3D printing is no longer an obscure, little-known technology that is reserved for only a few people who are brave and rich enough to deal with it. It is used in a variety of industries to create anything from a cast to an unbreakable guitar, but is rare in the automotive industry. Some manufacturers print 3D printing emblems, brackets, or custom trim parts, but a young car maker named Czinger sets new standards by building structural components for a hyper car. I spoke to company founder Kevin Czinger to learn more about the process and why he is the best option for his project.
More technology for less weight, cost and time
Founded in 201
This process can take six to 12 months, according to Czinger. This is an enormous amount of time for a start-up that understandably has to keep costs in check. It is much faster (and ultimately much cheaper) to print what you need, but the technology required to manufacture components has not been available until recently.
“We’re starting from scratch. Commercially available 3D printers and materials don’t work.”
“We’re starting from scratch. Commercially available 3D printers and materials are not working. The alloys are too brittle, they are not suitable for this type of application. To achieve the actual structure of the vehicle, you have to reinvent the materials and create a custom machine for printing, ”said Czinger.
SLM Solutions, a German manufacturer of 3D metal printers, helped Czinger develop the technology needed to make the 21C a reality. Using proprietary software, the company’s engineers can calculate which materials need to be taken where to get the best results, and the printer does the rest as soon as a series of data points have been fed to it.
Many components are printed with patented aluminum alloys. Some parts of the exhaust system are 3D printed with Inconel, a type of metal that can withstand extreme temperatures, while part of the A-pillars (the structure on both sides of the windshield) are made by 3D printing from Titan. One of the unexpected drawbacks is that the 3D printed parts stand out with beautiful, sculpture-like shapes. The parts, which do not come from a 3D printer like the planks, are made of light materials such as zylon (a high-strength metal) and carbon fiber.
When developing a high-performance car like the 21C, it is extremely important to keep the weight in check. It is powered by a petrol-electric hybrid powertrain, which is built around a specially developed 2.9-liter V8 with two turbochargers and mounted directly behind the two-seater passenger compartment.
It works with two electric motors (there is one behind each front wheel), which are connected to a quickly rechargeable lithium titanate battery. This configuration gives the 21C all-wheel drive on the road and increases its output to 1,250 hp. That number is even more impressive when you consider the coupe’s relatively light weight of 2,755 pounds. Internal combustion at the rear and electrical at the front. On paper, this layout is very similar to the Polestar 1’s reversed powertrain.
The hybrid system is equipped with an automated seven-speed manual transmission and brings the 21C from zero to 100 km / h top speed in just 1.9 seconds.
And although it burns gasoline under normal conditions, it likes to burn renewable methanol. Full electricity would have added too much weight, Czinger said, since a huge battery would have been needed to achieve acceptable range on and off the racetrack.
Machine printed, handmade
You’re on the wrong track if you imagine a mile-long assembly line using 3D printers instead of robots. Czinger will manufacture 80 copies of the 21C, most of which will be assembled by hand. I learned that 80 is a strategic decision.
“It’s not limited by technology, capacity, or any of these things. With a view to the global hypercar market, we wanted to choose a number that would give us exclusivity but still bring enough cars to the market so we could have a base of people, who like and promote the brand, “explained Czinger. Other small hyper-car manufacturers have published similar figures for similar reasons. For example, Pininfarina will limit the production of the electric Battista to 150 units worldwide.
Interest in the car was “super strong,” which is encouraging, but Czinger wouldn’t comment on what comes after the 21C. The 22C maybe? Or maybe the 21D? Your guess is as good as ours. “We’re already planning additional vehicles, but you don’t want to start marketing the next car while you’re launching your first car,” he said. “Our long-term vision is to create a brand that will be here in 200 years and based on completely new technologies.”
Prices start at $ 1.7 million before tax, and options play an important role. So the 21C isn’t the type of car you’d like to take to downtown New York City’s grocery or park every day.
While the chances of seeing one of the 80 examples planned along the way are slim, the 3D printing technology used to design and manufacture it could spread throughout the industry and one day be used to make cars more accessible. “Over time, more and more functional vehicle components are also being printed in 3D,” concluded Czinger.
This ambitious attempt to redefine performance and change the way cars are built is made in Los Angeles. It will be fully street legal in all 50 states and delivery is expected to begin in 2021.