Greg Weaver – Divergent Technologies
Although the world of vehicles is ripe for inventions, dating back to seatbelts in 1885 and airbags in 1973 and the first self-parallel-parking car in 2006, the way cars are manufactured has remained essentially the same since the invention of the assembly line over 100 years ago.
Divergent Technologies is on a mission to upend traditional manufacturing and fundamentally change the way cars and other vehicles are made.
Since its inception, Divergent has been using 3D printing to make vehicle components lighter, stronger and in a more environmentally sustainable way. It’s “dematerializing auto manufacturing,” says Kevin Czinger, the company’s founder and chief executive officer.
In 2015, Divergent revealed the world’s first 3D-printed supercar, the Blade. Then in 2022 through its subsidiary, Czinger Vehicles, it smashed track records at Laguna Seca and Circuit of the Americas with its production hypercar, the 21C. However, a few years prior, with the company providing its scientists and engineers space to invent and innovate, Divergent needed someone to protect these creations and file patents.
That’s where Greg Weaver drove into the picture, hired in July 2019 as the company’s vice president of intellectual property and legal. In his words, his role consists of mining for inventions, as sometimes the inventors may not realize the significance of what they’ve created. Weaver’s job is to decide which ones are simply adding incremental value to the company and which ones could be foundational in Divergent’s areas of technology, and filing patents for the latter.
“I’m constantly interacting with the scientists and engineers here,” Weaver says. “I keep my ears and eyes open to anything that may be a potential invention and have value as a patent.”
The science of protecting patent portfolios
Divergent has over 550 patent filings, and in the past few years, Weaver has helped add over 200 granted patents to its portfolio.
He’s filing patents across the world, so he needs to keep track of not just the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office but patent offices with their own laws and procedures in four other countries.
“For each patent application, we file broad claims initially and wait for a rejection from the patent office saying your claims cover something already known,” Weaver explains. “If your initial claims are allowed by the patent office, you didn’t claim broadly enough. You left something on the table.”
He then amends the claims to overcome the rejections while ensuring he retains, if not increases, the value of the patent.
“Much of the skill of patent lawyers comes down to how well you draft patent claims. A single word choice, or even placement of a comma, can make or break a patent,” he laughs. “No pressure.”
Weaver’s experience in patent law comes in particularly handy here as Divergent shakes up the industry, especially with its new approach to manufacturing.
“We’re paving unexplored, brand-new roads in the automotive industry, and I’m here to ensure that our inventions and creativity are protected, not just in the U.S. but across the globe,” Weaver says. “We want to incite new creations, products and ways of doing things, but we also need to make sure that our team is getting the credit they deserve.”
Printing the car of the future
Traditional automobile manufacturing has had advancements, but, according to Weaver, the underlying method is fundamentally broken and massively capital-intensive.
For instance, traditional car manufacturing relies on fixtures, which are custom devices designed to hold and position parts during assembly. Every separate part needs its own custom fixture, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars and cannot be used for another part. In a car factory, the fixtures alone cost $100 million and can be used to manufacture only a single vehicle model.
Imagine if a company came out with a new sedan or SUV, but it doesn’t sell well. As Weaver explains, the company would be stuck making that model because they’d have poured millions into the custom manufacturing machinery. It would need five and seven years to produce the number of cars needed just to break even on the cost of the factory.
“Everyone just accepted things the way they were until Kevin Czinger decided to develop an entirely different way to manufacture vehicles,” Weaver says.
Czinger came up with a more flexible solution, aptly named the Divergent Adaptive Production System, which was used to create its hypercar, the 21C. The name stands for “21st century” because it was made by a manufacturing method fit for the 21st century.
DAPS uses 3D printing to make strong and light structures, which are then assembled in a proprietary robot cell that uses no fixtures. DAPS glues parts together to assemble larger structures, such as car frames. This means factories where parts are welded together in a miles-long assembly line can be replaced with a few DAPS robot cells, which each fit into a space of just 10-by-10 meters. Because it uses 3D printing and fixtureless assembly, DAPS can quickly transition from building one model of a vehicle to another.
The system can be used by any manufacturer. According to Weaver, DAPS can eliminate millions of dollars from start-up capital costs and means manufacturers won’t have to sell hundreds of thousands of vehicles to recoup the cost of the factory required to produce them.
“We’re pushing the boundaries of how and which cars can be made,” Weaver says. “We’re the only ones with a solution to the issue of how outdated and costly automotive manufacturing has become.”
Accelerating a diverse career
Weaver may have two decades of patent law experience, but Divergent is a new arena for him. Of course, he’s never shied away from challenges and his background in engineering certainly comes in handy.
He has a bachelor’s in physical engineering from the U.S. Air Force Academy and a master’s in electrical engineering from the U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology. Immediately after graduating, from 1995 to 1998, he was an electrical engineer with the U.S. Air Force. During this time, he worked with major defense contractors in the aerospace industry, such as Boeing and Northrop Grumman, to upgrade the avionics system of an advanced trainer aircraft.
He then spent three years as an assistant professor of Air Force ROTC at the University of Southern California, teaching courses in leadership and national security. He also supervised the curriculum for the Department of Aerospace Studies.
He decided on a change of pace and graduated from UCLA School of Law in 2004. He then spent the next 15 years immersed in IP law before starting at Divergent.
“It’s an honor and pleasure to work here alongside Divergent’s amazing team of engineers and scientists,” Weaver says. “We’re looking forward to an exciting future, and it’s exhilarating to be the first on a lot of things in this rapidly changing industry.”
View this feature in the Vanguard Summer IV 2023 Edition here.
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