British supercar maker Briggs Automotive Company (BAC) collaborated with Covestro to improve the performance and design of the Mono R. Together, the companies built a lighter and less expensive Formula 1-inspired ram-air inlet system, improved the aerodynamic design of its custom-made mirror brackets and created durable steering wheels with custom grips. Pairing BAC’s award-winning design knowledge and Covestro’s application expertise transformed the automotive manufacturing process, resulting in lightweight, custom-made end use parts
Manufacturers are challenged to find fast, low cost and more efficient production processes. Such was the case for British supercar manufacturer, BAC, which was designing a lightweight, high performance, road legal supercar. BAC’s Mono R supercar – which won the prestigious Design & Innovation Award at the 2019 Northern Automotive Alliance Awards - is described as “the very pinnacle of design, innovation, engineering and performance” and has a top speed of 170 mph with an acceleration of 0-60 mph in 2.5 seconds.
BAC and Covestro identified over 40 end use parts on the Mono R supercar that can be 3D printed using stereolithography, selective laser sintering, fused filament fabrication and fused granulate fabrication.
A race car’s airbox sits on the car body and includes four trumpets and runners that drive pressurized air into the engine. Typically made from an aluminum diecast composite, Covestro and BAC identified a combination of Covestro materials to create air trumpets and runners that accommodate the heat, air pressure and wind speeds they encounter. The inlet runners were printed by Makerpoint using Novamid® ID1030 CF10, a durable material ideal for stiff, structural parts used in aggressive, high-temperature environments.
The runners sit between the engine and trumpets and mitigate wind loads through the airbox of 170 mph, air pressure and heat. Finding the right material and design was key. Covestro and BAC modified the initial design to create runners that would maximize airflow while standing up to harsh conditions.
In addition to the physical curvature of the runners, finish was also tested and refined; a gloss finish reduces drag, a rougher finish can increase turbulence to have a richer fuel and air mixture.
Each runner can be designed slightly differently to accommodate the various pressures each encounters as air rushes through the airbox. The design flexibility afforded through additive manufacturing made this process less costly and quicker than traditional manufacturing and resulted in increased stability.
The trumpets, printed by Rapid 3D, were made using Somos® Taurus, a stereolithography material with excellent surface quality and isotropy. Somos® Taurus minimizes part finishing and painting, making it ideal for the automotive and aerospace industries.
By using 3D printing and eliminating expensive tooling, BAC estimates they shortened production time and cut part production costs by more than 50 percent.
Decreasing the overall weight of the supercar allows for improved performance, as well as reduced CO2 emissions. Additive manufacturing provided BAC an improved design process when creating the runners and trumpets, ensuring the team spend time developing ideal parts.
Managing aerodynamics is a challenging aspect of high-performance car production. On the Mono R supercar, BAC and Covestro aimed to improve the aerodynamic design and production properties of the car’s wing mirrors.
Since air flow and pressure need to be considered when designing a car like the Mono R, BAC realized additive manufacturing would allow them the freedom to refine and improve their wing mirror designs – to improve performance, but also to provide customization to the car’s owner.
Using Novamid® ID1030 CF10, a carbon fiber filled copolymer filament ideal for stiff, tough applications in harsh environments, Covestro and BAC printed mirror struts to improve airflow and wind resistance. Novamid® ID1030 CF10 produces strong, durable structural parts with high dimensional stability, no warpage and very good surface appearance.
Somos® Taurus, a Covestro stereolithography material, was used to manufacture the prototype body structures that hold the mirrors. This material has superior strength, durability and high temperature resistance.
BAC reduced manufacturing time, cost and overall car weight by utilizing additive manufacturing. By collaborating with Covestro and using 3D printing technology, BAC maximized the aerodynamic properties of Mono R’s wing mirrors.
To create the optimal design, many design iterations were completed, and multiple prototypes needed to be printed – a costly, time-consuming feat with traditional manufacturing. Additive manufacturing reduced production time and gave BAC the advantage of interacting with each design, refining and quickly producing another.
Using traditional manufacturing, Briggs estimates a six- to eight-week period from CAD design to final production. With additive manufacturing, BAC can have parts produced in two days.
Additive manufacturing allowed the wing mirrors to be lightweight so as not to impede the Mono R’s performance. Additionally, the mirror struts can be tuned to the driver’s height and position in the driver’s seat – something easily achievable with 3D printing.
BAC also explored customizing the steering wheel grips for each driver and additive manufacturing was an ideal solution.
The Mono R is made to fit its owner; the seat, pedals, mirrors, etc., are all meticulously measured for each driver. A one-size-fits-all stock steering wheel was just not an option for the supercar. The ability to produce a personalized steering wheel gives the driver a better experience and improved performance on the road.
Ian Briggs, Design Director at BAC, explains, “The material we used for the steering wheel grips was comfortable and molded well to the driver’s hands, but over time it lost some of its elasticity. We aimed to find a material that would remain flexible indefinitely.”
Covestro’s fused filament fabrication material Arnitel® ID2045, was chosen to print the steering wheel grips due to its highly flexible properties. Each new Mono R owner has a “fitting”: the owner sits in the driver’s seat and holds the steering wheel. Made of clay, an impression is made indicating the driver’s hand and grasp angles. This is scanned and turned into a 3D print file. Once printed, the final steering wheel grips are covered in leather for added comfort, then installed in the car.
The 3D printed steering wheel grips have a soft surface touch but are strong and long-lasting. The flexible Arnitel® ID2045 helps absorb and reduce impact on the driver’s hand. Tapping into Covestro’s expert knowledge on how to process its material correctly allows BAC to offer different levels of softness depending on the driver’s preferences.
In addition to the performance and personalization aspects of 3D printed steering wheel grips, using additive manufacturing enables BAC to produce the grips internally. This avoids the time and cost of outsourcing, but also shortens production lead time.
Covestro’s materials expertise and extensive ecosystem paired with BAC’s automotive knowledge paved the way for innovation. The result is a road-ready supercar that utilized 3D printing for peak performance and handling – a testament to the use of additive manufacturing in the automotive industry.
Get in touch with our experts to discuss how Covestro can help you tap into the full potential of additive manufacturing.