BURLINGTON, MA – Infinium, a space-age solar panel on wheels and the University of Michigan’s ultra-sleek contender for the upcoming World Solar Challenge, is a product of advanced engineering technologies like 3D printing and 3D scanning from Z Corporation.
U-M’s newest solar car, Infinium (Photo Credit: Scott Galvin, U-M Photo Services)
The university’s solar car team uses a ZScanner® 700 to inspect prototypes against digital designs to ensure accuracy for wind tunnel testing. The scanner also captures the engineering data from solar car prototypes from throughout the team’s 20-year history.
The team uses a ZPrinter® multicolor 3D printer to create prototypes of parts like its ergonomic steering wheel and motor housing. The prototypes help the team conduct form, fit and functional testing before production. The team also “ZPrints” molds for lightweight carbon fiber parts and car models for display.
The team will take Infinium, unveiled June 5, to the World Solar Challenge, an 1,800–mile race across Australia in October 2009. Co-sponsored by Z Corporation, the team is a perennial high performer: it won the North American Solar Challenge (a 2,400-mile race from Dallas to Calgary, Alberta, Canada) five out of nine times and has finished as high as third in the World Championship three times. Twenty years after a group of University of Michigan students won the GM Sunrayce USA, the precursor to the North American Solar Challenge, the team remains the most visible and successful solar car team in North America.
Advanced technologies help Infinium perform
Five times more aerodynamic than a Corvette with contours shaped by a supercomputer, Infinium employs space-grade gallium arsenide solar panels that convert sunshine into power that is stored in highly efficient lithium batteries. The batteries are capable of carrying the car 300 miles in pitch dark. Their efficiency helps the car recharge on sunny days even while being driven. Infinium has a top speed of 87 miles per hour and weighs only 400 pounds.
The university’s engineering approach exemplifies the standardization of 3D scanning and printing in advanced R&D organizations. A 3D printer creates physical models from 3D CAD data much as a document printer creates letters and presentations from office application data. A 3D scanner is one way of gathering data for 3D printing.
“We’re proud to sponsor the University of Michigan Solar Car Team, and we strongly support the important work students are doing for the school as they advance their career prospects,” said Z Corporation CEO John Kawola. “Even more importantly, the team is using 3D technology – CAD and Z Corporation printing and scanning – to uncover efficient renewable energy solutions for the future.”