Automotive manufacturing: a 700-HP bullet from a 3D printer
A 700-HP sports car that weighs just 635 kilogrammes – less than a Smart Fortwo. No problem thanks to 3D printers and aluminium powder printing material. Automotive engineers around the world are using this production technology to set new benchmarks in terms of weight and design.
Jaws drop whenever the “Blade“ rolls by. Because the purple-metallic sports car made by US startup Divergent can go from 0 to 100 km/h in around 2.5 seconds with its 700 HP engine – while the driver and passenger sit one behind the other like in a jet. But there’s another reason to gape in awe, though you couldn’t tell it from just looking: the “Blade“ weighs just 635 kilogrammes. By contrast: a Ferrari F12berlinetta with 740 HP weighs nearly 1.5 tonnes, more than twice as much.
What’s this lightweight’s secret? The ”Blade“ is the first sports car in the world with a chassis and undercarriage made entirely by a 3D printer. The printer uses a laser to meld together wafer-thin layers of aluminium powder – an ideal material for lightweight construction. Feather-light components are formed layer by layer in just a few hours. Completed without any need for costly and time-consuming castings.
This is Blade – the first sports car made with a 3D printer. It comes with 700 HP and weighs just 635 kilogrammes.
3D printer produces a buggy in 44 hours
The “Blade“ is unlikely to ever go into serial production – and would be prohibitively expensive for average consumers. But that’s not the case for other cars made with 3D printers. Local Motors, for instance, a car maker in Phoenix, Arizona, is planning on bringing its “LM3D“ electric buggy on the market – 75 percent of the chassis and body are made by a 3D printer. Unlike Divergent, it does not use a laser.
Local Motors instead uses the so-called Big Area Additive Manufacturing System (BAAM). A room-sized 3D printer with a mobile spray nozzle that can reach any point in the assembly area via three linear tracks. The printer material is a carbon-reinforced polymer. 18 kilogrammes of this material flows through the nozzle per hour. It takes around 44 hours to print the body and individual components, like fenders and seats. The electric motor, battery and tyres, on the other hand, are made using conventional techniques. In the US, the “LM3D” will go on sale in the market for an estimated 45,000 euros.
3D printers gaining traction in automobile manufacturing worldwide
The competition in Germany produces cars significantly less expensive. Engineers at RWTH Aachen are developing the e.GO – an electric car that’s also made with 3D printers. The proposed market price: just 16,000 euros. That would make the e.GO the cheapest electric car in Germany. And the worldwide competition isn’t resting either. Austria is developing a model called the ”enjoy“, in New Zealand it’s “The Drop“ and in Taiwan the “EV“.