Building a Luxury Sports Vehicle with Help from 3D Printing

22 Apr

Solid Concepts was honored to provide 3D printed and cast urethane prototype and pre-production components for Equus Automotive’s BASS770, a luxury American muscle car.

Image courtesy of Equus.

Image courtesy of Equus.

“This thing is a rocket ship,” says Ian James, brand ambassador to Equus Automotive. Having limited experience with rocket ships myself, I can’t confirm that this car could survive in outer space; however the car will make you feel like you’ve just rocketed into the future (and boy, the future is hot – and I don’t mean in a climate change fashion).

After re-locating to Michigan in 2011, Equus Automotive teamed up with Solid Concepts to aid in the manufacturing of the prototype/pre-production BASS770. Equus’ model 770 defines a new iconic American muscle car. Beneath its brilliant exterior lies an amalgam of advanced manufacturing, including 3D Printing and cast urethanes. Solid Concepts’ Stereolithography (SLA), Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) and cast urethanes were used to build multiple interior and exterior components including the instrument panel, headlight and taillight bezels, HVAC ducting, glass trim panel fender, console covers, seat belt covers, under hood components…

The majority of the components Solid Concepts 3D Printed were used as master patterns for casting. Cast urethanes are an economical alternative to injection molding for projects requiring low volumes of parts. Cast urethanes begin with a 3D Printed or CNC’d master pattern. Once Solid Concepts creates master patterns, the parts are treated to post-processing to achieve the desired surface finish. Then a silicone mold is formed around the master pattern. The mold is then cast with advanced polymer urethanes, revealing strong pre-production parts. The casted components were assembled onto Equus’ BASS770 after further finishing. Not all 3D Printed parts were used as master patterns; some components were 3D printed and then chromed or simply assembled on the car after post-processing. “We did the grille in FDM,” says Jordan Golden, Project Engineer at Solid Concepts. “Equus used the grille for form, fit and aesthetic checks on their prototype model. We also created SLS pieces that Equus chromed and used as different levers for seat adjustment.” Other 3D printed components were spin casted, such as the chrome lettering on the car. Many of the cast urethane components in the interior are leather wrapped. Solid Concepts was thrilled to be included in the prototyping of such a spectacular car; the designers, engineers, modelers and builders that compose the genius team at Equus Automotives expanded the horizons of Solid Concepts technologies.

Here’s a breakdown of how some of the processes used work:

  • Stereolithography (SLA): A bed of liquid resin is cured via a UV laser. The laser is directed via mirrors, which in turn move and twist. SLA has a good surface finish and is one of the older 3D Printing processes. It’s best suited for models or as master patterns.
  • Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM): An extrusion 3D Printing process, FDM uses thermoplastics to build sturdy parts. It’s a bit like a hot glue gun in fashion, laying out layer upon layer of plastic. Solid Concepts’ FDM capabilities are often used in aerospace and automotive applications.
  • Selective Laser Sintering (SLS): A bed of powdered nylon is melted by a CO2 laser layer by layer in computer determined patterns. Solid Concepts’ SLS process has been used in aerospace applications since 2001, and continues to showcase superior geometric capabilities, strength and durability.
  • QuantumCast™ Advanced Cast Urethanes: Often used in medical applications as a pre-production or low volume solution, Solid Concepts’ QuantumCast technology involves platinum reinforced silicone molds, intricate master patterns and a proprietary heat, pressure and vacuum process resulting in refined parts.

This car is not just a nod to the iconic muscle cars of the 60s and 70s, but a burst of fresh manufacturing power into an at times stagnant industry. Equus showcases a firm hold on advanced technologies by coupling traditional cast urethanes with 3D Printing and the innovation to move a niche industry of American luxury vehicles forward.

What’s perhaps the main attraction of cast urethanes and 3D Printing for a luxury vehicle with 640 HP and a LS9 Supercharged 6.2L engine? Rudimentary: Optimum customization and full control of details with complete manufacturing done in the United States. Now, I’ll be off figuring how I can hitch a ride in this car…

 

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