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Divergent’s Supercar Advances Auto Tech

Supercar proves viability of 3D printing in car manufacturing. Also, Sandia's super security team, and beetle armor inspires advanced materials.

Beetle Armor Inspires Advanced Materials

Last week, I told you how a sea sponge could lead to stronger buildings. Today, we have a beetle with an exocuticle, or exoskeleton, that could lead to much stronger, and lighter materials.

A team from Northwestern's Engineering Department wants to know how insects, like the beetle, can have armor-like exoskeletons that should weigh it down, but are actually light enough so they can fly.

Now, there is more than a million species of beetles, but the team studied the fig eater beetle, a field crop pest native to the western United States. Like all insects and crustaceans, its exoskeleton is composed of twisted plywood structures that help protect against predators. Fibers in this structure are bundles of chitin polymer chains wrapped with proteins.

According to the researchers, it's hard to characterize the fiber's properties because they are incredibly small. They have a diameter of just 20 nanometers. The team was able to analyze the mechanics of the fibers by cutting them along a plane, which revealed a face composed of closely packed cross-sections of fibers with different orientations.

By correlating the mechanical properties with the exoskeleton geometries from other beetles, the team will gain insight into natural selection and better understand the structure/function/property relationships.

This work could ultimately uncover information that could guide the design and manufacturing of new and improved artificial materials by emulating these time-tested natural patterns.

Sandia’s Super Security

Richard Stump has been to five Super Bowls and he hasn’t seen a single pass. Stump works in a special line of security. He’s a senior scientist on Sandia National Laboratories’ Radiological Assistance Program, or RAP, team.

At events, Sandia’s RAP team uses a couple of different methods, typically a handheld radiation detectors to scan the crowd, or they circle the area with super-sensitive, vehicle-mounted radiation detectors.

They don't just do planned events either, the RAP team are often called in as first responders for any incident in the Southwest involving radiological materials. Whether it be something you found in you Grandpa's basement with radioactive markings; industrial accidents; or an accident involving vehicles transporting radioactive material.

They protect political conventions (they were at the Republican and Democratic national conventions last year), presidential inaugurations and many other major sporting events.

Kind of makes you think, though, what the heck was you Grandpa doing in that basement?

Divergent’s Supercar Advances Auto Tech

Two years ago, Divergent 3D gave us a first look at its 3D-printed supercar, the Blade. This year, it was back on the scene and turning heads in Vegas at CES 2017.

Divergent is pushing future car technology future, but not in a way that those silly EVs and autonomous cars are.

The proof-of-concept car is meant to prove the viability of 3D printing technology being used to manufacture cars. Now, we've seen 3D printed cars before, and few of them have matched Divergent's cool factor. The Strati was cool, but in more of a dune buggy-inspired concept. 

Blade was made using quad-laser direct metal laser sintering. The technology allows its engineers to customize and optimize the car's components, which makes for a stronger chassis that only weighs 1,400, or about a third of a Tesla Model S. The chassis is actually a combination of 3D printed parts and carbon fiber tubing that gives it its industrial strength.

And it seems like the automotive industry has taken notice.

According to, Peugeot recently entered a strategic partnership with Divergent. The partnership with not only help the French automobile manufacturer optimize it's manufacturing processes, and build lighter and safer cars, but it will help make Divergent's technology more mainstream.

This is Engineering By Design with David Mantey.

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