Watch as Bugatti torture-tests a 3D-printed titanium brake caliper

Bugatti doesn’t do anything normally.

From the way it builds cars to the way it handles recalls, the French automaker does everything in a grandiose and elaborate way. So, it doesn’t surprise us that Bugatti has reinvented the manufacturing process for a crucial part most drivers ignore until they really need it.

Though it might look like an ordinary brake caliper, Bugatti claims this supersized chunk of metal is the world’s first caliper produced using a 3D printer. It’s also made from titanium (the same stuff used in the SR-71 Blackbird jet), and Bugatti proudly points out it is the largest 3D-printed component ever made from that material. It works just like a normal caliper, it’s bolted to the wheel hub and it pushes pads against a spinning rotor to slow down the car, but the prototype titanium caliper is stronger and about 40 percent lighter than the aluminum part fitted to the 1,500-horsepower Chiron.

Titanium is notoriously difficult to work with, which is why Bugatti turned to 3D printing. The traditional milling process used to turn a solid block of metal into a functional part simply wouldn’t work with titanium, according to the company. 3D-printing makes titanium calipers possible, but the process is not exactly straightforward, either.

Bugatti 3D-printed brake caliper

To make the brake caliper, Bugatti turned to Laser Zentrum Nord, which had a 3D printer designed specifically to work with titanium. The printer was equipped with four 400-watt lasers. It took 45 hours to print the caliper by painstakingly depositing 2,213 individual layers of titanium on top of each other. After that, the part was heat-treated to ensure strength, and technicians trimmed away excess material to create the final product. In December 2018, the company released a video showing the fiery bench tests its researchers put the caliper through. It can withstand rotor temperatures of nearly 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit without warping or melting.

Bugatti plans to test the 3D-printed caliper in real-world conditions in 2019, though it admits the timetable hasn’t been finalized yet. It also plans to shorten the production process. It may take Bugatti months to build a car, but even this most leisurely of automakers can’t wait forever for parts from suppliers.

While titanium brake calipers for multi-million dollar supercars aren’t very relevant to the average person, Bugatti claims its experiments with 3D printing could lead to 3D-printed parts for more mainstream Volkswagen Group models in the not-too-distant future. The technology packed into a Chiron in 2019 could trickle down to an Audi TT in 2025.

Updated on December 24, 2018: Added information about the testing phase.


Bentley Bentayga Speed surpasses Lamborghini Urus as world’s fastest SUV

The Bentley Bentayga Speed has wrested the title of world's fastest SUV from its cousin, the Lamborghini Urus. But the Bentley is just 1 mph faster than the Lamborghini. It requires 626 horsepower to achieve that top speed.

Here’s everything we know about the zombie-infested, survival horror Days Gone

Days Gone, the first PS4 title from Sony's Bend Studio, looks to offer a different type of zombie game. Here's everything we know about the forthcoming title, from the setting to its gameplay.

The 2019 iPhone could put a charge into your other Apple gadgets

While it's not been long since the last iPhones launched, rumors for the next iPhone are already surfacing. Apple's 2019 flagship could include a variety of upgrades ranging from a new design to enhanced features.

Wi-Fi helps connect all of our devices at high-speed, but what exactly is it?

What is Wi-Fi? It's a technology we all use everyday to connect all of our portable devices, but understanding how it works and how far it's come from its humble beginnings is another thing entirely.

2020 GMC Acadia toughens up on the outside, gets smarter on the inside

The 2020 GMC Acadia crossover gets styling updates and a more rugged AT4 trim level. Under the skin, the Acadia sports a new turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a wider array of tech features.

Nissan is using old Leaf batteries to power and connect off-the-grid campers

Nissan has teamed up with trailer manufacturer Opus to design a mobile, weatherproof power pack built with battery cells sourced from the first-generation Leaf. Called Roam, the pack stores enough electricity to power a camper for up to a…

Alfa Romeo’s latest Ferrari-powered F1 race car is ready to hit the track

Alfa Romeo is doubling down on Formula One racing after a decades-long hiatus. Now essentially a support team for Ferrari, its 2019 driver lineup includes a former world champion and a potential future star.

Researchers teach self-driving cars to predict pedestrians’ next moves

University of Michigan researchers are developing a system that teaches self-driving cars to predict pedestrian movement. Humans don't always act in their own best self-interest, so autonomous cars will need to practice protective driving.

Subaru’s latest VIZIV concept car is pumped full of adrenaline

The Subaru VIZIV Adrenaline is the seventh member of the Japanese automaker's family of VIZIV concept cars. It debuts at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show, but for now, all we're getting is a shadowy teaser image.

Audi is advancing the tech that teaches cars to talk to traffic lights

Audi is teaching its cars the language of traffic lights. The company developed technology that tells motorists what speed they should drive at in order to catch as many green lights as possible.

Waymo rules and Apple trails in California self-driving car benchmarks

California's DMV releases annual reports of self-driving car disengagements on public roads. In the most recent reports. Waymo had the best performance, GM Cruise came in second, and Apple's self-driving program was in last place.

Watch a modified Audi e-tron electric SUV drive straight up a ski slope

A modified Audi e-tron climbed up an 85-percent gradient on an Austrian ski slope in a tribute to a classic Audi commercial. The vehicle used for the stunt sported an extra electric motor and spiked tires.

Mamma mia! Alfa Romeo will unveil a new model at the Geneva Auto Show

Alfa Romeo told Digital Trends it will unveil a new model at the 2019 Geneva Auto Show. It stopped short of revealing what it has in store, but rumors claim it will be a crossover positioned below the Stelvio.

Citroën says you could drive its tiny Ami One electric car without a license

Citroën's Ami One concept car is an electric vehicle that's as cute as it is compact. The miniature motor only has a top speed of 28 mph, so the French automaker imagines it as a shareable runaround for short drives.