Case Study: German RepRap x400 Gives Student Formula Racing Team Elbflorace an Edge on their Electric Racing Car

The formula student racing competition is not just a race, it’s a design competition in which the teams of individual universities develop and construct a new racing car each year and race against each other at different events over the course of that year.  Elbflorace is the registered club representing the TU Dresden University.  Early on they decided that a professional partnership with a 3D printing company was urgently needed to give them an edge during competition.  They chose German RepRap as partners due to GRR’s overall availability of high performing reliable printers, excellent material options and technical know-how.  “We were impressed by the possibilities. Due to the limited technology capacity and quality available to us, the need for a professional printing partner soon became clear.  We were therefore even more pleased to gain German RepRap as an innovative partner who supported us with such high quality printing results,” explains Armin Bakkal, the group member responsible for the vehicles sensors.  Florian Bautz, CEO of German RepRap GmbH sums up the partnership, “In this particular partnership with the Elbflorace Team at TU Dresden, you can see very well how 3D printing can also produce great results for their end products.  You can clearly see here the benefits of manufacturing with our 3D printers.  There is firstly the obligatory time and cost saving, however, the use of the 3D printers offers the team far greater design freedom and the possibility to experiment.  This can ultimately allow them to be winners in their competition.”

This year, the Elbflorace racing car is electrically driven and many parts were 3D printed with German RepRap’s x400 printer.  A great deal of experimentation was carried out in order to gain an edge on the competition.  Mr. Bakkal explains, “Most of our activities involve making things and screwing parts.  3D printing is obviously very useful to us since we can adapt components and be very flexible with designs for different requirements and then manufacture parts that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.  We made a definite decision in favor of 3D printing to enable us to respond with unlimited creative freedom and flexibility.”  Mr. Bakkal compares their work on their formula racer to prototype construction.  “We normally implement rapid prototyping when constructing our racing car.  3D printing is ideal for this because it is fast, cheap and flexible.  The print quality and the achievable tolerances fully meet the requirements of 3D printed parts for a Formula Student racing car.”  For example, this includes brackets for sensors, housings for PCBs, dials on the dashboard and much more.  The decision to change over to 3D printing brought the team many additional benefits.  For example, the sensor brackets previously required a mechanical solution every time. This proved to be very expensive, complicated and inflexible. There was also a major limiting factor in the possible number of sensors and their use since every drill hole in a supporting component weakens its strength.  The high-tech parts from the 3D printer, on the other hand, can be mounted very simply and at virtually any position, as well as being really fast to manufacture.  Mr. Bakkal is delighted with the results.  “Without 3D printing, the way we have implemented the measurement of suspension travel, using rotation potentiometers would probably not be possible.  Just imagine what it would have cost to cut a part like this from a block of aluminum!”

The housings for the sensor boards are another interesting example.  The Elbflorace team moved from anodized metal housings to carbon fiber laminated boxes and thought of clever shrinking techniques for tubing.  The current 3D printed housings on the other hand not only required less effort to manufacture, according to Mr. Bakkal, they are also the “most functional, durable and easiest to maintain housings of all past examples.”  Even if the many sponsoring projects meant that no specific cost savings could be calculated, the club is delighted with the amount of time that could be saved through the use of 3D printing.  Before they used the 3D printer, they first had to build a mold for the CFK housings, apply the fibers and then cure it using a vacuum in the autoclave.  This took at least two full working days to complete per box.  With 3D printing, however, the CAD model already available is used.  The file for this is sent to the 3D printer and the part is produced in a few hours.  The part is then ready for use.  TU Dresden primarily uses Carbon20 material with the German RepRap x400 3D printer as this is perfectly suited in terms of its technical properties.  This material has a high flex module of 6.2 GPa, a very low stretch at breaking point of around 8-10% and can be finished for a perfect fit with little distortion.  The finished parts are therefore very rugged and robust. 

Stay connected here- Good luck Team Elbflorace!


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