As 3D printing technology inches its way into the manufacturing of all sorts of new products, few industries have adopted the technology as comprehensively as that of the automobile industry. In fact, when it comes to additive manufacturing, we’ve seen more innovation come about within the automobile space than any other area besides perhaps healthcare and aerospace. Large corporations such as Ford and Rolls Royce, professional race teams, and startups are all embracing the technology as a way to design complicated components, or in the case of Local Motors, entire vehicles which perform on par or better than their mass manufactured counterparts.
It seems like each week another new incredible application for 3D printing within the automobile space presents itself, and this week wasn’t any different.
We all know the benefits that 3D printing can have on the rapid iteration of key new design components. No one knows this more than the students making up the PRz Racing Team at the Rzeszów University of Technology in Rzeszów, Poland, who are competing in the Formula Student 2015 events taking place at Silverstone Circuit on July 9th-12th, and again in September in Italy. The events, which are organized by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, and SAE International, take place annually, drawing in students from around the globe, all vying for numerous prizes.
The team, which is made up of six male students and led by President Thomas Krzosek, were tasked at creating a vehicle which can compete in several categories including fuel use, accelerations, durability, and of course its performance around the Formula One track.
Weight as well as customization are clearly important factors which go into the production of such a vehicle. The team and PRZ Racing knew very well that 3D printing could play a crucial role in their vehicle’s development. In fact, before all was said and done, 3D printed parts would make up a significant part of their vehicle, namely its intake system.
If anyone knows anything about automobiles, then they understand the importance of a quality intake system. Fuel efficiency, horsepower, and torque can all see substantial improvements when the right system is implemented, and this is just where PRz Racing turned for its use of 3D printing as a means of production.
Because of the incredibly tight rules and regulations that they had to adhere to for the creation of their race car, they needed to come up with a custom intake, and what better way to do so than through 3D printing. According to Centrumdruku3d they started by printing out the various components of the intake using ABS thermoplastic on an FFF Jelwek printer. As you know, printing with thermoplastics does not always equate to a perfect end-product, and with an intake system like this, a perfect vacuum seal is necessary.
Instead of giving up, they instead looked at their options, ultimately turning towards NinjaFlex, a rubber-like printable material we have covered numerous times in the past. Using NinjaFlex and a Prusa Jelwek i3 FFF 3D printer, the team created numerous gaskets which were placed in between the other components before they were screwed together. The flexibility and rubber-like properties of the NinjaFlex gaskets created an air-tight seal between each component, producing that near-perfect vacuum seal required for the system.
As you can see by the images above and below, the gaskets fit perfectly between each part, and the team hopes that they will ultimately lead them to victory in six weeks at Silverstone.
Let’s hear your thoughts on this 3D printed intake. Discuss in the PRz Racing Team forum thread on 3DPB.com.