Oct 14, 2015 | By Alec

While solar powered energy is doubtlessly a thing of the future, few initiatives have done more to popularize and improve that environmentally-friendly technology than the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. Held annually in Australia, it features numerous fascinating solar powered cars who are all racing towards the finish line 3000 kilometers away – an arduous challenge. Every time, the Dutch team from TU Delft is among the favorites (and have won several titles already), but this year is different in at least one aspect. Their entry, the Nuna8, features a 3D printed tailfin that is as light and aerodynamic as possible, adding just a bit of extra speed to the car’s performance.

For those of you who’ve never heard of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, it’s one of the most remarkable races you’ve ever seen. Sure, Formula one has the sexy cars and millions of dollars to spend, but these solar-powered cars have to cover more than 3000 kilometers, straight through the heart of Australia, through murderous deserts and unrelenting rays of sun – though that latter factor could be seen as an advantage. The 2015 race is set to kick off in just a few days from now, on 18 October.

Over the years, the cars – all built by students – have gotten increasingly similar, for a good reason. ‘It's all about energy management! Based on the original notion that a 1000W car would complete the journey in 50 hours, solar cars are allowed a nominal 5kW hours of stored energy, which is 10% of that theoretical figure. All other energy must come from the sun or be recovered from the kinetic energy of the vehicle,’ the guidelines state. This means that good and efficient designs are quickly copied, and the Dutch team from Delft (untouchable champions between 2001 and 2007) have generally set the tone in terms of design.

And again, they are now taking things in a different direction and if successful, similar approaches could be copied by the rest of the teams. Yesterday, on 13 October, all the teams presented their cars to the judges and each car had to be thoroughly checked, and usually means that they have to undergo rigorous last minute changes to ensure the cars are up to the challenge. The Nuna8, incidentally, only needed a few extra bits of isolation for the wiring.

However, it’s also the time to reveal your innovations and intimidate your opponents, and the Dutch team had quite an innovation to show off: a 3D printed tailfin. This ‘trailing edge’ is a very sharp edge at the back of the vehicle that greatly improves the car’s aerodynamics. ‘We built our solar powered vehicle in carbon, a stiff and superlight material. But one of the disadvantages of this material is that the aerodynamics on the backside of the vehicle aren’t optimal. As wind resistance is a deciding factor in this race, DSM built a sharp-edged, hollow tailfin with a very advanced 3D printer,’ aerodynamic specialist on the Dutch team Joris van den Berg explains. The tailfin weighs just 250 grams (the same as a pack of butter), and is completely transparent to ensure that the taillights are perfectly visible.

Photos: Hans-Peter van Velthoven/Jorrit Lousberg

Aside from this 3D printed marvel, the car also impressed onlookers for a futuristic fire extinguishing system built into its battery. The system hails from the aerospace industry, and spreads a cloud of fine powder in case of a fire. It greatly improves the car’s safety, and only weighs 250 grams or so. The combination of these two innovations means that the Nuon Solar Team is confidently looking forward to the race. The cars will undergo a final checkup on 17 October, on the race track Hidden Valley, in the vicinity of Darwin. Break ability and road-holding will be tested, and the starting sequence will be determined, with the race following the next day.



Posted in 3D Printing Applications



Maybe you also like:


Leave a comment:

Your Name:


Subscribe us to

3ders.org Feeds 3ders.org twitter 3ders.org facebook   

About 3Ders.org

3Ders.org provides the latest news about 3D printing technology and 3D printers. We are now seven years old and have around 1.5 million unique visitors per month.

News Archive