Why Giving Students Access to Advanced SLS 3D Printing Is the Best Thing Since Sliced Bread


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Exceeding traditional engineering limitations is a bread and butter of additive manufacturing. But why is giving students access to the most advanced SLS technology is the best thing since sliced bread?

Formula Student is a racing league that pushes the limits of the volunteer teams to extreme engineering feats. Teams from universities all around the world design and build electric, all-wheel-drive, carbon-fiber monocoque race cars to compete in an array of challenges. The Team based out of Hochschule Munich, MunicHMotorsport, shared some of their story and how Additive manufacture using the Sinterit Lisa Pro has enabled them to exceed traditional engineering limitations.

The competition has multiple facets, of course, there are speed and racing challenges, but also points awarded for maximum efficiency and safety. Designers are encouraged to develop innovative solutions that address these conflicting challenges.

The Team is broken up into subgroups that are responsible for different aspects of the car. The engineering team is split into Chassis, Aerodynamics, Suspension, Electronics, and other groups. Each team has its own considerations and sometimes bridging the gaps between each domain can cause difficulties.

From education project to a real world engineering team

Formula Student, as the name implies, means the team is made up of student volunteers and funded by donations and sponsorships, as such, frugality is a key design principle for many subsystems. When the team can’t get sponsorship for parts it becomes a debate whether to buy off-the-shelf components using their limited budget or to custom make a solution from their available resources.

Just like any design competition, MunicHMotorsport needs to optimize every system and structure on board. Weight saving is one obvious goal but improving safety, driver ergonomics, driving dynamics all contribute to higher points in the competition. Many of these optimization problems require heavily customized solutions, which are generally directly conflicting with the financial limitations of the team.

All of those actions are similar to the task of engineering teams working for the most notable sports car “stables”. Using the best-in-class tools, and advanced additive manufacturing solutions helps students step into engineers’ shoes.

How the most accessible AM technology could help?

The design flexibility of additive manufacturing, with the same quality and near isotropic performance of industrial systems, has been the go-to solution for mating solutions from different teams. A strong example is the cable gland on the chassis. As shown below, the gland allows cables and hoses to pass through the wall of the carbon fiber chassis, The chassis team, suspension team, and electrical team had their own inputs to the design and the 3D Printed solution is able to cater to all requirements. The Sinterit Lisa Pro is a well-balanced solution to many of these problems.

Just like many real-world engineering problems, cost is a big decider for the team. Many of their parts need to be custom made, a normally costly process that would require outsourcing talent from machinists or companies who own expensive equipment. By maximizing the suite of parts made in-house on the Sinterit Lisa, they are able to minimize costs of parts, and if the design requires future changes they can easily implement revised versions.

Over the years the number of 3d printed parts has increased, the value added by using 3DP parts is self-evident, and now that the team has access to the low-cost Sinterit system, they can afford to develop more parts. The effective number of 3DP parts is actually much higher when considering the part count reduction achieved with SLS. The part shown below, “the EE module carrier”, is evidence of this part count reduction. This part count reduction results in decreased total weight, improved reliability, and decreased manufacturing difficulty.

The current car, the PWeX.20, has well over 100 parts 3d printed

Faster, more efficient and cost effective problem solver

With the addition of in-house SLS capabilities, MunicHMotorsport has been able to solve problems faster and more cost-effectively than before. Part count reduction and weight savings add to the reliability and performance of their car. Design freedom has boosted team cohesion and enabled the integration of solutions from different teams. We look forward to hearing the results of the upcoming competitions and wish the team luck in their engineering endeavors.

The educational must-have and the competitive edge of real world engineering

When it comes to choosing an additive manufacturing solution for educational purposes, two words are crucial: “open parameters”. Printers that are limited in adjustable options, or work in a very closed environment will sooner or later share the fate of photocopiers littering university corridors. They may be fast, easy to operate or extremely clean, but they will lack the opportunity to invent something new, never done before or to just learn the process and understand it. It is like walking up the mountain trail. You can use the mountaineering app which will lead you from one point to another. But it is wiser to have a printed map, compass and the ability to use them.

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