By Chris Hoins, Controller, Stratasys, Inc.
In-house prototyping versus outsourcing-here’s one company’s choice and why.
Manufacturing and assembling each of the components of a Koenigsegg car is labor intensive as more than 300 carbon fiber parts make up each high-tech supercar. The best method of designing a new car is to test the parts both virtually and as true-to-life prototypes. By testing throughout the development cycle, Koenigsegg’s designers can determine which designs yield the best possible results.
The team of six starts the development process by designing each individual part on its CAD system. They then ‘print’ a high-density plastic model of each component to carry out various testing scenarios. If changes to the part are required, they can be made manually and then scanned from the altered model component. This scan is then used to make a new CAD model, which can be printed again for further testing.
Previously, the engineering team outsourced the 3D printing of its prototypes to a service bureau. This stop/start approach proved disruptive to the process and typically added on days to the cycle, halting the development of the car. It also added to the cost and administration of the development process, which reduced the team’s overall efficiency. The company needed to speed up its prototyping to evaluate different versions of a design more quickly and effectively.
The team realized that having a 3D printer onsite would speed up the prototyping process, and therefore the development of its cars. After evaluating all printers available on the market and judging each one on performance, available materials, price and size, the team purchased a Dimension SST 1200es printer.
“Dimension allows us to modify and print prototypes quickly as well as provides us with the option to use them as end use parts in our cars,” said Christian von Koenigsegg, founder and CEO, Koenigsegg Automotive AB. “Once the Dimension printer was up and running, our engineers started using the machine straight away. The process of printing prototypes onsite and testing each component has sped up the development of the car design by an estimated 20%.”
The 3D printer is used in-house for design prototyping of the supercars as first planned. But it is also used for everything from printing engine parts to interior fixtures and design. In addition, the designers use it to develop tooling and studies on component mounting and servicing.
“Since purchasing the printer, the turnaround time for getting a component right in terms of design has decreased enormously, it now only takes a few days instead of a number of weeks,” said von Koenigsegg. “Our designers and engineers can quickly establish a part’s suitability for the supercar without stifling their creative flow.” The printer has aided in the design of Koenigsegg’s latest model, the Agera.
Every engineer now has access to the printer, which has not only sped up the design process, but allowed the team to be more creative and push the boundaries of supercar development. For example, printing and testing prototypes for the air inlets assisted them in developing a supercar with a staggering torque of 920 nm reached at 5000 rpm.
Dimension 3D Printers, Stratasys Inc.