In a project to boost the performance of a McLaren 2014 MP4-12C supercar, a team of engineers have used metal Additive Manufacturing to build a number of customised powertrain components.
Keselowski Advanced Manufacturing (KAM), a specialist in hybrid manufacturing based in Statesville, North Carolina, USA, was recently approached by ACME Hi-Performance Laboratories, a custom design and engineering business developing components for automotive, aviation and military applications, to assist in its project to improve the powertrain efficiency of the vehicle.
According to KAM, the project began when ACME Hi-Performance lead engineer Safa Yousef and his partners approached the company having recently analysed a McLaren 2014 MP4-12C and found inefficiencies in the powertrain that it believed it could improve upon. The team developed its own new powertrain designs, but encountered challenges in that, while the motor and transmission for the vehicle would stay in place, many other elements including the intercoolers, the intake manifold, and more, would have to be dramatically redesigned.
Because shaping the individual parts ‘by hand’ using conventional manufacturing methods would be both time consuming and cost-prohibitive, Yousef was advised to contact KAM for advanced manufacturing support. Yousef stated that, prior to this, he had not considered using AM to produce automotive parts; however, given the complex nature of the project at hand, AM was the ideal solution.
Over a number of meetings, Yousef and the KAM design team reevaluating his designs to ensure the final CAD designs would be optimised for Additive Manufacturing. Inconel 625 and Aluminum 6061 were selected as the materials to be used, and the metal powders were analysed using KAM’s in-house lab prior to Additive Manufacturing to ensure they met the required specifications.
Following the production of the parts by metal Additive Manufacturing on a Laser Powder Bed Fusion (L-PBF) machine, Yousef stated, “We were able to create these super complex shapes and pieces into actual solid parts. They’ll perform the way we need them to perform. The exterior shape that we needed to achieve was possible with 3D printing, but we could also optimise the interior shape, so the inside shape can be completely different than the outside shape. So that was also another great advantage of the 3D printing. Complexities are absolutely free.”
Each of the parts was then analysed using KAM’s on-site CT scanning machines to inspect their quality. Those parts which required it were also machined using KAM’s 3-7 axis Mazak CNC machines. “Even if you just want to go into KAM with just an idea for a part design,” Yousef commented. “They can take it from a sketch off of a napkin and go to full-blown finished production, a final produced part. And that’s what’s great about working with these guys.”
Yousef added that the additively manufactured parts performed better than he had expected. “It’s just a complete overhaul and revamp of the entire powertrain,” he stated. In the coming months, the company will conduct additional testing of the McLaren parts in the field, including road courses and standing mile and two-mile testing at the Kennedy Space Center.