Last week we told you that Rodin Cars, a New Zealand-based bespoke supercar manufacturer (that we first told you about in 2018), acquired a massive Factory 500 from 3D Systems. Now we can reveal what that machine is going to be used for (or at least one of the biggest applications for it): parts for its soon-to-be-released hypercar, the Rodin FZero, including a first-of-its-kind 8-speed sequential 3D printed gearbox with a hydraulically controlled differential
Rodin Cars designs and builds completely bespoke single-seat, open-wheel high-performance vehicles that are designed to be faster than contemporary Formula 1 cars. Among the hundreds of metal parts Rodin Cars is additively manufacturing for the Rodin FZero, they are producing the sequential gearbox as a completely custom component can only be produced using additive manufacturing.
“3D printing allows us to design and create components otherwise unachievable using traditional methods of manufacturing,” said David Dicker, founder, Rodin Cars. “With the Rodin FZERO gearbox, we had specific criteria we wanted to meet in terms of weight and durability. Because of the size and quality required for such a large component, it was only possible to print it on 3D Systems’ DMP Factory 500 machine. We couldn’t source another AM supplier who was able to offer a similar solution for our needs – the print quality, volume capacity, testing facilities in Leuven, and continued technological support.”
A gearbox created using traditional manufacturing methods would be cast out of magnesium or machined from billet material. The resulting component would not only be slow to produce, but heavier and would not withstand the rigors presented by the track. Rodin Cars wanted to flip this design into a true innovation – the ultimate component produced from 3D printed Titanium that would be compact, light, strong, and durable.
Rodin Cars released their first high-performance track car – the Rodin FZed – in 2019 with a gearbox designed by Ricardo, a UK-based engineering firm. For the new Rodin FZero, Rodin Cars envisioned a brand new gearbox with specific gear ratios and differential produced from Titanium to enhance the exotic reputation of this new high-performance vehicle. The 18-month design process – a collaboration between Rodin Cars for the casings and Ricardo for the internals – resulted in an unmatched gearbox with a hydraulically controlled differential that can only be produced using additive manufacturing due to its ability to directly 3D-print the necessary internal galleries and thin-wall bearing and mount structures. Rodin Cars’ engineers worked alongside members of 3D Systems’ Application Innovation Group (AIG) in Littleton, Colorado, and Leuven, Belgium to bring this unique design to life.
The application engineers that comprise 3D Systems’ AIG possess deep expertise not only in additive manufacturing but in high-value applications across a variety of industries – including motorsports. The teams’ engineering know-how combined with 3D Systems’ industry-leading direct metal printing (DMP) technology helped facilitate the production of the new gearbox that includes 2mm thick walls and a total weight of 68 kilograms. The application engineers in Littleton optimized the gearbox print design details for additive manufacturing at the large scale achievable on the DMP Factory 500 and produced the first part on its DMP Factory 500 in Leuven. This industry-leading solution – featuring a vacuum chamber to ensure the lowest O2 content – enables the production of seamless large parts as large as 500mm x 500mm x 500mm. This results in the highest surface quality for metal 3D printed parts with outstanding material properties. 3D Systems’ AIG has successfully completed the technology transfer to Rodin Cars for full production. Rodin Cars recently installed a DMP Factory 500 on-site at its newly expanded facility and will produce the gearbox, as well as hundreds of other bespoke parts, for the Rodin FZero.
In addition to 3D Systems’ DMP technology, Rodin Cars is also using the company’s selective laser sintering (SLS) technology for production parts and stereolithography (SLA) to produce tooling for carbon fiber forms.
“Additive manufacturing is enabling industry leaders to defy limitations and stand apart,” said Kevin Baughey, segment leader, transportation & motorsports, 3D Systems. “As a high technology, high-performance car constructor, Rodin Cars delivers unparalleled vehicles to their customers. This is a shining example of how additive manufacturing not only enables parts to be produced that couldn’t be created through conventional methods, it is also delivering a lighter, more durable, beautiful vehicle. It’s the blending of the art of design with the science of hyper-performance cars and motorsports.”