3D Systems, Rock Hill, South Carolina, USA, has collaborated with Rodin Cars, a manufacturer of track cars headquartered in New Zealand, to produce metal additively manufactured parts for its soon-to-be-released hypercar, the Rodin FZero.
Rodin Cars designs and builds bespoke single-seat, open-wheel high-performance vehicles that are designed to be faster than contemporary Formula 1 cars. Among the hundreds of metal AM parts Rodin Cars is producing for the Rodin FZero, there is a first-of-its-kind 8-speed sequential gearbox with a hydraulically controlled differential. This completely custom component can only be produced using Additive Manufacturing and was made possible through the collaboration of the two companies.
A gearbox created using traditional manufacturing methods would be cast out of magnesium or machined from billet material. The resulting component would not only be slow to produce, but heavier, and would not withstand the rigours presented by the track. Rodin Cars explains that it wanted to flip this design into a true innovation – the ultimate component produced from additively manufactured titanium that would be compact, light, strong, and durable.
Rodin Cars released its first high-performance track car – the Rodin FZed – in 2019 with a gearbox designed by Ricardo, a UK-based engineering firm. For the new Rodin FZero, the company envisioned a brand new gearbox with specific gear ratios and differential produced from titanium to enhance the reputation of this new high-performance vehicle.
The eighteen-month design process – a collaboration between Rodin Cars for the casings and Ricardo for the internals – resulted in a gearbox with a hydraulically controlled differential that can only be produced using AM due to its ability to directly additively manufacture the necessary internal galleries and thin-wall bearing and mount structures. Rodin Cars’ engineers worked alongside members of 3D Systems’ Application Innovation Group (AIG) in Littleton, Colorado, and Leuven, Belgium to bring this unique design to life.
The application engineers’ know-how combined with 3D Systems’ Laser Beam Powder Bed Fusion (PBF-LB) solution, which the company refers to as direct metal printing (DMP) technology, helped facilitate the production of the new gearbox that includes 2 mm thick walls and a total weight of 68 kg. The application engineers in Littleton optimised the gearbox print design details for AM at the large scale achievable on the DMP Factory 500 machine and produced the first part in Leuven.
The AM machine, which features a vacuum chamber to ensure the lowest O2 content, enables the production of large parts as big as 500 mm x 500 mm x 500 mm. This results in high-surface quality for metal AM parts with excellent material properties. 3D Systems’ AIG has successfully completed the technology transfer to Rodin Cars for full production with the company recently installing a DMP Factory 500 on-site at its newly expanded facility. Rodin Cars will produce the gearbox, as well as hundreds of other bespoke parts, for the Rodin FZero.
“Additive Manufacturing is enabling industry leaders to defy limitations and stand apart,” stated Kevin Baughey, segment leader, transportation & motorsports, 3D Systems. “As a high technology, high-performance car constructor, Rodin Cars delivers unparalleled vehicles to their customers. This is a shining example of how additive manufacturing not only enables parts to be produced that couldn’t be created through conventional methods, it is also delivering a lighter, more durable, beautiful vehicle. It’s the blending of the art of design with the science of hyper-performance cars and motorsports.”