Formula SAE is the most renowned university-level engineering competition in the world. Started in 1989, this initiative gives students the opportunity to immerse themselves in a stimulating training environment in order to strengthen and develop their skills. The Laval University FormUL team enlisted the help of Axis in building their prototype because of our innovation and expertise in high-tech printing, as well as our ability to fully subsidize the project through our designated sponsorship budget which includes special rates for students in order to help them bring their projects to life.
The FormUL team chose to collaborate with Axis as the printing of a quality scale model is essential to maintaining the integrity of the complex geometries involved in the design of the prototype (an essential component of aerodynamic studies). The goal was to print a reduced scale model in order to test their theories concerning the parameters of aerodynamics in a wind tunnel environment. Thanks to Axis, these students were able to participate in the design process using the 3D printer, which allowed them to experiment with the different settings pertaining to issues of aerodynamics and therefore to construct the vehicle with the highest level of performance possible. The car will be evaluated according to various criteria, alongside more than 500 other competing models. Our team worked side by side with the FormUL team to guide them through the construction process and to place the students in a suitable wind-tunnel environment so that they would be in the best possible position to assess the performance of their vehicle, and therefore to make changes and adjust their parameters effectively.
In order to allow the students to obtain the best possible printing of their reduced scale model, our experts chose stereolithography (SLA), specially adapted for miniature models and for testing cars. In addition to allowing the production of incredibly precise prototypes, this technology also offers a large variety of options in terms of materials as well as finishes, all within a relatively short time frame. We are experts in this type of 3D printing as it is at the core of our prototyping services. We currently have 5 large SL platform machines as well as a high definition Viper SLA machine. We have chosen DSM Somos 18420 as our prototyping material, and as far as we are concerned it is the perfect choice to meet the specific needs of this project. This photopolymer material, also known as Protogen 18420, is quick and suitable for any purpose, particularly for finish testing, but can also be used for size testing and concept modelling. It offers superior chemical resistance as well as low moisture absorption. Given that the parts for the project needed to be designed for use in a variety of environments including high heat or humidity, this material is an excellent choice for the client.
In selecting the finish, we decided to go with our top level finishing with premium sanding. This type of finish is particularly well-suited to SLA and is ideal when a smooth surface is required, allowing the students to obtain the desired appearance for their prototype. This process offers a relatively short production time that is estimated at 2-3 days. We offer a large selection of colours for the finishing process, including a selection of automotive grade paints in order to best meet the criteria and achieve the desired appearance of the prototype. Our team of experts adapted the design to include the installation of inserts, which is available when printing prototypes with SLA. Another option with this type of finishing is a water-repellent treatment, which is intended to compensate for the porosity of a prototype. We opted for the Clear-Coat. This treatment provides 3-stroke Clear-Coat Spray on parts produced via SLA. The final step was to assemble the prototype with our special assembly finish in which the remaining interferences are sandblasted. The FormUL team was able to realize their vision of a high-quality printed reduced-scale model, allowing them to effectively study the parameters of its aerodynamics in a suitable environment.
At Axis, we are proud to help students bring their ideas to life by contributing our expertise and enabling them to use stereolithography technology at a low cost. The 3D printing solutions we provide allow students to address any issues that come up during the design and conception process in the most efficient way possible. The FormUL team went on to present their project to more than 40 students and 5 teachers.