Divergent Microfactories (DM) is a California startup founded by Kevin Czinger, a serial entrepreneur and CEO. DM’s vision is to empower small teams around the world to create automobiles using a new technology base developed by DM. Motivo Engineering is a founding partner of DM, helping develop the core technology base, scaled up to a fully functional prototype. That prototype is the world’s first 3D printed hypercar, Blade.
The project was completed in two phases. The first phase was to develop and validate a new technology base that empowers the creation of lightweight vehicle structures. The second phase was to take the new technology base and create the first prototype vehicle. A highly compressed schedule led to innovative development approaches.
The proprietary technology base leveraged the latest in Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS), also known as metal 3D printing. DMLS is a nascent technology and has never been used in such a structural application before. Motivo had to work directly with some of the largest DMLS companies in the world on overcoming strength, porosity, surface finish, print volume, and machine limitations.
In the first phase, Motivo developed the technology base which uses complex nodes that are 3D printed and bonded to carbon fiber tubes. By connecting nodes and tubes in strategic patterns a lightweight, high-strength space frame is formed that is very easy to assemble. The nodes were modeled, analyzed, and optimized in CAD before a single part was printed. After rapid design iteration, plastic nodes were 3D printed to test the bonding process. Each node has internal passages that are used to create a perfect bond every time, a patent-pending technology developed at Motivo. These internal passages were iterated upon by performing real world tests and experiments on clear plastic nodes in order to determine the most efficient design and procedure. Once the passages and bonding processes were optimized, the first metal nodes were printed. These nodes were tested destructively and analyzed, the results from which informed the next design iteration. This process was repeated 6 times before finalizing the node geometry.
After validation of the node technology came the design of the Blade’s chassis in CAD. The chassis was simulated, correlating results from our real world destructive tests on the prototype nodes. Data received from the simulations informed design updates to the chassis. Once simulation and design iterations were finalized, the node models were sent to the printers. Upon receipt of the nodes from the DMLS printer the chassis was assembled, taking two people less than 1 hour to complete.
Motivo delivered Blade successfully to the 2015 Solid Conference.
Motivo went from initial brainstorming to a completely validated technology base in 6 months. Once the technology base was validated, Blade was designed and built in 8 months. Blade was revealed at the 2015 Solid Conference in San Francisco, CA and is the world’s first 3D-printed hypercar.