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Students at University of Canterbury Create First 3D Printed Titanium Engine

The world’s first 3D-printed titanium internal combustion engine, designed and built by a team of University of Canterbury students, has been unveiled ahead of the international Eco-marathon competition in Singapore in March.

The engine and one-person car will compete in the 2018 Shell Eco-marathon Asia in Singapore (March 8-11) – a global event that attracts over 100 teams from tertiary institutes around the Asia-Pacific region.

Last year, with the University’s first entry in the international competition, the UC Eco-marathon team won the Design Award for their car, which was also a world-first, created out of 100% recyclable, vacuum-formed thermoplastic.

This year’s entry builds on the award-winning 2017 effort – it has the same thermoplastic body but with a new engine. In classic Kiwi reduce-reuse-recycle fashion, they’re reusing the car body but running it on carbon neutral, sustainable ethanol.

The Eco-marathon brings together young innovators from all over the world to find the most energy efficient car and to stimulate ideas about meeting the world’s energy needs in a responsible way.

The goal is not to break speed records or be the first to finish; the focus is on energy efficiency and environmental sustainability. The UC Eco-marathon car is designed to travel a distance of about 135km using only 330ml of fuel (which is the fuel tank’s capacity) or about 400km per litre of fuel.

UC’s Eco-marathon student team leader Robbie Murray says that after missing out on the final last year, the 2018 team is ready.

University of Canterbury Eco-car NWS block

“We’re excited to show our car to the world and put New Zealand on the map in Singapore this year,” Robbie says.

“Over the past year, the team has worked incredibly hard to produce not only a competitive vehicle, but one that demonstrates fresh and forward-thinking ideas. We want to define who we are as New Zealanders, and our drive to create bold and innovative solutions to the problems with which we are faced.”

He says that the team of UC Engineering students pushed themselves to do something entirely new with the car this year.

“Our main focus has been on the development of our own 3D-printed single-cylinder internal combustion engine. The development of our own engine purpose-built for efficiency offered a challenging yet rewarding goal.”

UC Design Engineer Bruce Robertson, of UC Mechanical Engineering, mentors the Eco-marathon students.

“Every year our UC Engineering students challenge themselves with ever more out-there ideas, and I’m incredibly proud that they’re so effective at turning them into reality,” Mr Robertson says.

Attending the launch event, UC Engineering alumnus Owen Hey, Wells General Manager from Shell New Zealand, says he is delighted with how the UC Eco-marathon team are embracing the Shell Eco-marathon challenge.

“Watching the students develop the car over the last 12 months, I’ve been amazed with their bold ideas and their determination to push the boundaries – this has led to them achieving two world-firsts within their first two years of competition. The first 100% recyclable thermoplastic car last year and this year the first 3D-printed titanium engine,” Mr Hey says.

“It has been a privilege to be able to support and advise the team. And I can tell you that you can definitely teach an old dog new tricks because I learnt plenty from the team along the way, too.”

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