Partnerships are a critical ingredient to success in any growing industry — as well as in those industries that are somewhat more established. As we’ve seen illustrated with increasing frequency in the additive manufacturing arena, partnerships can lead to great things, from the introduction of new technologies to the development of application-specific solutions to the advancement of space-age manufacturing to equipment entering new markets. Last month, a new partnership was announced that is set to bring metal additive manufacturing capabilities deeper into the automotive industry, as Divergent 3D and PSA Group set out on a long-term plan to work together for more efficient automobile manufacturing. In mid-September, Los Angeles-based Divergent 3D and Paris-based PSA Group signed a Strategic Partnership Letter of Intent “targeting multiple joint development projects.”
This partnership holds promise for both AM and automotive enthusiasts, as vehicle manufacture continues to embrace additive technologies. From prototyping to road-ready vehicles, we have been seeing 3D printing take to the roads lately, and this latest partnership holds incredible promise in streamlining the manufacturing process for vehicles made by one of Europe’s largest companies in this field. For its part, Divergent 3D is no stranger to automotive creation, either, and so this working relationship serves to bring together a meeting of the minds matched well in experience and potential alike.
I recently had the opportunity to find out more about this partnership and some of the 3D technologies behind it, and so I had just A Few Questions For Kevin Czinger, CEO of Divergent 3D.
Can you tell us about your background? How did 3D technologies enter your scope of focus, personally and professionally?
From hard won experience in the auto industry, I learned that making cars is a time-consuming, capital-intensive, and environmentally devastating process. Much of those drawbacks are tied to hard metal tooling and stamping coupled with the coating and painting process of a vehicle’s structure, so I started out looking for a combination of new technologies that would bring more efficiency and flexibility to the process. Divergent 3D began researching the use of 3D printing, software, and standardized lightweight materials to enable modular car chassis in 2012 and we’ve been moving forward at warp speed since then.
Divergent 3D is commercializing a path-breaking software-hardware platform (the Divergent Manufacturing Platform™) for manufacturing that leverages 3D metal printing. We are pioneers in this space. We have filed industry-foundational patents for the use of 3D metal printing to build modular structures and we have assembled a world-class technology team from companies like Apple, SpaceX, Koenigsegg, Boeing Phantom Works, and GM.
Our current focus is the automotive industry, and we recently announced our first partnership with a major global automaker, PSA Groupe (maker of the Peugeot, Citroen and DS brands). Our (3D-metal-printing enabled) modular vehicle structure allows for dramatically faster, simpler, more flexible car manufacturing, producing safe, secure, smart vehicles meeting all safety standards.
Divergent 3D’s technology can reduce the vehicle structure weight of a standard five passenger car by over 50 percent and reduce the number of parts per vehicle by over 75 percent. Just as importantly, it can reduce the upfront capital cost required for hard metal tooling and stamping equipment (along with the associated factory costs) by up to 10x or more. The cost implications of our technology for automakers everywhere are huge. We’re also proud of the environmental benefits of our approach to car production—which we call Planet-Saving Manufacturing™—and intend to unleash a 3D-printing- driven rebirth of the auto industry as one that uses far less energy and natural resources, produces less waste, and manufactures vehicles that require much less energy to operate (whatever the source of that energy may be).
The Blade is the technology demonstrator for Divergent 3D’s proprietary hardware-software manufacturing platform. The 3D-metal-printing based process we used to build it saved materials and assembly costs. In addition to being a cool-looking and fast car, the Blade helped prove that 3D printing is a viable approach to auto manufacturing. The attention from industry players and car enthusiasts garnered by the Blade sparked a lot of conversations for Divergent, some of which led to deals and partnerships (including with global engineering and technology companies like Altran) for expanding the application of our technology.
How did the partnership with PSA Group come about?
PSA is Europe’s second largest vehicle manufacturer and makers of Peugeot, Citroen and DS branded cars. We wanted our first major partner to be a company that valued efficiency and sustainability, and had the desire to lead the industry with this important technology—PSA has a visionary CEO, Carlos Tavares, and fit all those criteria. PSA Groupe is enthusiastic about making its manufacturing more efficient, lower cost, and flexible at volume scale by implementing and licensing our technology.
Divergent 3D and PSA Group are looking at a long-term partnership to make automotive manufacturing more efficient; can you tell us some ways this will be put into effect?
We will work with PSA to move through testing of our platform in the context of their production processes, full vehicle production, and then to volume production. The timeline we have together set is ambitious, but the sooner we use Divergent 3D technology to mass produce vehicles, the sooner the companies we work with will start reaping the benefits of lighter structures, greater capital efficiency, and faster product development cycles. We look forward to volume-producing safety certified vehicles as soon as possible. While our partnership with PSA is strategic and long-term, it doesn’t prevent us from working with multiple manufacturers in the future.
How do you see metal 3D printing technologies impacting the automotive industry in the next year? Five years? Ten years?
3D printing combined with automated design can significantly reduce the cost and time required to manufacture vehicles. We have demonstrated that with our platform. Over the next year, we expect more automakers to take notice of the huge advantages of 3D printing and begin to explore new manufacturing approaches. From there, we expect that 3D metal printing speed and quality take off over the next three to five years and attract even more attention from car manufacturers. In five to ten years, we foresee widespread adoption of 3D printing in the auto industry–carmakers will require only a fraction of today’s upfront capital cost and materials to make a car. Ten years out, the world will be well-acquainted with 3D-printed cars, which will be far safer and better performing than today’s vehicles.
What technologies does Divergent 3D employ?
Divergent 3D employs a range of cutting-edge technologies. Primarily, we are using a cloud-based multi-physics design and optimization software platform combined with 3D-metal-printed modular structures and automated assembly in a data-driven design approach.
Our partnership with PSA is the first comprehensive approach to re-thinking the design, manufacturing and assembly of complete vehicle structures rather than focusing on individual 3D-printed components. Vehicle manufacturing has a greater adverse impact on the environment than any other human activity. In the next 35-40 years we will build 4 billion vehicles — tripling the number of vehicles manufactured over the previous 115 years. It is critical that we move to Planet-Saving Manufacturing™. That structural move will have a radically positive impact on the AM and auto industries, catalyzing a global re-birth of manufacturing invention and innovation in harmony with our planet.
With metal additive manufacturing techniques seeing increased use across the board, the automotive industry offers incredible opportunity for participating companies. Divergent 3D is showcasing initiative and savvy in working with PSA, with its long-established global reputation for quality. This is a relationship we will certainly be following closely, as exciting announcements are sure to spring up as this partnership thrusts both companies forward in their capabilities and offerings. Discuss further in the Divergent 3D forum at 3DPB.com.