Additive Manufacturing Strategies

BMW’s Latest Auto is Customized Through 3D Printing and Contains Pieces of Meteorites

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It’s clear outside right now, which is a good sign that we might get a nice view of the Quadrantid meteor shower tonight. While not as famous as other meteor showers such as the Perseids or the Leonids, the Quadrantids are still an intense meteor shower that results from the Earth’s passage through the asteroid 2003 EH1. Tiny fragments of the asteroid will enter the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up harmlessly, so don’t worry – you won’t come outside to find your yard or car pitted with asteroid chunks. But for those of you who think it’d be really cool to have space rock embedded in your car, BMW has something for you.

The new BMW Individual M850i Night Sky has actual meteorites, which are chunks of rock that don’t burn up in the atmosphere and actually land on Earth, incorporated into its cabin. The center console’s trim plate, the start/stop button, the selector lever and the Touch Controller for the iDrive system are all decorated with the meteoric rock, and inlays made from the material are also incorporated into the door sill finishers, along with an illuminated model badge.

“Expanding on the use of meteoritic material for the controls inside the sports car, the design of many other interior and exterior elements takes its cues from a structure that only occurs in natural form on extra-terrestrial objects: the distinctive Widmanstätten surface pattern of meteorites,” BMW states. “The strictly geometric structure, with its straight lines, has the appearance of ice crystals and becomes visible when certain types of iron meteorite are polished or brought into contact with acidic compounds.”

The structure forms as a result of the metal alloy cooling in an extremely slow process that cannot be reproduced on Earth. The design of many elements on the BMW Individual M850i Night Sky is inspired by the structure, however, including the hand-stitched headliner and the center console’s trim finishers. It has also been milled into the brake discs and 3D printed in several other components, including the exterior mirror caps, the front splitters for the side air intakes at the front of the car, the center mesh plate and the surrounds for the Air Breathers on the front side panels.

Also 3D printed are the innovative bionic-design brakes. When creating the brake calipers, BMW was able to reduce their mass to the minimum required to meet technical requirements, meaning that only the material needed for the brakes to work is used. The resulting construction mimics that of bones, with an optimum balance between component rigidity and weight, and can only be produced using additive manufacturing. The technology also allowed BMW to incorporate the brake fluid channels into the structure of the brake calipers.

The interior leather trim comes in a tri-color design with LED-illuminated star constellations on the center console, for an extra astronomical effect. The Widmanstätten structure is also repeated in the stitching pattern for the seat center sections.

“The exterior paintwork of the BMW Individual M850i Night Sky has a special paint finish which combines two color tones to achieve a high-impact effect. Black non-metallic was used as the base colour for the body,” BMW adds. “A second coat in San Marino Blue metallic was then painted over it in a graduated effect from the bottom edge of the body up to the top of the wheel arches. Finally, three layers of clear coat with varying pigment particle sizes were applied to give the paint finish a remarkable sense of depth.”

All this combines to create a car that is a dream for space enthusiasts. BMW introduced the car today to coincide with the meteor shower, which is a nice promotional touch. While humans may eventually colonize the moon and Mars, this may be the closest any of us end up to being in a spaceship.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below.

 

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