For the University of Connecticut’s Formula SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) race team, building a new car from the ground up is an annual event. Usually, there is a design challenge to figure out. This year, the car’s engine parts were experiencing sealing issues in the area of the engine block where the runner boots connect to the intake runners. Formula SAE regulations forbid the use of rubber for this use, so the team needed to find an alternate material to get them back on the track. The material would need to withstand the heat of a 200°F engine head and also support the carbon fiber runners that soften as they approach 175°F.
InterPRO Models, a service provider that delivers plastic and metal 3D printing, custom model making and low-volume production services, has provided assistance to UConn’s student team for several years. The engineers suggested using Somos PerFORM, a new high-strength material that withstands high stresses and temperatures up to 500°F. By using this technology, the student team could reduce manufacturing time by printing the fuel injector bung directly into the part.
InterPRO 3D printed the Somos PerFORM parts overnight on a high-resolution SL Viper. They were bolted to the four-cylinder engine and dynamometer tests were run to measure horsepower and torque outputs. During hours of high speed engine testing, the PerFORM parts performed perfectly. After a few design revisions, the 3D printed injector bungs were remade and the team integrated them into their final assembly.
UConn Formula SAE placed 19th out of approximately 120 teams at the Michigan International Speedway competition. It marked their most successful season as a team ever. This group of young engineers expects to race an even better and faster car in 2016 with the help of additive manufacturing and Somos® high performance materials.