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Ken Block

Rev up your engines and get those motors racing as we explore the wilder side of 3D printing in the automotive industry. If you are a car and truck or racing enthusiast who likes it with an epic dose of flash and glam mixed in too, you have probably heard of professional rally driver Ken Block (famous for his Gymkhana videos and documentary) and perhaps even envied his wild drives around the world—most recently tail-spinning from snowy Sweden to the urban streets of Detroit.

Ford has been a major sponsor of Block’s, along with a host of other companies, also now contributing to his 1977 Ford 150 ‘Hoonitruck.’ Obviously, this is not your run-of-the-mill vintage truck. Block enjoys some luxuries like remote startup via a smartphone app, but here are some of the more hardcore features that may interest you, to include:

  • A twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 (like the GT Le Mans racing car)
  • 914 horsepower
  • 702 lb-ft torque
  • Toyo Proxes ST III tires with 20-inch Turbomac wheels

Now, Ford engineers have also employed 3D printing in one of their German facilities to make serious innovations for Block’s truck. It is important to note that along with all the usual benefits of 3D printing—affordability in production, speed in turnaround, ability to create and edit iterations without hiring or waiting on a middleman—the greatest gift is in being able to fabricate parts that simply were not possible before.

For this project, the Ford engineering team was behind the creation of a complex geometry that took five days to make. Using aluminum as their material of choice (just one example of the wide range of materials available today offering extreme strength and durability for industrial endeavors), they created the largest 3D printed piece made from such a material for functional use in a vehicle.

The intake manifold required a web like structure that could not have been manufactured with conventional techniques:

“We are fortunate to have access to incredible technology, but this was one project that pushed us—and our computing power—to the absolute limit,” said Raphael Koch, an advanced materials and processes engineer at Ford of Europe.

Historically, the technology and processes used in automobile manufacturing has been just as fascinating (if not more so) as the products themselves. That trend has never stopped, propelled even further today with the advent of 3D printing and additive manufacturing and its wide use in the auto industry; in fact, some cars are now being completely constructed along those lines.

The aluminum 3D printed intake manifold

Leading manufacturers like Ford have been using 3D printing since its inception, mainly for prototyping, and long before the mainstream even had a clue about technology that would come along and rock the world not only with a major cool factor, but also allowing for infinite possibilities in creation never before imagined. Check out more heart-stopping footage of Block below, putting his Mustang to the test in Colorado—speeding up to the top of Pike’s Peak, one of the states most famous ‘fourteeners.’

What do you think of this news? Let us know your thoughts! Join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com.

[Source: Car and Driver; Images: Car and Driver / Ford]
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