It's hard to see a race car and not think of speed. For Temple Formula Racing, speed in manufacturing is just as important as speed on the track.
With that goal in mind, one idea took shape recently: 3D printing the air intake system for the car's four-cylinder engine.
The team is set to showcase their latest car—with that intake—at the Philadelphia Auto Show at the end of this month.
Jon Wommer, senior ECE major and Powertrain Lead for the team, shared some of the background on the intake system.
"Previously, most systems were either aluminium or carbon fiber or hybrid of the two," he said.
The printing process takes a week (and sometimes more), and uses a more expensive material, but requires fewer man hours. The team also experienced issues in the early stages with brittle plastics or poor geometry choices on the design end.
"We compensated for this with the model shown by using more refined geometries which are typically impossible to manufacture but actually much stronger. The newest intake should weigh 14 percent less while improving weakest point strengths all around," Wommer said.
According to Wommer, two factors could have an impact on printing more parts for this car, and for competition.
First, elements of competition have given 3D printed parts a significant point advantage in the cost category. The second: more complex designs can be brought to the table for lightly stressed components.
"In my opinion this is the true purpose of additive manufacturing," Wommer said. "Items like steering wheels or hand grips follow complex geometries which are difficult to machine or mold through conventional means and become especially costly when only one or two units are being produced."
Wommer stressed that mass production possibilities aren't the best fit for 3D printing—yet.
"Had I needed to produce dozens or hundreds of units, it would be vastly cheaper to have the part made from injection plastic as the number of units would offset the cost of a mold," he said.
But for the Auto Show, attendees will be seeing production in 3D, made in the nick of time.