Sep 23, 2015 | By Benedict

The Bloodhound Supersonic car, which is attempting to become the fastest land vehicle ever, is to be unveiled this week. A significant number of its components, including its extremely tailored steering wheel and carbon fibre nose tip, have been produced using 3D printing techniques. 

The world land speed record currently stands at 763mph (1,228km/h), set by Andy Green in Thrust SSC in 1997. Andy will also be driving the Bloodhound as he attempts to break his own record. The Bloodhound team are hoping to not only break that record, but to make the partially 3D-printed land vehicle the first ever to surpass 1000mph. This would be the equivalent of travelling across 4.5 football pitches every second.

This week’s public unveiling, to take place in London’s Canary Wharf, will allow a curious public to see how the vehicle has been made. Several surface panels of the car will be removed to allow for a peek inside at the vehicle’s complex internal machinery. The car contains over 3,500 custom-made parts, which is one reason why several of those parts have been made using additive manufacturing techniques. Traditional batch production for such a large quantity of unique parts would have been overly expensive and time-consuming, and 3D printing has been employed as a more convenient alternative. Furthermore, several of the components require an intricacy of manufacturing that traditional techniques have been unable to provide.

The steering wheel, just one of the Bloodhound’s 3D-printed parts, is highly customised. Its contours have been made to precisely fit the hands of Andy Green, the driver who will be attempting to break the world record in the supersonic car. 

"We've actually used a scan of Andy's hand form, and if I machined that it would take an awfully long time," said Bloodhound components chief Conor La Grue. British manufacturing firm Renishaw PLC, based in Wotton-under-Edge, have been tasked with producing the steering wheel as well as the 3D-printed nose tip. The final version of the titanium steering wheel will be built in the next few weeks, and will take three to four days to complete.

Other 3D-printed components of the car include its auxiliary air intakes, which have been produced by another British firm, Graphite Additive Manufacturing of Aylesbury. These devices sit on both sides of the car, just behind the carbon-fibre monocoque in which the driver sits. These features channel air into the rear of the vehicle to cool a Jaguar V8 engine and a pump, which will drive "high-test peroxide" into the supersonic car’s rocket system. The intakes are carbon fibre, and have been laser sintered. Laser sintering fuses single layers of carbon, building up shapes layer by layer, as with other 3D printing techniques. These 3D-printed components would otherwise be very expensive and time-consuming to produce from a cast.

Mr La Grue, components chief, has emphasised that 3D printing has been used only where it offered a genuine advantage, and that Bloodhound have not simply jumped on the additive manufacturing bandwagon.

"Additive is great for a one-off, complex part, so for Bloodhound it's a really good way to save on tooling and machine holding, but if the properties in the component aren't there, we won't use it. Each impellor takes five weeks to machine, whereas we could grow one in a week, so it was certainly attractive to try to grow them. But we just didn't have enough confidence - in how porous the grown titanium material would be and what that would mean for its interaction with the HTP, and also in understanding how strong the different interfaces in the grown component would be.”

Bloodhound will be shown to the public in a sold-out expo at the East Wintergarden venue in London's Canary Wharf on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The team will then take the car back to its design HQ in Bristol for integration of the remaining components. The world record attempt will be made some time next year in the Northern Cape.



Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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