What does Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati have in common? They are all Italian car manufacturers. More than that, they all hail from the Emilia-Romagna Region which is appropriately known as Motor Valley. Motor Valley has been home to CRP Technology since 1996. This 3D printing firm has closely collaborated with the local and global automotive industry to develop high-performance materials.
CRP Technology has carved out a specific niche in the additive manufacturing world, developing a range of high-performance composite SLS materials—marketed under the Windform brand—and providing professional 3D printing services to customers in the aerospace, medical, UAV, motorsport and automotive industries. This article will focus on the latter, as you may have already guessed.
The company has close ties with the automotive sector. CRP is located in Modena in Italy and Mooresville in North Carolina. CRP also offers 3D printing services to automotive customers from its facilities. CRP cannot reveal the identities of its clients, but it can provide insight into the materials used by automotive manufacturers and the parts that can be incorporated into the most advanced supercars.
Windform RS, a carbon-fiber-filled composite that is polyamide-based, ranks high on the CRP Technology materials list for automotive applications. Released in mid-2021 after substantial R&D, Windform RS is engineered for the production of heavy-duty components, counting shock, vibration, deformation, and temperature resistance among its top qualities. The material has a high tensile strength of 85.25 MPa and has been successfully tested at a broad range of temperatures (down to -40°C). Windform RS has also been tested for oil and water resistance and has been rated HB by UL 94 flammability tests.
This combination of properties, along with CRP’s SLS 3D printing expertise, have made Windform RS the ideal material for automotive parts, particularly special edition or custom components for supercars. CRP explained that the SLS composite can be used to produce complex parts, is light and durable, is strong and resistant to different stresses and conditions, and offers time and cost savings over traditional manufacturing methods.
CRP Technology identifies a huge opportunity for the Windform range materials. These materials were created in-house for performance in industries where light weight and mass reduction are important. Today’s cars are notable for their built-in connectivity and automated controls. These features require advanced software but also certain hardware components. This includes fluids and electronics as well as high-power cables. These parts need to fit into vehicles safely and seamlessly. These housings, 3D printed Windform, can be used to integrate the various pieces of hardware. They can be enclosed, harnessed, and fitted into narrow or compact spaces, while also providing inspection capabilities.
CRP Technology is able to produce customized retaining and cable tray trays that can protect and guide high power electrical cables. Windform RS can withstand high temperatures and protect cables from liquids such as oil and water. Additionally, custom components can easily be accessed for easier inspection and maintenance. CRP offers a range of housing and retention systems that include 3D printed cooling pipes, wire harnesses, coaxial fans, and wire harnesses.
Enhancing gearbox performance
Windform RS was also tested under extreme conditions and with high stress. CRP claims that a 3D-printed Windform RS hose system for oil circuit supply and intake pipe systems performed better than its aluminum counterpart. The 3D printed hoses, designed for use in endurance races such as 24 Hours of Le Mans, underwent a series of fatigue tests, standing up to extreme temperatures (of up to 120° C), as well as exposure to fluids and vibrations. After months of use at speeds up to 340 km/hour, the 3D-printed system proved to be a success.
CRP also 3D-printed an oil pan baffle. This prevents motor oil moving around when the car is in motion, and ensures that the engine has oil at all times. Windform RS is a larger component that was tested under similar conditions to the oil circuit supply, intake pipes system and showed exceptional durability and fatigue resistance. CRP claims that the oil pan baffle’s performance was enhanced by Windform RS’s low density compared to aluminum or all-carbon materials.
Windform RS can be used for both internal housing and gearbox components. CRP also uses the SLS composite material to produce aerodynamic components. Windform RS has excellent strength, stiffness, and impact absorption. It is well-suited for external supercar features that are subject to mechanical stress.
Supercars are equipped with aerodynamic features, such as louvers and winglets. These are similar to F1 racing. These adjustable components help to contain and control drag, ultimately augmenting the vehicle’s speed and stability on the road or track. CRP’s Windform RS material meets the needs of these applications, particularly when it comes to withstanding heavy air pressure and ensuring a high aerodynamic load while driving at top speeds.
CRP Technology claims that its solution can be used for winglets, louvers, and front spoilers. Splitters, vortex generators, and front spoilers are also possible. These devices are placed on the car’s surface and create airflow to increase downforce. Active aerodynamic components, which can be activated by a button and are becoming more prevalent in the latest supercars, can also benefit from CRP’s fiber-filled SLS 3D printing.
Savings in time and money
We’ve seen the various performance benefits that CRP Technology’s Windform range offers, but there are also a number of manufacturing advantages to 3D printing composite automotive features. One, additive manufacturing permits the creation of complex geometries. There are two major benefits to this: parts can be optimized for performance and weight reduction, while assembly times can dramatically reduce. Windform RS is especially known for its smooth finish post-printing. This can reduce post processing times and increase aerodynamics.
Perhaps most notably, CRP’s SLS 3D printing solution unlocks significant cost reductions for manufacturers, who can circumvent costly tooling and mold production by printing parts directly in one piece without the need for assembly for additional assembly. This is particularly important for supercars or race cars that are produced in small quantities and often have custom components. This high-performance vehicle can reap the benefits of 3D printing small or mid-batch parts. CRP’s success in bringing special edition components to life in just three weeks is impressive considering the 12-17 week lead time it would have taken using traditional tooling processes.
CRP Technology is an ISO-9001-certified service (with 9100 currently on its way). They deliver parts that meet the automotive customer standard. This involves significant investments in staff training and continuous deployments of advanced testing equipment. All of these processes are aimed at maintaining operational excellence across the company’s in-house teams while ensuring rapid delivery with an average lead time of two days. CRP also certifies parts’ compliance with the Material Data Sheet Specifications.
CRP Technology works with many leading high-performance automakers— in fact, it produced over 50,000 complex automotive parts last year for an array of high-profile manufacturers. The company’s AM services comprise more than 3D printing, it also provides integrated engineering, manual post-processing, inspection and testing services. Every CRP part is made to the highest standards. The company continues to strive to improve that standard. CRP Technology validated Windform SLS Powder RS as one of the dozen that were developed. Here is the complete Windform portfolio.
This article was created in collaboration with CRP Technology and first appeared in 3dpbm’s Automotive AM Focus 2023 eBook.