Electric Superbike Twente, a Dutch developer of electric motorcycles, recently teamed up with local AM company K3D to develop one of the first metal 3D printed components for the racing industry. The part in question is an electric motor cooling shell for the company’s second generation Superbike.
When producing the first generation Electric Superbike in 2018, Electric Superbike Twente relied on a laborious process to create the cooling shell that involved multiple components that were challenging to machine. By using turning and milling processes for the part, the Dutch company needed to use a large amount of material, which ultimately resulted in a part that was too heavy. Moreover, because of the thicker wall tolerances of the machining process, the part’s water cooling performance left much to be desired.
“Because of the turning process, the wall thickness needed to be higher that optimal, and we were unable to cool the electric motor as [efficiently] as possible,” said Feitse Krekt, Technical Manager of this years Electric Superbike Twente team. “Therefore we had less power than desired and sometimes needed to slow down to not overheat the electric motor.”
3D printing, as it turned out, could offer a solution for second generation of the Superbike, creating the opportunity to redesign and improve on the existing electric motor cooling shell. “With this years, second generation superbike we wanted to optimize and redesign as much parts as possible,” Krekt added. “We saw that the cooling shell could be improved a lot by making use of additive manufacturing, for its advantages in functional integration and light-weight production. When looking for a production partner, we found K3D.”
An expert in metal AM, K3D works with members of Dutch industry to offer them access to metal 3D printing technologies, offering training courses and guidance. In this case, the company was approached by Electric Superbike Twente to help redesign the cooling component for metal AM.
“We were contacted by Electric Superbike Twente in the early stage of their design phase, which gave us the opportunity to guide them in their design for additive manufacturing” said Jaap Bulsink, CTO of K3D. “We are very experienced with 3D metal printing and are always looking for opportunities to share this knowledge, especially when we are able to do so in such an awesome project as building an electric superbike.”
The design flexibility afforded by metal 3D printing enabled K3D and Twente to completely redesign the cooling part, integrating thinner walls and internal channels for the water coolant. Ultimately, the 3D printed part not only offered a superior cooling performance, but was significantly lighter than its machined counterpart.
“The part has an optimal cooling performance due to the thin walled design with internal channels on the right spot,” added Bulsink. “This was only possible with 3D metal printing where you have optimal freedom of design. On top of this, the part had been designed for minimal weight. The part was printed first time right and is very accurate and can be used directly without any post-processing.”
Notably, the 3D printed cooling shell is also significantly smaller than other similar components. According to Bulsink, while other cooling shells have been 3D printed for racing applications, Twente’s Superbike component is at least four times smaller.
The 3D printed part has now been delivered to Electric Superbike Twente, which will proceed with the racing bike’s assembly. Once assembly is completed, the team will test the second generation superbike with its new 3D printed cooling system. The new Superbike is expected to be unveiled on May 24, at the Kinepolis in Enschede, The Netherlands.