A Faster, Lighter Race Car Thanks to 3D Printed Car Parts
Being at the forefront of product development, we see some incredible products and work with some amazing companies, but it's not often that a client utilizes so many of our services in one project. When our friends at AGENT 47 set out to make a technically advanced, street-legal track car from a 1970 Mustang Fastback, the engineering team was able to utilize many of the different services we offer here at GKN Additive (Forecast 3D).
This Mustang won 1st place at the NASA American Iron West Coast National Championships in 2014, kicking off a back-to-back-to-back 1st place national championship winning streak for AGENT 47. Another AGENT 47 car, which used this same set of 3D printing technologies for improved aerodynamics, won 1st place at the 2015 and 2016 National Championships.
A full vehicle scan of the base car allowed the development team to create solid models of the heat extracting hood vents, the Trans-Am inspired fender flares, and the chin spoiler - all of which were built as FDM master models and composite castings. A quick glance at the interior reveals a number of fully functional FDM parts, as well as urethane molded parts made with our proprietary urethane casting service, ProCast RTV.
List of Parts & 3D Printing Technologies Used
With 44 unique pieces created through our full service model shop, it's the lightest, most forward thinking vehicle we've ever had the pleasure to work on. The combined use of classic fabrication methodologies alongside modern additive manufacturing technologies allowed AGENT 47 to quickly test and rapidly produce improved iterations for every component of the vehicle in advance of each track event.
The 44 unique parts created for this amazing street-legal track car were developed using the following 3D printing technologies:
- FDM / Fused Deposition Modeling
- DMLS / Direct Metal Laser Sintering
- SLA / Stereolithography
- ProCast RTV Urethane Casting
- CNC Machining / Computer Numeric Control
Below, we’ll take a look at each of the parts we built using these different fabrication and additive manufacturing technologies.
FDM / Fused Deposition Modeling Parts
About FDM: Using engineering grade thermoplastics, our Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) process extrudes ABS plastic layer by layer, in a variety of thicknesses as fine as .005 in per layer. Known for its robustness, FDM produces accurate prototypes and end-use parts with exceptional tensile strength, flexibility, high melt points, UV resistance, and more. With incredible mechanical properties, these high performance parts are can be drilled, tapped, and threaded and won’t shrink or warp over time.
Why FDM: Parts manufactured using FDM can handle the high heat, chemical resistance, and vibration resistance present under the hood of this race car.
FDM Parts List:
- Airbox Mounting Brackets
- Air Box
- Brake Bias Knob/Warning Lights Panel
- Brake Cooling Scoops
- Center Console
- Door Bar Covers
- Door Pulls
- Front Bumper Tow Strap Keeper
- Hood Duct Airflow Diverter
- Hood Duct Splines
- Hood Vents
- Overflow Tank
- Rear Window Vent
- Shift Knob
DMLS / Direct Metal Laser Sintering Parts
About DMLS: Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS), also known as SLM (Selective Laser Melting), additively manufactures 99% dense metal prototypes and end-use parts. Producing fine featured parts with the strength and durability comparable to forged parts, the DMLS process is ideal for functional components requiring fast lead times and a design freedom that you would not get with traditional machining. In this process, dual 400-watt lasers micro-weld alloy powders at 30 micron layers as a bi-directional recoater blade deposits the next layer of alloy powder. With the unique dual laser features, this technology builds robust, metal prototypes and end-use parts with remarkably accurate features.
Why DMLS: This technology can print in convex shapes which was perfect for the serial plate we created with DMLS.
DMLS Parts List:
- Serial Plate
SLA / Stereolithography Parts
About SLA: The veteran of all additive technologies, Stereolithography is known as the original 3D printing process for producing rapid prototypes and show models since 1989. This process (commonly referred to as SLA) utilizes a UV laser that cures parts one layer at a time in a photo-reactive epoxy resin. Widely regarded as one of the most accurate of the additive technologies, the Stereolithography 3D printing process is a popular choice amongst engineers looking for fine detailed, small featured parts as well as extraordinarily large components.
Why SLA: We used SLA to make molds so that a carbon fiber specialist could create the custom carbon fiber fender and quarter flares, which were then hand-blended into existing body parts. SLA gave us a faster way to make a functional mold.
SLA Parts List:
- Molds for Fender Flares
ProCast RTV / Urethane Casting Parts
About ProCast RTV: For a short-run of functional and aesthetically pleasing production parts, ProCAST RTV - our proprietary Urethane Casting process - is the next step after a 3D printed prototype. The ProCAST process utilizes SLA, FDM, or PolyJET master model patterns to create the highest quality cast urethane parts available. Our ProCAST Urethane Casting process is ideal for higher quantities (from 10 to 1000) and creates parts in both color and texture, giving us the ability to create custom color matched parts with the texture pulled from the mold cavity for a repeatable quality output.
Why ProCast RTV: This technology allowed for easy replication so that AGENT 47 could have spare parts on hand. It was more cost effective and faster than comparable technologies for these specific parts.
ProCast RTV Parts List:
- Arm Rests
- Door Panel Tops
- Gauge Cluster Housing
- Control Panel
- Headlight Buckets/Ram Air Scoops
- Illuminated Switch Indicators
- Intake Hose
- Key Fobs
- Center Console
- Splitter Apron
- Splitter Mounting Hardware
- Starter Button
- Tail Light
- Wheel Caps
CNC Machining / Computer Numeric Control Parts
About CNC: This subtractive manufacturing method uses CNC mills, routers, and lathes. CNC Machining is often used when production grade materials are needed or to achieve tight tolerances to meet the most demanding requirements. Utilizing HAAS, Fadal, and C.R. Onsrud equipment with 3, 4, and 5-axis capabilities along with MasterCAM programming software, we produce top-quality prototypes and production runs in a wide variety of materials both standard and exotic.
Why CNC: CNC is the perfect technology for producing precise, but rugged metal or alloy material parts in full complex shapes, or weldable assembly components. Using CNC for the wing stanchions is a great example. The aerodynamic profile of the wing can apply hundreds of pounds of downforce at speed that needs to be transmitted directly to the rear tires for maximum grip. The wing itself needs to be elevated to catch the air stream from the roof of the car, but the stanchions themselves need to be extremely rigid, yet as lightweight and aerodynamically transparent as possible. Projects like this is where our 5 axis CNC capabilities can turn raw materials like aluminum into functional artwork.
CNC Parts List:
- Headrest Brackets
- Pedal Kit
- Wheel Centers
- Wing Stanchions