San Francisco Bay Area startups are all about disrupting things, and that’s exactly what Divergent Microfactories hopes to do with the auto industry and how vehicles are built. The company’s first prototype is a supercar called Blade, and the initial specs are intriguing. With a curb weight of around 1,400 pounds and a 700-hp engine, the Blade has a claimed 0-60-mph time of 2 seconds.
Divergent Microfactories (DM) claims the Blade is the world’s first 3D-printed supercar, though it’s apparent that many components like the engine and tires are manufactured traditionally. What is 3D-printed, however, are the vehicle’s “Node” pieces.
The Nodes are essentially 3D-printed aluminum components that serve as the basis of the Blade’s chassis. The Nodes connect a series of carbon fiber tubing to complete a chassis that the company says weighs just 100 pounds (the Nodes comprise around 60 percent of that weight). The setup, which looks like a fancy Fiddlestix set for grownups, takes about 30 minutes to assemble with two people. It’s also modular, which means the design will work for multiple body styles like a sedan or crossover.
The Blade’s shell is constructed of lightweight composite, though almost any material can be used. With a low-slung body and butterfly-style doors, the Blade certainly has supercar aesthetics. Judgment of its performance, however, will have to come at a later time. DM says the engine is a turbocharged four-cylinder that can run on compressed natural gas or gasoline. The interior is relatively basic for two passengers who sit in a tandem arrangement.
DM says its Node technology vehicles are cheaper and more environmentally friendly than those that come from traditional automakers, and makes many indirect comparisons to Tesla Motors. In one press release, for example, DM claims that its Node technology produces only a third “of the total health and environmental damage of an 85 kWh all electric car,” an obvious reference to the top-spec Tesla Model S sedan. DM bases its claim on the environmental impact of producing and powering the Model S.
And as its name suggests, the company says its vehicles can be assembled in smaller microfactories (no gigafactory needed here, folks) that are more sustainable and cheaper than traditional factories.
DM is headed by CEO Kevin Czinger, who is no stranger to automotive startups. Back in 2009, Czinger established Coda Automotive before abruptly leaving the following year (Coda went bankrupt a few years later). While DM appears to be a more polished execution compared to Coda, there are still many unknowns. Cost is one thing, and whether or not these Node-built vehicles can meet U.S. safety regulations.
Source: Divergent Microfactories