A California company has built an environmentally friendly supercar using 3D printed parts. Ben Gruber reports.
STORY: This is the Blade, a supercar that its makers hope will re-define car manufacturing. It didn't come off an assembly line - but out of a 3D printer. Kevin Czinger of Divergent Microfactories 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. (SOUNDBITE) (English) KEVIN CZINGER, FOUNDER & CEO, DIVERGENT, SAYING: "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." It achieves this by changing the way cars are built. 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 teams approach was to take the large plant out of the equation. To accomplish this they printed out modular pieces that are used to connect carbon rods that make up the Blade's chassis. (SOUNDBITE) (English) LEAD PROJECT ENGINEER BRAD BALZER, SAYING: "The 3D printed chassis is only 102 pounds and has the same strength and safety protection as a frame made out of steel." By using carbon fiber instead of steel or aluminium for the body, the entire vehicle only weighs 1400 pounds (635kg), giving it twice the weight to horsepower ratio of a Bugatti Veyron. The Blade is fitted with a 700 horse power engine that runs on natural gas, reducing its carbon footprint even further. Balzer says designing an eco-friendly speed demon super car as their first prototype was intentional. (SOUNDBITE) (English) LEAD PROJECT ENGINEER BRAD BALZER ON THE CAR'S DESIGN, SAYING: "We focus a lot on the aesthetics of this car because it is very important to capture the people's imaginations, especially when we are talking about the core enabling technologies." And that core enabling technology is what Kevin Czinger hopes will revolutionize car manufacturing. He says electric cars are great, but they won't be enough to save the planet unless they way they are built changes. (SOUNDBITE) (English) KEVIN CZINGER, FOUNDER & CEO, DIVERGENT, SAYING: "By constructing a car this way it has less than one third of the environmental and health impact than the 85 hours all electric car for example has." Czinger and Balzer are starting small but they believe their new 3D printing method for car manufacturing will soon have a huge impact on how the cars of the future are built.