If you needed further proof that the 3D printing revolution is upon us, take this case study from Bugatti to heart. The French brand is at the pointy end of the automotive space, which means that Bugatti gets all the fun toys.
One of the spaces where they are innovating is in the use of titanium parts that have been created by using an additive manufacturing process.
In this case, they are making a brake caliper (shown above)…which also happens to be the largest 3D-printed titanium component ever produced.
What is really special though, is that this technology opens a new door for using titanium on production vehicles.
But, by using a new high-performance 3D printer that uses selective laser melting from Laser Zentrum Nord, Bugatti has been able to craft this impressive caliper.
The manufacturing printer uses four 400-watt lasers, which over a 45-hour time period are able to build the caliper from 2,213 layers of titanium alloy powder.
Once completed with a supported structure, the unused powder is recycled for the next project, while the finish caliper is heat-treated and chemical-treated for additional strength. At its smallest point, the caliper is only one millimeter thick.
A five-axis milling machine finishes off the caliper, and adds the necessary work for surfaces and threads. This process takes an additional 11 hours to complete.
Additionally, because of the additive manufacturing process, Bugatti has been able to optimize the caliper’s construction, which is why it has a more organic shape than what we are used to seeing from milled billet blocks of aluminum.
This brake caliper isn’t just for headlines, though, as Bugatti’s test video shows.
The eight-piston caliper is able to withstand an amazing amount of heat (one of the benefits of using titanium), which is necessary when you have a car that is capable of doing 0–400–0 km/h in under 42 seconds, and generating up to 1,877° F in heat.
While this manufacturing technology currently only makes sense on limited-production car models where price is no object, it is really only a matter of time before we see the process come to the mainstream automotive space.
If things in the VW Group continue as they are, this could mean “printed” titanium calipers on red motorcycles in the semi-near future, which is very, very intriguing. Brembo, you have just been put on notice.