Bugatti is far from the first automaker to experiment with 3D printing, but it does claim it's developed the world's first 3D printed brake caliper. The automaker will begin testing this new brake caliper in the first half of this year with the hopes of bringing it to series production.
The brake caliper lays claim to a number of firsts, according to Bugatti. It's the largest brake caliper in the automotive industry, meaning Bugatti is looking to best itself. The aluminum alloy brake calipers on the Chiron are currently the largest installed on a production vehicle. Instead of aluminum, the new brake caliper is made from titanium, making Bugatti the first series manufacturer to use this material. The brake caliper is also the largest functional component produced from titanium via 3D printing.
The eight-piston monobloc brake caliper makes use of a titanium alloy that delivers higher performance than aluminum. This particular alloy is used in the aerospace industry for rocket engines and components for wings, among other things. Bugatti says that a force of more than 275 pounds can be applied to a square millimeter of the titanium alloy without rupturing the material. It's also very light. Despite its large size, the brake caliper weighs just around 6.4 pounds, lighter than the aluminum component currently used that weighs about 10.8 pounds. The brake caliper measures about 16.1 inches long, 8.3 inches wide, and 5.4 inches high.
To achieve the breakthrough, Bugatti partnered with Laser Zentrum Nord, a research institute in Hamburg, Germany. It takes the institute's 3D printer 45 hours to print a brake caliper. During the process, four 400-watt lasers melt titanium power, and layer by layer, the material cools down and forms the shape of a brake caliper. After the final layer is complete, the titanium powder is exposed to temperatures of more than 1,290 degrees Fahrenheit before cooling down to around 212 degrees. This process helps ensure dimensional stability. Later, surfaces of the caliper, including the piston contact surfaces, get refined in a milling machine process that takes 11 hours.
Bugatti expects a reduction in the time it takes to produce the brake caliper as the component begins testing. Although it's not widespread right now, 3D printing has the potential to save automakers millions of dollars in the future.