Driving design and innovation – 3D printing is becoming a force to be reckoned with.
In the world of motor-racing, Britain recently unveiled its new Strakka Dome at the 3D Print Show in London.
The prototype is made of about five perdent of 3D printed components including the brake ducts, air intake, dive planes and dash panel.
Until now, 3D printing was only used to create models.
“It’s not uncommon to use 3D printing for rapid prototyping, which helps a very short development cycle, but what we’ve moved into now is actual production parts on a race car, which is quite a new direction for us to go. We found that the material properties have recently moved forward to a point where they’re stiff enough and strong enough and light enough to function as a fully finished production component on a race car,” said Dan Walmsley, an engineer at Strakka Racing.
3D printing has come a long way since engineers and designers first starting using the technology more than a decade ago, mostly to produce prototypes, before embarking on the costly manufacturing process.
Now, innovative fashion designers are turning to it to create clothes and accessories that cannot be made using conventional methods. But there is still a long way to go.
“Manufacturing with 3D printing is still in a very large evolution. We are still waiting for 3D printed materials that have the right durability and the strength that textile fibre allows,” says Naomi Kaempfer, creative director at Stratasys, a company that manufactures 3D printers and 3D production systems.
“We have to understand that 3D printing is an additive layered technology and in order to create fibre strength you actually need to have a continuous fibre going through the material.”
Nature is now an inspiration: whereas most 3D printers create structures that are homogeneous, researchers have started looking at how silkworms make their cocoons softer inside and stronger outside by using different patterns and amounts of silk fibre.