Briggs Automotive Company, or BAC, which makes the Mono R supercar – a lightweight single seat race car that’s road legal – has turned to 3D-printing to produce fully functional prototypes.
The Mono R, which weighs just 555kg, is the first production car in the world to incorporate the use of graphene-enhanced carbon fibre in every body panel. However, the team, who are based in Liverpool, UK, ran into problems when designing the air intake system that’s essential for cooling, and therefore performance. The airbox has an extremely complex and unique geometry, with the final part needing to be produced entirely in carbon fibre, but it proved difficult to create a prototype using conventional methods.
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 obvious solution was to 3D-print the prototype airbox, with BAC approaching Tri Tech 3D, a platinum partner to Stratasys. The part itself was printed on a Stratasys F900 using the 12CF nylon material, a carbon-fibre reinforced thermoplastic that can endure temperatures of over 140º C.
Once printed, the airbox was fitted to the car and put through its paces to assess its design and performance. Briggs commented that the 3D printing significantly saved on manufacturing time, adding: “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.”
He concludes: “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.”