May 30, 2017 | By David

We’ve reported before on the work of Italian 3D printing specialist CRP Technology, known for its range of Windform 3D printing materials. The company's latest project, 3D printing a front air inlet for a motorcycle, made use of Windform products and SLS technology to advance the world of motor racing.

The 3D printed inlet was made for a client involved in Moto3 racing, a class of Grand Prix motorcycle racing in which racers must use a single-cylinder 250 cc four-stroke engine with a maximum bore of 81 mm. The 3D printed part could now give the CRP client a competitive edge in this high-octane sport. 

Initial tests of existing motorcycle air inlets determined that good airflow was essential to the racing performance of a motorcycle engine. When airflow to the airbox was increased, it improved performance at every RPM range. Taking this into consideration, the new design sought to enable a more direct air flow with less turbulence, and to move the opening up to the front side of the fairing.

What was also important for the early design of the new inlet was to make sure that it fitted the existing frame and triple clamps structure. Making sure it fitted with what the team already had would allow for direct on-track testing of its performance, in comparison with the older version.

With this in mind, CRP engineers captured a detailed 3D scan of the existing air inlet from which they could reverse engineer. After a first draft of a CAD model was produced, it was 3D printed using selective laser sintering and Windform’s GF 2.0 material. This glass/aluminium-based composite was chosen to reduce costs, so that multiple prototypes could be produced for extensive testing.

The first test of the prototype simply needed to determine how well the inlet would fit and whether it would be suitable for assembly. Unfortunately, problems were identified due to the lack of space underneath the lower triple clamp of the motorcycle.

To address this issue, CRP engineers adopted one of their more creative solutions, which was to combine their Windform XT 2.0 carbon fiber material (for the main structure) with Windform RL (for the bottom part of the duct). Windform RL, a flexible thermoplastic elastomer, would allow the duct to bend and collapse easily. This would mean that no extra space was needed, since the impact of the front fender on the duct—which happened when the motorcycle was braking—wouldn’t cause any damage. 

An extra test was carried out to see how easy it would be to bond these two different materials together.

Detail: bonding between 2 different Windform materials

Testing of a second prototype, also 3D printed from Windform GF 2.0, showed that some modifications still needed to be made. Although there was enough space for assembly and the flexible duct wasn’t likely to get damaged, the contact area with the front fender was still too large. The team predicted that this would cause an impression of drag to the rider when steering, and this needed to be minimized to ensure proper comfort.

A final version was produced, again using the SLS technique. This time the correct materials were used, and extra care was taken to ensure their bonding was as efficient as possible. Selecting the right adhesives and methods would ensure better functionality and structural accuracy.

CRP’s 3D printing work is now influencing the action on the Moto3 circuit on a regular basis, and the solutions it has offered for space issues could be applied similarly in Formula 1 racing and the rest of the automotive world.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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