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Formula Student Team Turns to 3D Printing to Rapidly Produce End-Use Race Car Parts

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There’s been an increase in recent years of student racing teams turning to 3D printing to help augment their cars before they hit the track. The annual Formula Student competition, held by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in the UK, promotes engineering and pits university student teams from around the world against each other to design, build, test, and race small-scale formula style racing cars.

Forty industrial engineers from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) make up the ETSEIB Motorsport team, which has been designing Formula-style race vehicles for 10 consecutive years. For the team’s first four years in competition they manufactured combustion cars, but have built electric cars ever since.

This year the team, one of the most experienced in the competition, wanted to ramp up its workflow, and called on Barcelona-based BCN3D Technologies, and its large, dual-extruder Sigmax desktop 3D printer, for assistance.

BCN3D’s Technologies Marketing Manager Marc Felis tells 3DPrint.com that the company recently “published an interesting use case in collaboration with ETSEIB Motorsport Formula Student about how 3D printing is helping them to manufacture end-use part that are directly assembled on the formula car itself and for design validation during the design phase.”

The team has since added FFF desktop 3D printing into its daily operations, which has definitely sped up their design and fabrication processes for end-use pieces that are mounted on the car, as well as lowered their lead times and costs. Thanks to having the open source Sigmax in-house, the team’s design validation stage has improved – the engineers can lower validation and iteration times by 3D printing their CAD designs overnight. This means that the ETSEIB Motorsport team does not have to depend on external suppliers for parts fabrication anymore, so they can spend more of their time thinking up new concepts and ideas.

3D printing also allows the team to 3D print parts, like brake ducts, cable ties, and the steering wheel, that are directly mounted on the race car; the engineers even 3D printed molds in order to make carbon fiber pieces. Bringing in the Sigmax 3D printer from BCN3D has allowed the team to enjoy greater efficiency in end-use part iterations and optimize their production into a more straightforward workflow.

(L-R) 3D printed cooling brake duct assembled and carbon fiber steering wheel made from a 3D printed mold.

The Sigmax was selected because of its large 420 x 297 x 210 mm print volume, which makes it possible to print out wide parts. The team could easily fit certain parts of the car on the print platform, and they especially enjoyed the 3D printer’s Independent Dual Extruder (IDEX) system and mirror mode, which allowed them to print out symmetrical pieces, like the cooling duct for the brake disc, at the same time. This is definitely an advantage when it comes to 3D printing in the automotive field, as many of the components are symmetrical.

ETSEIB Motorsport formula racing car.

The ETSEIB Motorsport team also appreciated the ability to choose suitable hotends from the BCN3D family for different components. For instance, 0.4mm nozzles were used to fabricate small parts that required plenty of precision, while larger pieces that would undergo plenty of mechanical stresses and vibrations needed bigger nozzles, like 0.8mm or 1.0mm. Nylon was used to print out the parts that needed to hold up under higher temperatures.

Parts were able to be 3D printed on the desktop Sigmax at a lower cost, which reduced overall costs for the car. 3D printing allowed the team to save thousands of euros while developing their race car, and on an even better note, their initial investment for the Sigmax 3D printer was paid back in full during the first few months of use.

In addition, the engineers saved time by switching from conventional methods of manufacturing to 3D printing, which was especially helpful when designing complex components and parts.

3DPrint.com wishes the ETSEIB Motorsport Formula Student team the best of luck at the competition, which is coming up in July.

Discuss this story and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below. 

[Images provided by BCN3D]

 

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