3D Printing Car Part for BRC Automotive – Case Study
BRC Automotive has over 11 years combined experience in automotive design; Sam and Ed are both friends and business partners with a shared passion for all things automotive! Both professional engineers having worked in the automotive industry for many years across cars, bikes, trucks and military vehicles all around the world, they develop affordable, quality performance solutions for car enthusiasts.
BRC was looking for a way to manufacture low volume complex parts which would typically be either cast or injection moulded for their aftermarket inlet manifolds. Whilst developing a custom inlet manifold for the VW VR6 12v engine to allow running of individual throttle bodies at a fraction of the typical cost, they found that the use of these traditional methods would have resulted in very expensive parts as the volumes are low, and they wanted to offer products at a lower price to their customers. Making inlet manifolds from plastic is nothing new, however to make them in low volumes with high levels of accuracy, Plastic Additive Manufacturing (AM), also referred to as 3D Printing, seemed an ideal solution.
Sam and Ed had previously used Plastic AM parts for other projects, but this was a first for BRC. They set out to prove that you don’t have to stick with the normal methods of manufacture to end up with a quality, usable item.
Plastic AM enabled them to incorporate design features into the part which were unachievable using other manufacturing techniques. The pipe along the bottom of the inlet manifold is hollow with a small hole into each runner and an integral take off port. The pipe also doubles up as the stiffening member for the runners. The high temperature and chemical compatibility of the Nylon 12 material, combined with high levels of accuracy achieved using the AM process, made it the obvious choice.
Using 3T’s Plastic AM process, BRC have been able to shorten the design process without the worry of expensive re-tooling costs following a year of prototype testing. They simply added the additional features required as a result of each test by modifying the 3D CAD data, and ordered another part for further testing. This would not have been feasible if they’d gone down the casting or moulding route.
Ed says “We very early on made a rough prototype by fabricating some sheet steel and steel tube. After doing more research on the materials available, we based our entire design around the fact that Plastic Additive Manufacturing was the solution for us. No other manufacturing method could add the details into the part that we required, and allow us to make quick design changes”.
Ed concludes “3T’s turnaround times are extremely fast, and the parts are cost-effective bearing in mind we have low volume requirements. 3T have given us feedback on issues with our designs, and communication has been top notch! We are looking to use the AM process again in the future on interesting new products and we plan to push the limits of this manufacturing method.”