CUPRA: 3D printing deployed for car development
At CUPRA – the performance arm of Spanish automaker SEAT – a team of innovative engineers is transforming the way vehicles are developed by printing car parts.
CUPRA is using state-of-the-art, multi-jet fusion technology to fashion parts in a fast and efficient way. For its new Leon Competición racing car, engineers at CUPRA have 3D printed the model’s door mirrors, air intakes and cooling intakes.
The technique enables the manufacturer to reduce the vehicle’s fuel consumption while also increasing stability, speed and safety – vital in both motorsport and road car applications.
The process of printing a mirror can take around 20 hours, but CUPRA can print six at a time, giving the team the ability to create different designs simultaneously. This means CUPRA can quickly test the varying prototypes in a wind tunnel to find out which is best for aerodynamics.
When taken to this controlled environment, the printed parts are fitted to the car and face winds of more than 180mph while sensors study the impact on individual surfaces. The car's resistance data is displayed on screen where engineers and designers compare the results for the different printed parts.
As the smallest margins can make the difference in motorsport, it is crucial the 3D printed parts play their part in reducing fuel consumption while also increasing stability, speed and safety.
Xavi Serra, head of technical development at CUPRA Racing, said: “For the new CUPRA Leon Competición, we modelled the steering wheel's centre control module, the bonnet air vents, door mirrors and the brake and water-cooling inlets.
“The main goal is to have a lot of parts in a short time. We can quickly test a wide variety of designs and furthermore, this technology enables us to react swiftly to any changes in the design process.
“The bigger the variety of parts we can test in this facility, the better. It enables us to make much faster progress. The results were excellent and some were even surprising, because we were looking to push the material to its limits.
“This technology is and will continue to be key in countless fields to make the most complex ideas a reality.”
The final development of the 3D printed parts was on a racing circuit, with CUPRA testing the Leon Competición on the Portimao track in Portugal.
So far, CUPRA has been printing parts for its Leon Competición – its 180mph 335hp, 2.0-litre touring car inspired by the new SEAT Leon family hatchback – and the e-Racer, an electric touring car which does 0-60mph in 3.2 seconds.
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