New technology adopted to compensate rising weight of cars

During the early days when cars where light, they didn’t need more power to help them accelerate or go around corners. It was this lightness that helped manufacturers get away with offering single pot pistons and smaller brake calipers to stop the car. For example, the Alpine A110 that everybody hail to be the lightest and purest sports car of the decade is nearly 300 kg heavier than its predecessor. What we call light now, isn’t light at all to be frank.

Blame it on the nanny limiters, regulators and India’s nature to follow the western world without any use of the part in the head called the brain. Yes, the Alpine is not on sale in India, but the problem is too many safety features add more weight and that spoils everything.

I am not saying safety is bad. No, I think the opposite of it. But bringing in automatic rain sensing wipers, auto headlamps, lane departure assist, parking assist, cruise control and the whole host of other features deem humans as unworthy of driving. I do not know when people got it into their minds that driving is dangerous. Just because one might fall down and die while walking, people do not refrain from getting out of their bed, do they?

I am way off topic here. What I came to say is that adding excessive weight in the name of safety has made cars heavier and that means bigger brakes (which are heavier too) are needed. But here is the catch, more weight means cars will not give more economy and will produce more emissions. So what do carmakers do? They reduce weight by using alloys, try different manufacturing methods and even different components altogether.

Recently, Bugatti, the makers of one of the fastest cars in the world, tested brake calipers that were made using 3D printing tech. The material in question was titanium and Bugatti’s website claims that the caliper is the biggest ever to be manufactured to date.
Further, the carmaker, if they deem their manufacturing process to be worthy and safe, will pass it on to the Volkswagen group, which it is a part of.

Think about it, Bugatti makes cars that 200 mph for breakfast and if they can manufacture titanium brake calipers using 3D printing, what more can be done? The brake pads? or the discs themselves?

For those who do not know, 3D printing is a computerised process from which a component can be made from a single block of material. There is no cutting or welding here, just a single piece of metal or material that would not lose its properties and retain its strength, something manufacturers have spent millions to find out. With Bugatti testing it and they say the plan is to use it in a series production car this year, the car industry is in for a revolutionary change in testing times, yet again.

What this would mean is that bigger brakes need not be heavier and that means more stopping power without any disadvantages. Although I am still against romping in more weight in the name of ‘added’ safety. This would also lead to a whole host of components that can be 3D printed. Think about suspension arms, brackets that hold err…things, nuts and bolts, bushings, centre consoles, the entire dashboard and maybe wheels themselves.

But with all that comes the problem for traditional parts makers who will be hit. But, dare I say it, they need to overhaul their method of thinking if they want to survive, because cars are going to get heavier still and carmakers would want light and strong parts to compensate the extra flab. I am not sure about how affordable the components will be. I just hope it is not the case of top-down practice of a family tree. Want a 3D printed gearknob anyone?

Praveen Kumar S