Some of today’s brightest engineers got their start designing race cars for Formula Student competitions, which is why our attention is always piqued when new case studies on the topic emerge. The most recent story is from Barcelona-based ETSEIB Motorsport, one of the most experienced Formula Student teams, which turned to local 3D printer manufacturer, BCN3D Technologies, for assistance on its latest race car model.
The student-led motorsport team, made up of 40 industrial engineers from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia, has been participating in Formula Student races for 10 consecutive years, demonstrating its ability to realize combustion cars and, in recent years, electric ones.
For this year’s competition, ETSEIB Motorsport relied on BCN3D’s Sigmax 3D printer to not only quickly prototype parts for its electric race car, but also to manufacture end-use components for the vehicle. Overall, 3D printing enabled the team to design and fabricate its Formula race car while significantly cutting back on costs and lead times. Crucially, having an in-house Sigmax 3D printer allowed them to improve their workflow all while staying in a very limited budget.
By utilizing BCN3D’s €4,470 FFF desktop 3D printing system, the engineering students overcame many challenges and saw a number of improvements in the race car’s development process. For one, the machine sped up the design validation stage significantly, as team members were able to print parts in-house overnight, rather than send them to an external supplier. This, in turn, provided them with more time to actually develop new ideas and design concepts for the race car.
Secondly, the 3D printer gave them the ability to produce end-use parts, such as brake ducts and wiring holders, in a cost and time-effective manner. ETSEIB also used 3D printing to fabricate molds for carbon fiber components which were mounted onto the car.
Finally—and perhaps the most significant benefit of all—BCN3D’s dual extruder printer allowed the engineers to reduce costs and lead times for the vehicle’s production. Specifically, the team saved thousands of euros by turning to desktop 3D printing rather than more traditional manufacturing methods or external 3D printing services.
Looking at the 3D printed cooling brake ducts, for instance, the team saw dramatic cut backs in developing the part using BCN3D’s desktop system instead of an external SLS supplier. Previously, the parts—essential components in cooling the brake discs of the front wheels—were iterated using an SLS service provider, which took 3-4 days to deliver the parts. It wasn’t just time, however, as the cost for producing three parts using this method was €280. With the BCN3D Sigmax printer, the team was able to iterate 12 parts in a single day, for only about €3.
This production efficiency is due in part to the Sigmax’s dual extruders and special mirror mode, which lets users 3D print symmetrical pieces at the same time. The printer’s large build volume (420mm x 297mm x 210 mm) and broad hotend family (with a range from 0.4 mm in diameter to 1 mm) also made it suitable for printing a range of different parts for the race car.
This year, ETSEIB Motorsport has already participated in three international Formula Student competitions—in Austria, Germany, and Spain—and has ranked in the top ten each time. At the Montmeló circuit in Barcelona, the team was even awarded the prize for “best Spanish team.”