Oct 8, 2015 | By Benedict

Here at 3Ders, we hear a lot about 3D printing and cars. Whether it’s innovative 3D-printed toy cars for kids or 3D-printed components for the world’s fastest land vehicle, additive manufacturing is being used to improve motor design at every level. Unsurprisingly, the world of R/C cars has also made use of 3D printing technology. James Beswick, one of just a few R/C drivers to have hit 200 km/h, has developed the world’s fastest 3D-printed R/C car, and will stop at nothing until it breaks the R/C world record: 325 km/h.

That R/C speed record was set in October 2014 by American Nic Case, whose vehicle, dubbed ‘The Bullet’, was assembled with traditionally made components from Japanese firm Futaba. Beswick, who currently sits in 11th place on the all-time fastest R/C speed table, wants to do things a little differently. 

The racer and builder, who hails from Bracknell, United Kingdom, has been in the business of R/C car racing since he was young, and has been building his own vehicles for a few years. Unsatisfied with various pre-built parts, Beswick had an epiphany after reading about 3D printing and its mechanic possibilities. He acquired his own 3D printer, got to know the software, and was eventually designing and printing his own components. He found the process highly advantageous compared to buying his parts from retailers. 

“It sped up the building process significantly and opened so many more exciting possibilities,” Beswick explained. “I think I can honestly say I’d be lost without my Ultimaker in my life. For me the only hard part of the process is the waiting. I don’t always get the parts perfect first time but with the nature of 3D printing it’s so simple to go back to the design and make slight changes, then try again. The process is as simple as: Imagine, Design, Print, Enjoy!”

You’ll likely have noticed that Beswick’s racer is extremely long and narrow: a shape and size that is clearly advantageous for aerodynamics and therefore speed, but a problem for typical 3D printers with their small build areas. To 3D print the larger components of the 4 foot oblong vehicle, such as the recognisable orange body shell, Beswick needed a specialist machine. Enter the Ultimaker 2 Extended! The taller build volume of the Extended suited the racer’s needs to a tee, and has enabled him to 3D print fewer components and require fewer joints. This was a critical point for building his potentially record-breaking vehicle: every joint between separate parts results in some gap or imperfection, which increases air resistance and slows the vehicle. The greater the number of large, singular 3D-printed parts that Beswick can use, the faster his machine can drive.

Images from Ultimaker

There were other advantages offered by the Ultimaker 2 Extended which have been a revelation to Beswick. The 3D printer’s open filament system allowed the maker to try various different materials to decide which suited the individual parts. After some testing, Beswick eventually opted for a PLA/PHA filament, which is adequately flexible to provide the requisite degree of shock absorption, but strong enough to minimise warping. The PLA is made less brittle after being blended with the more flexible PHA polymer.

This PLA/PHA filament was used to make several parts of the R/C car. As well as the body-shell, the rear wing, servo holders, controller mounts, battery and cable clamps, and shock absorbers were 3D printed using the Ultimaker 3D printer and hybrid filament. 

Although the plastic components of the car are generally solid, Beswick has noticed one particular Achilles heel, which he hopes to fix using more advanced 3D design techniques. ”I’ve learnt through testing that stones at high speed versus PLA are a deadly mix, so in the next version of the body I’ll be printing I’ll be addressing a few weak spots.”

Bewswick now has his eye fixed on Nic Case’s world record. “The current R/C world record has very recently been set at 202 miles (325 km) per hour and I won’t be stopping with the development of my project until I can go faster.” If the British maker can break the record with a 3D-printed car, it will surely inspire a whole host of imitators, and may well change R/C cars forever. Obviously, we will always be rooting for a 3D-printed car and we hope the record can be broken. Go James!



Posted in 3D Printing Applications





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