UK-based custom supercar manufacturer Arash Motor Company has announced that it is using 3D printing technology from Stratasys subsidiary MakerBot to produce end-use parts for its cars.
Founded more than 20 years ago by current chief designer Arash Farboud, Arash Motor Company focuses on producing low-volume, high-performance cars. Despite a small staff, the company already offers several proprietary models of its own, including the AF8 Cassini sports car and the AF10 electric-gasoline hybrid.
A longtime advocate of additive manufacturing, Farboud's production facility currently houses the MakerBot Replicator 2, Replicator Z18 and METHOD X 3D printers. The company recently began its latest project, a new electric supercar, and used all three 3D printers in the prototyping and production phases. The car is reportedly equipped with a carbon fiber motor box, multiple electric motors, a high-capacity battery pack and an aerodynamic design.
Farboud explained, "We're still using every 3D printer we have because they still work well. They have the ability to make parts based on size and purpose. In fact, the METHOD X and Z18 are currently in non-stop use in our factory. This allows us to not only produce parts as needed, but also to experiment with different filaments. It's a 24/7 operation for 3D printing."
A way to save cost and time
Before investing in MakerBot, the Arash team would prototype all of its parts in aluminum, going through the extremely time-consuming process of bending, welding and molding one part at a time. When it came time for end-use production, the company would also hire a third-party manufacturer using traditional manufacturing techniques, which again led to high costs and long lead times.
Now, Arash can simply send its CAD files to one of its MakerBot 3D printers, dramatically reducing costs and manufacturing time. In fact, one of the company's recent projects went from finalized design to full production in just 12 months, a process that would normally take several years.
"The MakerBot 3D printer family reduces the time it takes to go from a file on a computer screen to prototyping and checking the touch and feel. It's a big deal. Sometimes you miss a hole or fixture, but you can find it on the CAD model. After it's printed, you can check it yourself," Farboud added.
3D printing and electric supercars
The latest project started with a full-size, non-functional model printed in 3D on the Replicator 2. The team then used the Replicator Z18 to prototype the complex internal chassis and aerodynamic structure of the electric supercar. This included new suspension and wing designs, as well as a set of wheel and center lock accessories.
Finally, Arash used MakerBot METHOD X to 3D print the final production parts used in the car itself using fine filaments such as nylon carbon fiber and ABS. Specifically, nylon 12 carbon fiber is used for many of the structural components that will be under load, including brackets, tie-down points and anchor points. ABS, on the other hand, is used to 3D print non-critical interior surfaces due to its ease of use.
Farboud concluded, "We're trying to get at least 95 percent of our cars to be composite, and we're also trying to reduce the complexity of manufacturing to 3D printing. We're only focusing on the really important parts in composite manufacturing - the chassis, the body panels, some of the interior structures."
The Arash team says it plans to continue using MakerBot 3D printing technology to produce end-use automotive parts in the future.