Remember when we told you that life-size 3D printing was a thing? Apparently, it’s already a lot more than that. Or at least it’s a lot more than life-size. In an epic-size project, physicist Sterling Backus has been working on a life-size, functional and mostly 3D printed Lamborghini Aventador in his own backyard. His goal – described in the dedicated Facebook page – is to show his kid, and kids in general, how cool science and engineering are, demonstrating the power of technology.
The car is not entirely 3D printed of course, however, many parts are and the project would certainly not have been possible or even remotely affordable if affordable 3D printing systems had not been available. “My son asked if we could build it,” Sterling recalls. “His inspiration – he says – came from racing video game Forza Horizon 3. I have always wanted a supercar, so it did not take much asking.”
As you can see in these photos, the project is quite far along. And while it does show that one skilled enough person could build a Lamborghini in their own backyard, there is a lot more to it. Backus and his son used many other manufacturing processes along with 3D printing, including carbon fiber vacuum infusion and encapsulation, CNC machining (using a mill and lathe from Backus’ work), waterjet cutting for door hinges and suspension parts. It is all part of an amazing learning experience. “We even put encapsulated parts out in the summer sun for more than 6 months here in Colorado’s intense sunlight for a science experiment to see if they would hold up. They did, of course,” Sterling says.
Full STEAM ahead
Apart from the chassis, the engine, transaxle, and other structural parts (such as the door inner structure, etc.) the entire body of the car was 3D printed using a total of 220 spools of thermoplastics including PLA for the carbon fiber encapsulated parts. ASA and ABS were used for the non-encapsulated parts, such as headlight buckets and tail light housings. PETG was used for the running rear light and tail light lenses. CF nylon was used for the shifter gate. The PLA was printed using a Creality CR-10S and Creality CR-105S 3D printers, while the tougher materials were printed on a $699 QIDI Xpro system. At least 50 spools went to “mistakes” but it was all part of the experience.
“We decided that we would use advanced technology to build the car, However, we needed to do it on the cheap,” Backus reveals. “This led us to research different automotive construction techniques. We wanted the car to be safe, so we decided on steel for the frame. In the end, after choosing 3D printing for most of the body of the car, we needed it to be strong.” There were very few choices for materials that could stand the heat and stresses a car body would see so Sterling turned to YouTube. “I saw a youtube video on carbon fiber skinning, and vacuum molding which led us to carbon fiber encapsulation of the 3D printed parts,” he recalls. “After all this, our objective became showing the car off at the local schools as a STEAM project, to get kids interested in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math.”
All body panels, headlights, taillights, interior parts, and air vents are 3D printed. Most are encapsulated in carbon fiber, or carbon fiber kevlar. The 3D printed parts were designed in SolidWorks while many other parts were sourced from a combination of eBay, Wilwood brakes, Holley Dominator ECU and some Lamborghini parts suppliers. “Some Lamborghini parts are not that expensive, or are used,” Backus says.
Even the car’s frame is original. Backus, a physicist by trade, and a self-described “gear-head” since age 12, designed it from scratch. The engine is an LS1 from a 2003 Corvette, mated to an inverted Porsche 911 transaxle, with a kit from Kennedy Engineering. Backus and his son have been working on this project for 1 year and four months. They try to work on it at least one hour every day for consistency.
A $20K 3D printed Lamborghini Aventador
He invested about $20 thousand into it, which does not seem that much for a Lamborghini – even one powered by a Corvette engine. Which brings up the issue of copyright concerns. How does Lamborghini – a company that has embraced 3D printing to some extent – feel about people making a 3D printed Lamborghini Aventador in their backyards? Clearly, this is a personal project, which will likely not have a Lamborghini logo or other clear references to the Italian supercar brand. “The parts’ design is based on the Lamborghini Aventador, but we have changed each panel significantly, to add our design flair,” Backus says. “In addition, no molds are made, and none are for sale. This is a one only project, and not for sale.”
It is a learning experience and an incredible one, something that could truly inspire a generation of kids to get into engineering, science and additive manufacturing, learning about the future of advanced manufacturing while having a lot of fun. Can anyone do this at home? What skills does one need to carry out such a huge project?
“It’s a good question, Backus says. “[I think that] the most important skill is the ability to learn, and make mistakes. We have made many mistakes and ‘YouTube University’ has really helped us through. My own training as a physicist, love for cars, engineering, and passion were definitely helpful as well.” Probably only a handful of people in the world would be able to build something this complex, but without affordable 3D printing, no one could, and certainly not for $20K.