InMotion Electric Race Car Hits the Track for a Record-Breaking Run with Materialise and 3D Printed Titanium Y-Joints

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[Image: Gerlach Delissen, InMotion Automotive]

One area that we’ve witnessed really speeding up its use of 3D printing technology is on the racetrack, with big names like Nissan Motorsports, BMW, and McLaren Racing all racing to find customized, 3D printed solutions. Last summer, Materialise helped a student team from Hochscule Emden/Leer design and 3D print the frame for its screwdriver-powered car, and now the Belgium-based company is working on a race car with another student team.

InMotion is made up of engineering students from the Technical University of Eindhoven (TU/e), and the team has set some pretty major goals for its electric race car – compete in the legendary, difficult 24 Hours of Le Mans race by 2019, after first breaking the electric-track record (set by Stefan Bellof in 1983) at the Nürburgring in Germany next year. InMotion is currently working with Materialise to design and 3D print titanium parts for its IM/e race car.

According to InMotion’s website, “We aim to drive faster than a Formula 1 car, but for 24 consecutive hours and with just half the fuel.”

The IM/e surrounded by the team at Zandvoort [Image: Dion De Bakker]

Talk about ambitious! The systems being tested on the IM/e, which is really a test platform, will eventually be transferred over to the completed IM01 race car, which will compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans race. Weight optimization is a big deal when you’re attempting to make the fastest electric car in the world, and InMotion decided to use lightweight titanium to produce 3D printed wishbones, or Y-joints, for the car’s suspension.

[Image: Gerlach Delissen, InMotion Automotive]

For the uninitiated, wishbones connect the uprights to the car’s chassis, and hold the wheels in place while also handling all the forces that the car is subjected to, so it’s a pretty important part. While titanium itself has a low specific weight, Materialise’s engineering team used its Materialise 3-matic software program to make the part that InMotion designed even lighter by filling its hollow cavities with a honeycomb structure; this allowed the part to be lighter weight without losing any load-bearing strength.

InMotion also wanted to avoid the use of support structures that would have to be removed manually after the printing process, as the team didn’t want the removal to add any last-minute difficulties to the fit of certain parts, like the IM/e’s suspension arms. The arms are connected to the uprights with spherical ball bearings, and it’s vital that the components have the proper fit.

“Thanks to our software, we can find a build orientation that allows us to print the part as a self-supporting structure, removing the need for a generated support structure,” Jannis Kranz, Design Engineer for Metal 3D Printing at Materialise, said in a case study. “It was a great challenge for our Metal Printing Factory in Bremen, but all in all, the lead time for the entire project was under one working week.”

As if the one-week turnaround at the Bremen factory wasn’t enough, Materialise’s software was able to deliver the part with the team’s desired precision as well.

InMotion Advisory Board Member Rogier de Rijk said, “The precise fit that was needed for the assembly of the suspension arms didn’t cause us any trouble. The accuracy was high: everything fit perfectly from the outset. Any small imperfection would have come up during assembly.”

After all of the years that InMotion has spent on research and development, and thanks to its collaboration with Materialise, the team’s electric race car is really starting to get some good results and attract attention, especially after its record-breaking circuit run earlier this month at Zandvoort, the largest and most prestigious racetrack in the Netherlands.

InMotion wanted to to break the record at Zandvoort to prepare for the 24 Hours of Le Mans competition. The IM/e, and team driver Beitske Visser, outperformed its own goal and smashed the previous electric lap time by a whopping 16 seconds, completing the circuit in just 1:48.371 and setting a new lap record.

[Image: InMotion]

“We’re incredibly excited by this result. It’s just one step closer to achieving our ultimate goal: completing the 24 hour race at Le Mans,” said Arthur van der Werf, InMotion’s Chief of Marketing and Communication. “The IM/e is an ideal testing ground for new technologies, and racing at Zandvoort is a great way to see what’s working and what needs to be changed.”

The Le Mans racetrack is tough, and the 24-hour race is challenging even for conventional race cars. But InMotion will continue testing its IM/e and IM01 race cars, with 3D printed wishbones, on more racetracks to keep fine-tuning the cars’ performances.

Materialise’s Stephanie Benoit wrote about InMotion in a blog post, “After the result at Zandvoort, we’re feeling confident about their chances!”

Check out the record-breaking run below:

https://www.facebook.com/tueinmotion/videos/1306175699499066/

Discuss in the Materialise forum at 3DPB.com.

 

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