3D printing is such a revolutionary technology that professionals from every industry are scrambling to discover how they can improve their products and design using this technology. Engineers and designers at Bugatti challenged themselves to redesign the brake caliper for their latest sports car — Chiron. What they ended up creating was the world’s first 3D printed titanium brake caliper!
3D Printed titanium brake caliper:
Brake calipers are one of the most important parts in the braking system of an automobile. Modern automobiles, especially sports cars such as the Chiron, have brake calipers made of aluminium alloy. Bugatti already had a very powerful set of brakes on its sports cars but for a car like Chiron, which is at the edge of high performance, it wanted to create something exceptional.
The use of 3D printing techniques and titanium instead of aluminium to make the calipers is what makes it groundbreaking. Titanium has unique properties which make it an ideal material for use in the automotive and aerospace industries. Despite being lightweight, 3D Printed titanium strength is high (a square millimeter of the titanium alloy that Bugatti has used can bear a force of around 125 kg). These two factors make it desirable for engineers looking to make cars with top speeds touching 260 mph. Besides, titanium has excellent fatigue performance and offers high resistance in extreme conditions, which makes it the perfect material for brake calipers. After all, the ability to brake comfortably is crucial in a sports car.
But these properties which make titanium an ideal material also make machining of titanium difficult. This is what prompted Bugatti to turn to 3D Printing. The 3D Printed titanium brake caliper is a result of the collaboration between Bugatti and Laser Zentrum Nord, an institute in Hamburg that had considerable experience and expertise in the field of titanium processing. Most importantly, the institute had a special and a very powerful titanium 3D Printing machine, equipped with four 400 Watt lasers, that were used to 3D print the titanium caliper. The lasers were used to selectively melt the titanium powder into the desired shape layer by layer.
The use of additive manufacturing techniques in 3D printing titanium were essential because it would have been impossible to get the desired shape using traditional manufacturing techniques. This is the reason why Bugatti’s product is such a pioneering creation because almost everybody else uses parts made up of aluminium alloys which are easier to manufacture using conventional methods.
But the 3D printed titanium brake caliper is pioneering in other ways as well. Not only is it the first brake caliper to be manufactured by a 3D printer, it is also the largest brake caliper in the automotive industry. Apart from that, it is the largest functional component produced from titanium using Additive manufacturing methods. Thus, it has given enough reasons for Bugatti to pride on themselves. Moreover, with the new 3D printed titanium brake caliper, the company has been able to achieve better performance compared to the part made from aluminium. Because of the use of titanium, not only is the new caliper stronger than the one made in aluminium, the new caliper weighs only 2.9 kg as opposed to its aluminium counterpart which weighs around 4.9 kg. This has resulted in 40% weight reduction in the part.
3D printing car parts using aluminium alloys and steel have been steadily gaining ground. 3D printing makes it possible to make spare parts; Porsche has recently started offering 3D printed parts for some of its classic cars. But by creating the first 3D printed titanium brake caliper and demonstrating that titanium can also be successfully used in additive manufacturing, Bugatti has set a new example by demonstrating the capability of 3D printing and thus widening its scope. The developers at Bugatti feel that, it will have sort of a trickle down effect and that they are already considering incorporating 3D printed car parts made from titanium in other models. It will be interesting to see how, and in what capacity, automotive companies will incorporate this technology in their products.