June 14, 2008

Materialise a current leader in Rapid Manufacturing

Rapid manufacturing was used to make important components of a concept car. The Sintesi is a sports car with four doors and four seats, developed by a highly innovative approach: it does not consider the car as a shape that covers the mechanicals, but one that gives a shape to the mechanicals around the passengers, starting from the latter. (H/T to

Materialise, a rapid manufacturing company, used additive technology stereolithography (SLA): the radiator, control panels, roof antenna, remote controller, roof light cover and most importantly, the instrument panel which is the centrepiece of the car’s interior. During the file preparation phase, a complex webbing structure was integrated in the dashboard to give it functional strength.
Pininfarina Sintesi stereolithography dashboard, Materialise uses about twelve different kinds of rapid manufacturing and rapid prototyping systems. Those systems can use a variety of materials.

The eventual panel was “printed” in its full width on a Materialise Mammoth SLA machine, with a build volume up to 2150 x 700 x 800 mm, in a translucent PP-like epoxy (Poly 1500).

Due to its complexity, also the radiator had to be manufactured by means of additive technologies. The production of the smaller components like the roof antenna and remote controller show the endless personalisation possibilities of additive manufacturing. Nowadays, the state of the art of additive technologies allows that this type of products can be manufactured in small series of production cars or one-offs. This is a big step forward towards real personalised manufacturing.

Mammoth Stereolithography has a build area of more than 2 meters

In order to build single-piece SLA models with dimensions of more than 2 meters, Materialise has developed a unique technology: mammoth stereolithography.

Mammoth systems offer not only the ability to print very large parts, but are also extremely fast and productive, thanks to a patented curtain recoating technology which minimises the dead time between layers. The mammoth parts are constructed layer by layer in a liquid polymer that hardens when struck by a laser beam. The laser printed layers are each time lowered together with the vessel's resin level. Afterwards, a small reservoir moves over the vessel and disposes a film of liquid polymer onto the whole vessel. This curtain recoating technology needs less time between layers than the traditional SLA technology which uses a scraper.

As a result of their unique combination of build size and speed, mammoth systems are especially suited to high volume prototyping operations requiring both large numbers of parts, and large parts.

Improved rapid manufacturing is one of the seeds of a manufacturing and construction revolution.

This revolution will require rethinking designs and modelling and other systems to fully realize its potential. Totally rethinking cars is using inflatable bodies for cars and then using new paper that is stronger than cast iron and epoxy to bring material costs down.

The mammoth prototyping system could be used to make larger ecomodifications to existing cars. Aeromodding a car can increase full economy on the highway by 50%. Less extreme modifications can achieve 25% increases in fuel efficiency.

Aerodynamic modifications for cars
- Lower the car - Lowering the car reduces the effective frontal area, increasing efficiency. 2.7" ground clearance is a good minimum height. According to Mercedes, "Lowering the ride height at speed results in a 3-percent improvement in drag."
- Remove that wing - Many "sports" cars have a non-functional wing on the back. Removing it will improve the fuel economy. The exceptions are the small rear fairings that are designed to detach the airflow from a rounded trunk.
- Clean up the underside of the car. - Installation of a "body pan", while a labor intensive operation, will provide a significant improvement in mileage. More...
- If a body pan is not practical, an air dam will redirect air that would normally pile up under the car causing drag. Not as good as a body pan, but better than nothing. Should be combined with side fairings.
- fair the wheel wells, racing disk wheel covers, and many other modifications

An extreme custom modification gets about 70mpg on highway from an old Honda civic

A discussion group for improving fuel efficiency.