Additive ManufacturingAutomotive AMElectric Vehicles

BLT unveils 3D printed brake calipers for XPeng Motors

The Chinese automotive company is at the forefront of smart EVs, for today and tomorrow

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Leading metal AM company BLT was pivotal in the front-end design and printing of calipers and caliper brackets for XPeng Motors and its subsidiary XPENG AEROHT. The collaboration with the leading Chinese smart EV company and its subsidiary developing eVTOL cars began in 2022 and was made public just recently.

From the initial design phase, BLT introduced additive manufacturing principles, meticulously considering customer demands for product performance, estimated weight, and visual aesthetics, providing a holistic structural-aesthetic solution for the components. The calipers and caliper brackets, printed using self-produced Ti-6Al-4V powders, feature a combination of curved surfaces, topological structures, and lattice grids. This approach ensures structural strength and performance and achieves a remarkable weight reduction of over 30%. It marks a significant leap forward in addressing both functional and design aspirations.

For BLT, metal 3D Printing Technology is finding key applications in the automotive sector, notably in innovative design, R&D prototyping, small-batch production, customized manufacturing, and spare parts. However, its journey towards industrial-scale application encounters various challenges, including limitations in producing large components, ensuring consistency in mass production, enhancing production efficiency, and managing production costs.

BLT unveiled 3D printed brake calipers for XPENG Motors, a Chinese automotive company at the forefront of smart EVs, for today and tomorrow
BLT’s first design for 3D printed brake calipers used by XPENG Motors. This is the original design from 2022.

Headquartered in Guangzhou, China (with offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Silicon Valley, San Diego and Amsterdam) XPENG is a leading Chinese Smart EV company that designs, develops, manufactures, and markets Smart EVs that appeal to the large and growing base of technology-savvy middle-class consumers. Its mission is to drive Smart EV transformation with technology, shaping the mobility experience of the future. To optimize its customers’ mobility experience, XPENG develops in-house its full-stack advanced driver-assistance system technology and in-car intelligent operating system, as well as core vehicle systems including the powertrain and the electrical/electronic architecture.

The Company’s Smart EVs are mainly manufactured at its plants in Zhaoqing and Guangzhou, Guangdong province. But Xpeng is not just a leader of today’s smart EVs. Through its subsidiary XPENG AEROHT, the company is developing the future of flying eVTOL Smart EVs as well. Last October, XPENG AEROHT presented its latest concept for the future of mobility; a “Land Aircraft Carrier” Modular Flying Car

This innovative vehicle boasts a unique two-part design, seamlessly switching between a terrestrial and aerial mode. The air module facilitates vertical takeoff for low-altitude flights, while the ground module ingeniously envelops the air module, allowing for ground transportation. XPENG AEROHT also showcased the latest eVTOL flying car design and highlighted a range of safety advancements.

The ground module of the modular flying car accommodates 4-5 passengers and features an extended-range hybrid power system that can provide multiple recharges for the air module. The vehicle is designed with a three-axle, six-wheel configuration, enabling 6×6 all-wheel drive and rear-wheel steering, offering impressive carrying capacity and off-road capabilities. Though the final design is still in development, it already boasts a futuristic, cyber-mechanical aesthetic, characterized by sharp lines and sleek surfaces, reminiscent of a “lunar exploration vehicle.”

BLT unveiled 3D printed brake calipers for XPENG Motors, a Chinese automotive company at the forefront of smart EVs, for today and tomorrow
XPENG AEROHT modular flying car’s ground module

The air module is a fully electric piloted aircraft capable of vertical takeoff and low-altitude flight. The product employs a distributed electric propulsion system to meet single-point failure safety requirements. It supports both manual and automatic driving modes, providing an accessible flying experience. The 270° panoramic two-person cockpit offers a vast field of view.

The design of XPENG AEROHT’s modular flying car simplifies travel. The automated system streamlines the separation and combination of the air and ground modules just like the Transformers, making flying more accessible and extending the user’s travel experience from the ground to the sky. Beyond personal use, the modular flying car holds potential for public services like emergency rescue, effectively catering to both public and private demands.

BLT unveiled 3D printed brake calipers for XPENG Motors, a Chinese automotive company at the forefront of smart EVs, for today and tomorrow
XPENG AEROHT modular flying car flight illustration

During XPENG Tech Day 2023, the latest eVTOL flying car design was revealed. This product continues to build upon the previous two years of innovation, with further refinements. Components such as manipulator arms, rotor systems, and other flight features can be effortlessly folded and stored within the vehicle. The design exudes a supercar style, featuring an intelligent cockpit that seamlessly switches between land and flight modes, adapting components like the steering wheel and dashboard according to the selected mode.

Considering policy, regulation, and application factors, the production and delivery of the modular flying car will precede the eVTOL flying car, aligning with industry trends.

Safety remains paramount in aviation. In addition to unveiling the latest flying car products, XPENG AEROHT showcased significant advancements in safety technology. The latest modular flying car’s air module features a 6-axis, 6-rotor configuration and incorporates two innovative reversible ducts. In case of rotor failure, the flight control system can make millisecond-level algorithm adjustments, ensuring the aircraft’s continued safe operation. This impressive capability, coupled with a thrust-to-weight ratio exceeding 2, enables the aircraft to maintain safe flight even after losing two of its six rotors, meeting the stringent safety standards required for civil aviation.

BLT unveiled 3D printed brake calipers for XPENG Motors, a Chinese automotive company at the forefront of smart EVs, for today and tomorrow
XPENG AEROHT eVTOL flying car product image

To enhance flying car safety, XPENG AEROHT developed the multi-parachute rescue system. Successfully tested at just 50 meters altitude in October, this breakthrough fills a global safety gap in ultra-low altitude rescues. The system’s maximum capacity is 1 ton and includes pioneering features like ultra-low altitude parachute opening and an embedded safety rescue control panel. It breaks industry standards by deploying parachutes at 50 meters instead of the usual 200+ meters, ensuring a safer touchdown at approximately 5 m/s, protecting passengers and the aircraft.

Flying cars are set to revolutionize transportation, aligning with growing demands for efficient and convenient mobility. These transformations not only meet public demand but are actively supported and encouraged by government policies. From January to June this year, numerous policies related to the low-altitude economy were released by central and local authorities in China, totaling over 120, reflecting the nation’s commitment to fostering aviation innovation.

XPENG AEROHT eVTOL flying car on-site demonstration

In October, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, along with the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Finance, and the Civil Aviation Administration, jointly unveiled the ‘Outline for the Development of Green Aviation Manufacturing (2023-2035)’. This forward-looking plan lays out a strategic timeline for the development of electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft (eVTOL).

Furthermore, in September, the Beijing Municipal Government’s ‘Plan for Promoting Innovation in Future Industries’ highlighted a focus on smart transportation, encouraging the convergence of various industrial technologies. These policy initiatives underscore a commitment to creating a thriving environment for the development of the flying car industry, ensuring the future of transportation remains dynamic, safe, and sustainable.

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Davide Sher

Since 2002, Davide has built up extensive experience as a technology journalist, market analyst and consultant for the additive manufacturing industry. Born in Milan, Italy, he spent 12 years in the United States, where he completed his studies at SUNY USB. As a journalist covering the tech and videogame industry for over 10 years, he began covering the AM industry in 2013, first as an international journalist and subsequently as a market analyst, focusing on the additive manufacturing industry and relative vertical markets. In 2016 he co-founded London-based VoxelMatters. Today the company publishes the leading news and insights websites and, as well as VoxelMatters Directory, the largest global directory of companies in the additive manufacturing industry.

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