AUSTIN, Texas — Car parts made with 3D printers are now in the fast lane.
Stratasys is one company that is leading the pack. It has a production facility in Belton, Texas which is just down the road from a world-class racetrack, Circuit of the Americas.
Toyota’s GR-86 race car has been modified and upgraded with 3D printed parts from Stratasys with almost lightning speed from concept to production.
“The benefits of 3D printing in this case was a very quick, agile opportunity to design parts,” Stratasys Global Marking Leader Joe Foster said. “First of all, to get the designs done, an iterative development, and then for the volumes that we’re talking about, you can very quickly, and cost-effectively make plastic parts to a high level of precision and fit and finish without the cost of tooling in a traditional injection molding.”
And with racing it’s all about speed.
“With the new printers you make things in hours,” Toyota Racing Development Executive Engineering Director Nelson Cosgrove said. “Big prints overnight and you can iterate very quickly.”
Toyota Racing Development says it modified about 50 race cars and each car has more than 30 3-D printed parts manufactured by Stratasys.
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The hood vent, in particular, gives Toyota an edge because not only is the 3-D printed part strong but the mold can also be mixed with high-temperature plastics and other components to withstand the heat of racing.
“You’re at 7200 RPM and you’re making a lot of heat and you need it to escape,” Cosgrove said. “Otherwise, everything melts.”
Stratasys is also using organic materials in its molds.
“This is actually a door latch bezel,” Foster said. “It’s made in our Stratasys H-350 machine, a powder-based machine. Interestingly enough it’s a plant-based polymer as well.”
This isn’t just about race cars. The speed of 3-D printing technology on the track translates into production innovations for new car production.
“They 3D print future models, things like instrument panels and full-sized doors,” Cosgrove said. “They do it well before there’s any production sheet metal or car.”
What used to take years is now taking months.
“3D printing is an incredibly important part of compressing those R&D timelines and allowing, you know, the automotive OEMs, in general, to bring newer and more advanced products to their customers much more quickly than before,” Foster said.
Faster, stronger, and lighter, 3D printing is changing the automotive world as we race into the future.