3D printed eco-marathon car

Here’s another feather in the cap for 3D printing: the technology is now being used to help build racing cars. Eco-racing cars, that is, where weight reduction is paramount and where 3D techniques also help to cut back on costs too.

A team of designers, manufacturers and researchers centred around Eindhoven Design Academy is producing a light-weight racing car for an eco-marathon that is organised by Shell.

In this car, the most obvious examples of the 3D printer in action are in the swept wing mirrors and the curvy dashboard. Both have been meticulously shaped using PLA to suit the aerodynamics of the race. But it is a hidden innovation that arguably does more for the vehicle’s performance.

Often, one-off cars with doubly curved shapes are made using wooden moulds. The Eindhoven team has gone a step further, using five 3D printers running simultaneously to create a puzzle-box of uniquely shaped moulds for the eco-marathon car.

These are inlaid with carbon-fibre mats that are laminated with resin to form a tough, hard shell that is between 2 mm and 3 mm thick. Impressively, this results in significant weight reductions and up to 75% lower production costs.

This is a really remarkable result, particularly as many people generally consider 3D printing to be an expensive, if attractive, way to construct. Finally, the windscreen is made using PET, as this is easy to vacuum press, for a smooth and sturdy shield.

The Shell eco-marathon is held this month in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.   More information: Shell eco-marathon. Images via Lpfrg.