Automotive technology has far surpassed a point that many never thought was possible. You might think I’m talking about hybrid cars, but surprisingly hybrid technology isn’t what I’m referring to here. I’m talking about 3D printing technology and a company called Divergent 3D seems to be at the forefront of this manufacturing technique. They created the first 3D printed supercar to display the capabilities of this fascinating new technology and they’re calling it, Blade.
The Divergent Blade itself is not a vehicle that’ll be sold as is, even though it’s quite impressive. Instead, it’s meant to show how big of an impact 3D printing can make on the performance and production of automobiles in general. For example, the Blade is a fully functioning vehicle that can actually be driven on the road, but the entire car only weighs in at a featherweight 1,388lbs. That’s less than half what most cars weigh on the road today. And when you consider the Blade happens to have a 720hp tuned version of the 2.4L turbocharged four-cylinder that once powered the Mitsubishi Lance Evolution, we are talking about some serious performance capabilities.
If you’ve done the math already, you know that equals a better than perfect “one to one” power to weight ratio. It actually equates to 1.14 hp for every kilogram of weight and that should make the Blade behave more like a missile than a car. Divergent managed to pull this off using a wide variety of lightweight materials such as carbon fiber, titanium, and high-grade aluminum to name a few. All of which was created using metal 3D printers.
Divergent has developed the technology and processes to create a 3D printed chassis. From that point, it would works similar to a coachbuilder where you would get a custom made body on top of the custom built chassis. But the body itself would have no structural responsibilities. Divergent 3D CEO, Kevin Czinger, used the analogy that most vehicles currently in production use the body of the car to tie together the structure, similar to that of an exoskeleton. Where the 3D printed Blade is more like a human being in the sense that the underlying chassis (or bones) provide the structure and then everything else just fills in the blanks.
Because every square inch of the chassis is designed and built from the ground up, Divergent and their team of designers, engineers, and scientists managed to remove anything that didn’t serve a very strict purpose. And what they ended up with only has a quarter of the components that you’d see on a normal automotive chassis. That’s how they managed to cut more than half the weight as well.
Not only will this technology make a huge impact in the performance category, but apparently it will cut down costs as well. According to Czinger, the structural aspects of automotive manufacturing is the most expensive part of producing a car. So only using a quarter of the components to build the chassis, and the chassis itself providing all the structure of the car, this should provide the opportunity for manufacturers to drastically reduce overhead which should translate to less expensive cars for the general public. Especially as the costs involved in purchasing metal 3D printers continue to drop.
Seeing this implemented on a grand scale is still going to be years down the road, but it’s definitely a glimpse into what the future of automotive manufacturing will be. Jay Leno’s Garage recently did a feature on the Divergent Blade and Kevin Czinger made an appearance to give a detailed explanation about what the Blade is and how it has the potential to revolutionize the automotive industry as a whole. He even let Jay get behind the wheel of this Evo powered car from the future and I must admit, it’s quite impressive.