Supercar Made With 3-D Printers aims to disrupt the way cars are built

The Czinger 21C is a decadent supercar designed to thrill car enthusiasts on social media. It has sinuous curves, clocks record lap tim...


The Czinger 21C is a decadent supercar designed to thrill car enthusiasts on social media. It has sinuous curves, clocks record lap times – and will sell for $2 million.

Like Ford, Tucker and DeLorean before him, Kevin Czinger, the founder of the young automotive company that bears his name, intends to change the automotive industry – and not just by making unique supercars. Its vision is centered on building a greener and more cost-effective digital automotive manufacturing system.

The 21C is made using sophisticated data science alchemy and 3D printers, which produce recyclable metal alloys that eliminate the need for tooling. It’s a process developed by Divergent, a provider also founded and run by Mr. Czinger.

“When the tools are digital, they give you a lot more leverage to design, manufacture and assemble,” he said in a video call.

Divergent’s technology underpins Czinger brand vehicles. The 21C is the flagship car that demonstrates the flexibility of this system.

Its performance is impressive when it comes to supercars. The hybrid engine is a 2.99-liter twin-turbocharged flat-crank V8 with electric motors on both front wheels. It produces 1,250 horsepower, a number that can be dialed up to 1,350 with a $165,000 upgrade package. The car runs on e85 ethanol fuel, but carbon recycled ethanol is the preferred fuel. Top speed is 253 miles per hour. The company continues to make small changes to the 21C model it will sell to customers, and it released new performance numbers this month.

In September, race driver Joel Miller clocked a record time of 2 minutes 11.33 seconds at the Circuit of the Americas in the 21C, five seconds faster than the previous record. But Mr. Czinger’s ambitions go beyond the 21C’s exaggerated 1.9-second 0-60 sprint.

“You’re creating a new brand, so you want to show why that brand should exist,” he said. “If you want to say this is breakthrough technology and dominating performance, the best way to do that is to show it.” It will make 80 cars in two variants, a low drag version and a high downforce version.

The 21C is the first of several high profile vehicles planned for the Czinger portfolio, which will be sold through traditional luxury car dealerships including O’Gara Coach in Southern California, Prestige Imports in Miami Beach and Pfaff Auto in Canada. First deliveries are slated for late 2023, and Czinger says it’s about to sell out. A four-seater coupe will be unveiled at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in August.

Mr. Czinger, the youngest of five children, has been fascinated by cars since growing up in Cleveland. He dabbled in minibike building and drag racing. His older brothers were Chevy dealership mechanics. He attended Yale, where he was a defensive football star, and went on to earn a law degree. He worked as a federal prosecutor and for Goldman Sachs.

In 2006, Mr. Czinger helped found and run Coda, a China-backed electric car company in Los Angeles. Coda debuted in the United States in 2012 with a subcompact sedan, based on the Hafei Saibao, which produced 88 electric miles. It failed to catch on in the United States, and Coda filed for bankruptcy in 2013.

In 2015, Mr. Czinger founded Divergent and introduced his first concept vehicle, the Blade, to the 2016 auto show circuit. It was the first car to feature a 3D-printed body and chassis.

Mr. Czinger is attracting the attention of the additive manufacturing industry, which oversees the 3D printing industry.

“Other 3D companies don’t have the software, and they don’t have the assembly,” said his son, Lukas Czinger, who is also one of the founders of the Czinger brand and leads operations and manufacturing. for her and Divergent. . “No company could manufacture the rear frame of the 21C.”

The Divergent Adaptive Production System is being used to manufacture parts for eight automotive brands that the company plans to announce later this year. Parts include front ends and rear frames as well as integrated brake systems and suspension components. Divergent aims to work with automakers to deliver the entire integrated chassis.

“The supercar is a symbol of what could be a sea change in the way we make cars,” said John Casesa, senior managing director of Guggenheim Securities and a former Ford Motor executive. “If he succeeds, it will be an earthquake for the industry.

“Everything changes. Design change. The way the software is built. You use powdered metals instead of rolled steel. You print these things with these fast printers and then you can assemble them with tools without fixtures. You can do a Ford front and change the rear to a Chrysler rear like this.

Mr. Czinger plans to develop his portfolio of high-performance vehicles to rival the Bugattis and McLarens of the world. He refers to the intergalactic pod racing scenes in “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace” as inspiration. Looking to the long term, Czinger describes micro-factories in communities that allow new players to enter the automotive sector at lower entry costs.

“The biggest dream of all is not just the pure rational economy and the environmental coin,” he said. “These are very small creative teams that have no barriers to physically creating whatever they can imagine.”

Czinger and Divergent operate from offices in Southern California and a factory consisting of a 3D printing production facility in an air-conditioned room, an assembly room for vehicle subframes, d a laboratory for dynamic and static durability testing and additional space for crash, corrosion and environmental testing. The company has acquired additional 3D printers from German company SLM Solutions as part of a joint venture.

Czinger’s design is led by Dave O’Connell, who spent 25 years at Mitsubishi Motors and conceptualized the shape of the mid-engined 21C two-door coupe.

“I manage to forget everything I’ve learned in over 20 years of building cars the old-fashioned way,” Mr O’Connell said. “We can downsize structural parts to fit the contour of the body, to give us more efficient aerodynamics. We don’t design for manufacturing or style for manufacturing. We don’t have those handcuffs.

The speed and flexibility of digital fabrication allows for flexibility in interior space. The passenger sits directly behind the driver, a tandem seating concept used in motorsports. “We have more shoulder room than an S-Class Mercedes,” Mr O’Connell said. The process means custom parts such as a steering wheel variation are easier to manufacture.

Mr Czinger unveiled the 21C at an event in London in March 2020, the week the world shut down. After Covid-related layoffs, it returned to 154 employees. Its engineers and scientists have worked at Ferrari, Pagani, Boeing and Apple, as well as Formula 1 teams. He said 37 people worked on the 21C supercar.

Sam Abuelsamid, an analyst at Guidehouse Insights, called the Czinger 21 “a niche product, but if you can find a way to use it to have a faster cycle time for components, then it could be applied,” said he declared.

“There is definite interest from the industry,” he continued. “The automotive industry has a long history of using 3D printing for prototype parts. You can create prototypes faster and go through more iterations. The objective for the industry is to be able to use it for mass production.

BMW, Ford and the Volkswagen Group are investing in additive manufacturing. But industry experts like John Hart, founder and director of the Center for Additive and Digital Advanced Production Technologies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, warn that 3D printing can have its limits.

“One of the hurdles is the cost of 3D printing, which is much more than molding,” said Hart, who oversees collaborations between the MIT center and automakers. “If cost were no object, as it stands, there are not yet factories that are doing 3D printing as a service at the scale needed to support the automotive industry. “

Mr. Casesa first met Mr. Czinger when he ran Coda. “I thought he was a bright, interesting guy with a lot of humility,” said Casesa, who visited the Divergente factory twice. Despite all the talk of Industry 4.0 and 3D printing, that’s kind of the reality, and it’s just not understood yet.

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