Divergent 3D shows-off greener car manufacturing

Posted on 11 Jan 2017 by Michael Cruickshank

US-based automotive startup Divergent 3D has unveiled a new vehicle which showcases a new a disruptive approach to car manufacturing.

At the CES 2017 expo, the company showed off the Blade – a supercar manufactured entirely using 3D printing. While this isn’t the first car to incorporate this technology into its manufacturing process, the vehicle is unique in the efficiency of its construction.

Divergent noted that the manufacturing of automobiles was incredibly energy intensive, and often would use more energy (and create more emissions) than the vehicle’s entire lifetime fuel use. This means that even if battery electric cars would become mainstream, their manufacturing process would still contribute greatly to global warming.

Therefore, the company looked into ways to make this process much more energy efficient and thus reduce its overall environmental footprint. Its eventual solution was the use of 3D printed metal parts created via a process called laser sintering which then be connected together with a series of carbon fiber rods.

Each metal piece – called a Node – would be custom made without the need for advanced and bespoke tooling, saving significant amounts of energy in the process. Once all pieces were printed, they could be assembled in as little as half an hour into a fully-functioning car frame, over which a non-structural body would be affixed. Beyond being energy efficient, this construction method is reportedly both lighter and stronger than current materials allow.

While the Blade supercar showed off at CES 2017 demonstrates the viability of this tech in the real world, Divergent is intent on getting larger car manufacturers to begin using its 3D printing process. To this aim, last year the company announced a new deal with French carmaker Peugeot SA Group to explore ways to use 3D printing in the mass production of its vehicles.

Reportedly the two companies entered a long-term partnership to help Peugeot save on capital and optimize its car manufacturing processes. Nonetheless, Divergent 3D will have to overcome some of the existing downsides of 3D printing – most notably the slow speed of existing market printers – before its new manufacturing process can see mainstream success.