After working for just under a year at RENNtech, a shop that specializes in tuning and enhancing performance for European-made cars, product design engineer Dustin Hanna was presented with a unique opportunity.
Mercedes-Benz USA notified RENNtech that the shop had been chosen to compete in the Mercedes-Benz GLK Tuner Challenge, which provided four shops pre-production vehicles to modify according to themes, highlighting each respective shop’s versatility. The challenge had a tight deadline for the task at hand – RENNtech was given just 35 days to design and produce an off-road racer prototype of the Mercedes-Benz GLK to present at the upcoming SEMA Show, the premier automotive specialty products trade event. The car was to be modified according to a pre-approved Mercedes-Benz proposal, dictated by the provided theme. SEMA attendees, the public and online participants would then vote on their favorite vehicle to select a winner.
Supercharging the design cycle with 3D
Florida-based RENNtech, Inc., owned by renowned Mercedes-Benz high performance expert, Hartmut Feyhl, offers drivers minor enhancements, parts, modifications, or total revamps. The GLK Challenge was a great opportunity for the RENNtech shop, but it posed a great dilemma. “We had to make numerous body panels and parts you’d normally mold and produce with fiberglass or carbon fiber,” said Hanna. “We didn’t have the time or money for that. Our designers had to come up with a solution that would allow us to meet our deadline and prove more cost-effective than outsourcing the entire project.”
Hanna looked at a number of 3D printing options to help speed completion of the project. He found that Dimension 3D printing offered an affordable option that produced the high-quality parts the job demanded.
“Producing strong, yet lightweight, parts in ABS plastic was a big factor for me in the decision to purchase the Dimension 3D Printer,” said Hanna. “We wouldn’t have completed the project with any other technology.”
Hanna put the 3D printer to use for the GLK Challenge, producing prototypes to test multiple variations, review fitment, and prototype difficult-to-machine components, such as undercuts.
“We had one month to produce the GLK. Without the 3D printer, we would have had to mold each of the pieces individually,” said Feyhl. “There is no way we would have finished the body kit in time.”
After successfully completing the project in just over a month, RENNtech presented their racer at the SEMA Show in front of thousands of industry experts and influencers.
Inspired by the famed Pikes Peak Hill Climb, the Rally Racer included a host of upgrades including a body kit, which was prototyped using 3D printing technology. All together, RENNtech produced eight body panels, an airbox, an engine cover and a steering wheel cover for their version of the mid-sized SUV, the largest part measured at 36 in. x 20 in. x 6 in. in size.
SEMA attendees, among others, voted in an online competition to determine the most impressive model. Competing against three other models, RENNtech was awarded top honors, taking home the winning trophy for the Mercedes-Benz GLK Tuner Challenge.
“The GLK Challenge gave us a great deal of scope for bringing together form and function. For our model, performance may have been the primary goal, but it also looks the part,” Feyhl added. “And, thanks to 3D printing technology, we achieved both in 35 days.”
Prior to having the printer, RENNtech was forced to use an outside bureau for all prototyping projects, big and small.
“If we couldn’t get a part prototyped by an outside bureau in time, we’d have to scan clay models or just guess,” said Hanna. “After the success of the GLK Challenge, we’ve found ourselves using the Dimension 3D Printer for everyday prototyping.”
To source the project to an outside bureau would have cost RENNtech 59% more.
Relative to traditional methods, RENNtech saved more than $15,000 in all tooling and parts.
Dimension Printing, Stratasys