After making its mark in manufacturing high-performance supercars, French carmaker Bugatti is trying to leverage 3D printing technology to refine the quality of auto parts.
The carmaker recently said in a statement it has 3D-printed a new brake caliper made of a titanium alloy for its hypercar Chiron. The alloy, called Ti6AI4V, has mostly been employed by aviation companies to make wing components as well as jet and rocket engines.
Bugatti said the new calipers would weigh less and have more tensile strength compared with the erstwhile calipers made of aluminium. However, the carmaker faced a challenge in producing the caliper from the alloy as it needed expensive and cumbersome techniques such as explosive forming. This is when the company thought of 3D printing the caliper.
After making the prototype for the caliper, the carmaker sent the data files to Laser Zentrum Nord to print it. The process of printing the caliper took 45 hours which was quite short considering the complexities of the design of the part.
Nord's 3D printer laid down 2,213 layers of the alloy powder individually and as each layer was set down, the printer's four 400-watt lasers cut and fused it into a cross-section of the caliper. These cross-sections, supported by temporary support pieces, cooled and solidified instantly. The printer then followed the same process with each layer.
After completion of the process, the caliper was placed in a furnace heated to 700° C (1,300° F) and then cooled to 100° C (212° F). The caliper was then sent back to Bugatti to improve durability.
"It was a very moving moment for the team when we held our first titanium brake caliper from the 3D printer in our hands," said Frank Götzke, head of new technologies in the technical development department of Bugatti Automobiles. "In terms of volume, this is the largest functional component produced from titanium by additive manufacturing methods. Everyone who looks at the part is surprised at how light it is – despite its large size. Technically, this is an extremely impressive brake caliper, and it also looks great," Götzke said.
Bugatti said that the new caliper will be tested in June.