Progressing with great strides, the Automobile sector is developing like crazy. To nature’s advantage, the industry holds its sensitivity towards a cleaner and greener environment. Although there are plenty of alternative sources to the diminishing natural gas production, the demand for newer alternatives is always felt.
A California-based company has come up with a crazy yet mind-blowing idea that they have successfully presented in the form of a prototype. So named Blade, the supercar is supposedly a creation that could dramatically reduce “the pollution, materials and capital costs” that are incurred and compromised during manufacture.
Divergent Micro-factories was founded by Kevin Czinger, who also founded Coda Automotive. With Coda, he was focused on cleaning up the highways by promoting electric vehicle adoption. Coda’s electric car flopped, and the company filed for bankruptcy in 2013, emerging as the newly organized Coda Energy, a company that remains focused on energy storage for commercial and industrial applications.
But with the change in time and the enthusiasm of a true entrepreneur, the company has finally introduced the Blade to the world.
Kevin Czinger has spent most of his career in the automotive industry. One day he realized that no matter how fuel-efficient or how few tailpipe emissions the modern car has, the business of car manufacturing is destroying the environment.
“3D printing of metal radically changes that. By looking at 3D printing not for that overall structure but to create individual modular structures that can be combined, that 3D printing transforms everything,” says Czinger.
He also says that 3D printing transforms everything by changing the way the structural components of cars are fabricated. Currently cars are pieced together on long assembly lines inside large factories that use massive amounts of energy. Even the most fuel-efficient car has a large carbon footprint before ever leaving the plant.
Czinger and his team’s approach were to take the large plant out of the equation. To accomplish this they printed the modular pieces that are used to connect carbon rods that make up the Blade’s chassis.
The construction of the Blade is purely put of carbon fiber. By using carbon fiber instead of steel or aluminum for the body, the entire vehicle only weighs 1400 pounds (635kg), giving it twice the weight to horsepower ratio of a Bugatti Veyron.
“The 3D printed chassis is only 102 pounds and has the same strength and safety protection as a frame made out of steel,” says Brad Balzer, the lead designer on the project.
The focus was mainly on the aesthetics of the car because gaining the attention of people is of vital importance. With visions of the hot rod building he did when he was younger, Czinger began formulating a simpler, less centralized concept of auto manufacturing based around a 3D-printed aluminum chassis joint he calls a node. Melting aluminum powder into form using a laser-based printing system makes the node. Individual nodes hold structural carbon fiber tubes together, building up a modular chassis like a sort of upsized children’s building kit.
Divergent says that its node-based chassis weighs some 90 percent less than an average car chassis and requires far less material and energy to produce. In fact, in introducing the concept, it carried the nodes and tubes for an entire chassis in a 120-liter shoulder bag. Divergent believes its 3D-printed nodes are analogous to the Arduinos that have opened up innovation within electronics, hiding technological complexity within an interface that is easy to work with. By using 3D-printed nodes, Divergent says that it can drastically cut down on the amount of space, time and investment required for automotive manufacturing. Once printed, the nodes allow a chassis to be constructed in a matter of minutes in a small, simple micro factory space. No longer will building a profitable car require the resources of a global corporation. In fact, the company’s plan has already started infiltrating the auto industry.
The Blade has been pampered like a queen. It has the chops to claim the title of world’s first 3D-printed supercar. The car has a 700-hp bi-fuel (gas/CNG) four-cylinder turbo engine and purportedly has the ability to sprint from 0 to 96.5 km/h in a flat two seconds. Reduction in carbon footprint is a positive gift to the environment and insane speed is the gift to the driver of the Blade.
Well, the price of this 3D printed car that carries carbon fiber reinforced ABS plastic coating ranges from $18,000 to $ 30,000. Although the official figures aren’t out, this is the anticipated dollar.
Beyond just building the Blade, Divergent hopes to “dematerialize and democratize” the auto manufacturing industry by putting its 3D-printed build technology into the hands of small start-ups. This will allow those start-ups to avoid the extremely cost-intensive barriers of traditional auto manufacturing and innovate new vehicles out of micro factories of their own. Divergent estimates the cost of developing a traditional car factory at US$1 billion, putting the cost of a micro factory with 10,000-car/year capacities at around $20 million.
The Blade is a great technological marvel of sorts. This innovation not only saves time, it is also an economical way of building a speed demon. Once out, this car is sure to give various super cars a dose of Mother Nature.