Briggs Automotive Company (BAC), the British manufacturer of the recently launched Mono R, and Stratasys, one of the 3D printing leader, manufactures fully functional air intake prototypes to reduce the production time from two weeks to just a few hours.
The Mono R is the company’s most complexly designed car to date, weighing just 555kg and is the first production car in the world to incorporate the use of graphene-enhanced carbon fibre in every body panel.
Essential for the car’s cooling and on-road performance, the airbox has an extremely complex and unique geometry, with the final part needing to be produced entirely in carbon fibre. Such rigorous demands meant that the production of a prototype using traditional methods presented a huge hurdle for the team.
Ian Briggs, BAC Design Director, explains, “The lead time to produce one prototype of the airbox using traditional machining methods surpassed two weeks. If there were any problems with the prototype produced, then any design iterations would add double that amount of time. This was a delay we just couldn’t afford.”
The team at BAC turned to additive manufacturing as the solution and sought the help of Stratasys and it’s UK platinum partner, Tri Tech 3D. Using the Stratasys F900 Production 3D Printer the team produced the airbox in just a few hours, which was then fitted to the car and put through its paces to assess the part’s design and performance.
“Access to quick, efficient, industrial-grade additive manufacturing was a game-changer for this development process,” Briggs continues. “Within hours we were able to produce an accurate 3D-printed prototype of the airbox and install it on the car for testing. This enabled us to reduce our design-to-manufacture time significantly.”
The Mono R can reach top speeds of 170mph (273kph), with its power surpassing 340bhp and its power-to-weight ratio reaching 612bhp-per-tonne. With temperatures expected to surpass 100 degrees, any prototype produced needed to withstand intense conditions during test drives.
Stratasys F900 Production 3D Printer
Thanks to the engineering-grade materials accessible on the Stratasys F900, the team were able to produce the prototype in Stratasys’ Nylon 12CF material. A carbon-fibre reinforced thermoplastic, that can endure temperatures of over 140 degrees Celsius, Nylon 12CF offered the design team the chance to test the prototype in as close a material as possible to the real thing.
“Access to the carbon-fibre reinforced Nylon 12CF was integral for this development process. The prototype was as close performance-wise as if we had produced the prototype in carbon-fibre reinforced plastic made from a mould. It also withstood the tests on the track with ease,” explains Briggs.
“The development of the Mono R needed ultimate precision, something to which additive manufacturing lends itself perfectly. We saw this first-hand with the use of Stratasys’ industrial system in the production of the airbox and for the first time its effects were felt throughout the car. This is just the beginning for BAC in discovering what additive manufacturing can offer us as a design team, and how we can continue to push the boundaries of our industry,” concludes Briggs.