“In a project with ambitious technical challenges you move much faster if you can rely on a partner with in-depth knowledge of the manufacturing process. It was great to have a close collaboration with the Materialise design engineers”, Joris Aerts, Team Leader, Formula Group T
Following the success of the Areion (the world’s first “3D Printed” race car) in 2012, the Formula Group T team developed and raced a brand new car for the 2013 season, Eve. Just like her predecessor, Eve made a strong statement about the power of advanced technologies. Working together with the Design and Engineering team at Materialise, Formula Group T took 3D Printing to the next level once more, using the freedom of design to solve technical challenges which only 3D Printing can truly take on.
Design and Engineering for 3D Printing: An Unconventional Discipline
As with any new project, it is important to know how the manufacturing method you are using works, and its limitations, before you start the design process. Since 3D Printing technologies are relatively new, not many engineers are used to designing for them and therefore, are not always getting the most out of the process. Moreover, the design freedom allowed by 3D Printing enables technical issues to be solved in unconventional ways. Because of this, Formula Group T turned to the Materialise Design and Engineering Team for help with solving a number of technical challenges they faced. These are some of them:
Air Intake for Cooling Circuit
Thanks to the freedom of design enabled by 3D Printing, this air intake was created to efficiently capture fresh air and swiftly guide it to the radiator of EVE’s cooling circuit. EVE’s logo was integrated in the design of the front grill and the names of all the Formula Group T team members were integrated on the back surface.
Air Duct for Air-Cooled Brakes
To keep the brakes of EVE at the right temperature during race conditions, Formula Group T and the Materialise Engineering team created an air duct to force an extra stream of air in their direction. Lightweight ribs and experimental patterns on the surfaces were also engineered to maximize the strength of the part.
Circuit Board Housing
With 3D Printing, extra complexity comes at no extra cost. This freedom was used in the design of a two-piece, made-to-measure, 3D-printed housing for the circuit board of the car. The housing kept all of EVE’s state-of-the-art electronics perfectly in place while guaranteeing an ideal fit to the chassis of the car. The design also allowed the box to be easily opened so that adjustments could be made without any hassle. Finally, with the integrated O-ring, the housing was fully splash proof.
As they were driving with a tailor-made transmission, Formula Group T also required tailor-made dust covers to fit on the drive shafts in the locations where the shafts emerged from the transmission’s housing. These covers were needed to prevent dirt from entering the gearbox and thanks to the 3D Printing material TPU 92A-1, it was possible to manufacture high-performing flexible parts that got the job done.
Master Switch Cover
The master switch of EVE was mounted on the instrument panel and needed to be covered and sealed at the back in order to prevent dust and water from reaching the electrical circuit. This was crucial for making the instrument panel safe to operate. The master switch cover was 3D printed in the durable elastic material TPU 92A-1.
Battery Stacking System
How do you keep 360 Lithium-ion cells in position, allow them to be cooled by air flow and make it easy to extend the amount of cells? The Materialise Engineering Team and Formula Group T teams found a way to make this all possible by designing a stacking system that consisted open-structured frames built in FDM technology.
Steering Wheel Column Gear Box
The electronic differential of EVE, an electric motor controller that allows each of the driving wheels to rotate at different speeds, needs to be fed with info from a sensor that measures the rotation angle of the steering wheel. To do this, a 3D Printed gear box was fitted to the steering wheel column that passed the wheel’s rotation to this sensor. Building a functional assembly like this in one piece was only possible thanks to Laser Sintering technology. For this part the work, it was important for the Materialise Engineering team to design a part with enough clearance between moving parts, which allowed for the removal of the powder during the production process.