3D printing technology has given us guns, drugs, arms and robots -- but how would you like to print your own car?
That is what a team of engineers in Belgium have created -- a racer called the Areion. Developed as part of the Formula Student Challenge, the entire body of the vehicle was produced by the three-dimensional technology.
The challenge was to create a design and build a small but powerful single-seat race car. Judges then tested the safety, reliability, and financial viability of the product as a marketable item. The competition also includes a rain test -- where the car is sprayed with water for 120 seconds from behind, front and above. The electronics have to work perfectly to pass.
Taking this further, the team Formula Group T turned to a process called "mammoth stereolithography" that prints out large, custom objects.
The object builder used, Materialise, is able to print out parts as large as 2100 x 680 x 800mm -- more than enough for the Areion.
The body of the racer is a steel chassis, complete with a fully 3D shell which took only three weeks to construct. Inspired by athletes, the nose is covered in a coarse texture which is meant to mimic the aerodynamics of a shark -- reducing drag and increasing thrust.
The car is able to reach a top speed of 88mph, going from 0 to 62mph in 3.2 seconds. 50-volt lithium batteries power the racer, sending charge to an 85kw motor. Double-A carbon wishbone suspension, a bio-composite electric drivetrain and composite racing seat bring the weight of the car to 617 pounds.
A printed nozzle and diffuser keep the motor cool, and a fan behind the radiator draws in air on the left. In the right side of the shell, channels were developed and printed to create a cyclone effect which prevents water and dirt from becoming airborne and entering the engine.
After tests on the Hockenheim race circuit, Formula Group T have earned themselves two awards and a good rank of 11th place for a first-time team.
Image credit: Formula Group T