On Oct. 6, 2013, teams from all over the world flocked to Darwin, Australia, for the start of a cross-country race. This is more than simply an event to test driving skills as they race across one of the world’s harshest continents. This race put 43 teams from 24 different countries up against each other using only solar and kinetic energy to race 3000km in vehicles that the teams both designed and built.
When the University of Minnesota’s solar vehicle team rolled up to the starting line, they did so in style with all the creature comforts we have come to expect out of our daily drivers. By that of course, I mean it has two seats AND a radio…that and a number of FDM 3D printed parts built on Stratasys Fortus 3D Printers!
FDM is short for Fused Deposition Modeling , Stratasys’ patented 3D printing technology designed for low volume tooling and rugged end use parts. The use of FDM technology enabled materials to be incorporated that had the exact properties required to make the vehicle a shining success.
Like quite a few of the teams competing this year, the University of Minnesota team is made up of students. These students have done all of the design, engineering, administration, logistics, and financial work to take this vehicle from an idea to the end of the race. This includes producing the components. Since they are only making one vehicle of this particular design, additive manufacturing fits in very well. Through additive manufacturing, they were able to eliminate the need for much of the tooling, save weight, as well as incorporate some really complex parts without adding much cost.
The group used ABS-M30 3D printing material for much of the venting because of its lightweight properties, low cost, and ease of use. When it came to some of the areas with higher performance requirements, they opted for ULTEM™ 9085 resin. By using all of the tools at their disposal, they were able to bring the vehicle from concept to reality (and from Minnesota to Australia) in just under a year. The team used Stratasys FDM 3D printing in ducts, vents, fairings, driver display components, battery cells, and motor assembly.
When asked why the team chose FDM, Neil Dencklau, Project Lead for the group stated, “FDM has changed the way we look at the design and production challenges on this project. One of the best examples is how we designed and assembled the motors, specifically how do you glue 80 magnets to the inside of a steel ring with any level of precision? Using ULTEM we were able to make an assembly jig that could be glued into the rotor, be strong enough to withstand the repulsive forces of the magnets while the parts were baked, and be light enough to be left in serving as an aerodynamic component once the parts were done. One of my favorite FDM components on the car would be the ducting system for battery cooling. FDM allowed us to put the ducts right next to the batteries and still have a clean flow.”
The University of Minnesota is not alone in the work they are doing with additive manufacturing. Universities, K-12 schools, and businesses all over the world are constantly finding new ways to use additive manufacturing or 3D printing to be more productive and more successful in the challenges they face.