TriMech’s Advanced Manufacturing team has been sponsoring University of Connecticut’s (UConn) Formula SAE team for over a decade. Each year new parts are needed due to design reiterations to improve upon the previous year’s engineering. Most recently we supported their magnesium casting efforts by producing Stereolithography (SLA) mold patterns to use in the casting process. This method is used on the oil pan, disc mounts, and steering components.
But why magnesium? This year, the team’s goal is to reduce the overall weight by 10%. This is an ambitious challenge on such a lightweight vehicle, considering that it’s a reduction of about 50 pounds. The lighter magnesium metal is one way they plan to reach their weight goal and increase manufacturing speeds.
The team is comprised of about 110 registered members including freshmen to seniors. The team has a variety of major concentrations, some of which are expected such as mechanical, electrical, biological engineers but there are also agricultural and business students. Their philosophy is to promote open mindshare and the pursuit of new skill sets to encourage STEM learning.
The annual competition happens in Michigan and is sponsored by SAE, whose primary focus is continuity in the automotive engineering industry. 100+ teams compete, some of which are international. The competition is made up of two parts, one is a design and cost presentation, the other is a road test. The road test includes a 75 yard straight away to gauge acceleration, a figure 8 lap to measure the handling, and a 22-mile autocross portion for vehicle endurance. UConn has finished the endurance component for 10 years consecutively. Placing higher in the autocross activity results in a later endurance lap which is beneficial because the track is warmer and there’s more rubber on the track for grip. The team self-selects drivers and backup drivers based on trial runs.
INCREASE MANUFACTURING SPEEDS
The students only have two semesters to design, manufacture, test, and present the car. Time is of the essence and there’s no room for delay. 3D printing is an ideal candidate in these short turnaround scenarios since it can shave off weeks of manufacturing time depending on application. The team also performs fit and function tests to prove out concepts before going into production, especially for the expensive casting process. In addition to the time gain, they also benefit from the design freedom of building organic structures that cannot be traditionally milled on a CNC.
SLA 3D printed mold patterns can be used for magnesium casting, but also a variety of other casting materials and applications. The SLA print lab at TriMech is comprised of machines with large capacity build platforms, capable of printing parts up to 31.5″ x 31.5″ x 21″. Three finishing options are available on the printed molds, natural, bead-blasted, and premium. Get in touch if a custom 3D printed mold is needed for your next project.
We were impressed to see the 3D printed FDM chopped carbon fiber filled filament parts that were used on the air intake manifold in action. The strength and stiffness of the part material allows for it to be used directly on the car. We have an expanded selection of carbon fiber options available on our new Stratasys F370 CR which is a composite ready industrial filament printer.
3D printing end-use parts has become more common. Watch our on-demand webinar to learn more about how additive manufacturing is solving hurdles seen in traditional manufacturing.
TriMech Advanced Manufacturing is proud to assist the University of Connecticut’s Formula SAE team with their annual racecar project. If you’re interested in learning more about our additive manufacturing services, please explore our website resources and reach out to our team with any inquiries.