the future of mass manufacturing is in 3D-printing.

With the new investment, Local Motors, which is working on bringing a 3D-printed car to market next year, is branching into aerospace, too.

The French-based Airbus Group, a giant in the aerospace and defense industries, said in a press release Sunday that the investment would go toward developing Local Motors facilities — small factories and laboratories — in Germany with an emphasis on aerospace.

Local Motors is based in Phoenix but has a significant presence here, including a small factory in downtown Las Vegas. It has partnered with UNLV and is exploring additional partnerships with MGM Resorts International and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. VegasTechFund, the venture arm of Downtown Project, is one of its investors.

“Local Motors, known more for their innovations in car manufacturing and 3D-printing, may seem like a surprising investment for Airbus Ventures,” Tim Dombrowski, a managing general partner for Airbus Ventures, wrote in a blog post. “To us, they are a perfect fit  —  Local Motors unlocks an opportunity to engage and support a massive global community interested in building the future of flight.”

A goal of Local Motors is localizing manufacturing. It crowd sources its designs from an online community and instead of industrial-sized plants, it has microfactories that also serve as showrooms and dealerships.

“Local Motors is a revolutionary global platform for community based collaborative engineering, combining open-source product development and design and micro-factory manufacturing to bring hardware innovations to market at unprecedented speed,” Dombrowski wrote.

In May, the Airbus Group announced a $150 million commitment to form Airbus Ventures, a Silicon Valley venture arm focused on aerospace innovation. The group’s funding of Local Motors is the first investment it has made.

It did not disclose the size of the investment.

Airbus Ventures is part of the larger aerospace company’s efforts to bolster its ties with the U.S. technology sector. On Sunday, Airbus Group also announced a pilot program with Uber for on-demand transportation using the aircraft manufacturer’s helicopters.