It is inspiring to see the leaps and bounds that additive manufacturing has made in recent years. In the automotive industry especially, the evolution of additive manufacturing is apparent, transitioning from an experimental early prototyping process to a full prototyping and even production technology. 3D printing giant 3D Systems has been along for the ride—often behind the proverbial wheel—showing us the full automotive potential of its AM systems.
Recently, the company revealed an expansion of its automotive applications, instigated through collaborations with New Zealand-based Rodin Cars and Stewart-Haas Racing. The two customers are leveraging 3D Systems’ AM platforms to improve the performance of their respective vehicles through prototyping and production. Both parties have benefited from faster turnaround times and reduced costs in their automotive workflows.
Rodin Cars is a manufacturer of high-performance open-wheel track cars that prides itself on making its cars on-site to ensure 100% self sufficiency. The company builds its high-performance vehicles at its state-of-the-art facility in North Canterbury, New Zealand, which houses a broad range of machinery, as well 6km of test tracks and training center.
Among the technologies used to produce its track-cars are 3D System’s direct metal printing (DMP), selective laser sintering (SLS) and stereolithography (SLA) processes. The three technologies have enabled the car producer to design, develop and build optimized parts for its open-wheel cars.
“The extreme conditions of track racing leave no room for error,” said David Dicker, the founder of Rodin Cars. “Many components that we manufacture in-house have geometrical complexities that only 3D printing can provide. What we’re able to accomplish through the breadth of solutions offered by 3D Systems’ printers is second to none, providing build-speed and design advantages that are hard to match.”
Rodin Cars has found a number of applications for its in-house 3D printing systems. For instance, the sPro 230 SLS system is used to manufacture production parts, while the ProX 800 SLA 3D prints tooling for carbon fiber forms using 3D Systems’ Accura Bluestone material and the ProX DMP 320 metal 3D printer for producing titanium parts for exhaust collectors, mufflers, uprights, hubs, and mount brackets.
The various 3D printing technologies that Rodin Cars employs have enabled it to create full-size prototypes and a number of production components for its vehicles, without the need for costly and labour intensive tooling. As Dicker highlighted, the technology has also unlocked opportunities for producing complex design concepts, as well as lighter weight metal parts.
Stewart-Haas Racing is an American racing team, co-owned by NASCAR champion Tony Stewart and Haas Automation founder Gene Haas, that has won no less than 12 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races in 2018. The racing team has leveraged 3D Systems’ technologies to improve its vehicle performance and, crucially, speed.
The team has utilized 3D scanning in combination with 3D Systems’ Geomagic Wrap reverse engineering software and ProX 800 3D printer to produce aerodynamic components for its race car development and wind tunnel testing. The software collects scan data from the car components, processes them and generates STL files for shape deviation comparison. 3D Systems’ Sprint software is then used to prepare and optimize the CAD data for 3D printing on the ProX 800 machine. The SLA 3D printer is mainly used to print large parts out of Accura 25 material.
“Everything we do is related to putting more speed into our cars,” said Reneau Van Landingham, aerodynamic design group manager at Stewart-Haas Racing. “Our most valuable asset is time. The faster we can develop concepts that improve the performance of our cars on the track, the better. The ProX 800 plays a big role in this effort because it enables us to produce parts efficiently and accurately during this development process.”
“3D Systems’ customer-specific, application driven approach is advancing the adoption of digital manufacturing,” added Vyomesh Joshi, the president and CEO of 3D Systems. “Our innovative materials and broad portfolio of hardware and software allows manufacturers to seamlessly integrate 3D printing into their production workflows. Our world-class experience and expertise, in collaboration with our industry-leading automotive customers, results in solutions that help them design and produce parts quickly, significantly reduce the product development cycle, drive down cost, and stay ahead of the competition.”