AutomotiveMetal Additive Manufacturing

Ford installs largest metal 3D printed automotive part in Ken Block’s Hoonitruck

The component is a complexly structured intake manifold

Ken Block, a professional rally driver with the Hoonigan Racing Division (as well as the co-founder of DC Shoes), is preparing to rev up his latest ride: the Hoonitruck. The car, a suped-up old pick-up truck, is equipped with what is easily one of the most cutting edge intake manifolds on the road today. As you might have guessed, it’s 3D printed.

Block teamed up with the Ford Motor Company to transform a 1977 Ford F-150 into a performance rally ride with 914 horsepower, an aluminum body and a custom chassis manufactured by Detroit Speed Engineering.

Ford Hoonitruck

What’s got us most excited about the Hoonitruck, however, is the aforementioned 3D printed intake manifold, which sits above a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 engine, supplying air to from the turbochargers to the engine cylinders. The 3D printed intake—reportedly the largest metal 3D printed part installed in a working vehicle ever!—was brought to life through a global collaboration, with Ford engineers from the U.S. and Europe working together to come up with the best design for the part.

The process began in the U.S., where a team of Ford Performance engineers ran performance simulations on the powertrain. Then, engineers in Europe worked to design the intake and perform structural analysis on the part. Ford also partnered with the RWTH Aachen’s Digital Additive Production Institute to develop the complex part.

“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,” commented Raphael Koch, from the European team. “The manifold has a complex web like structure that couldn’t be made using traditional manufacturing methods. We ended up dissolving the support systems in acid.”

The part itself is 3D printed from aluminum using a Concept Laser machine and took five days to build. By using cutting-edge CAD software, the part was lightweighted and optimized for better performance—the final part weighs just 6 kg. As the largest metal 3D printed part to ever be installed in a working vehicle, it demonstrates how 3D printing can fulfill end-use and critical applications in the automotive sector.

“I think Ford did an exceptional job,” said Block about his suped-up rally truck. “This is my favourite part of the ‘Hoonitruck’. You could not have made it any other way.”

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Tess Boissonneault

Tess Boissonneault is a Montreal-based content writer and editor with five years of experience covering the additive manufacturing world. She has a particular interest in amplifying the voices of women working within the industry and is an avid follower of the ever-evolving AM sector. Tess holds a master's degree in Media Studies from the University of Amsterdam.

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