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Concept to production in under three days

11 February 2011

Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) says it has just three days to diagnose a problem, find a solution and implement it before one of its cars ships to the next race. During one particular event, a tyre blew out on a JGR car, causing it to crash. It was later determined that heat from the brakes was the culprit and a duct outlet supplying cooling air to the tyre had under-performed.

In the past, getting a component like this designed, prototyped, evaluated and finally fitted to the car would have taken weeks with the loss of several racing opportunities. Today, thanks to modern prototyping technology, solutions to problems like this can now be achieved in time for the next event in the racing calendar.

On the morning following the race, JGR engineer Scott Temple designed a new duct outlet that followed the contour of the wheel to deliver air over the tire bead. Using a Stratasys Fortus FDM prototyping system, supplied here in the UK by Laser Lines, he built a concept model from ABS-M30 plastic in just four hours. After completing a couple of iterations of the concept that same day, Mr Temple was ready to move on to a functional prototype. He chose PC-ABS, to create one with good impact strength, using the Fortus machine to build the prototype overnight.

The next day, he bench tested it and determined that the airflow could be improved with minor design changes. A clash with the brake mechanism operation, however, required another iteration in CAD, and the Fortus machine was once again put to work to create the new part.

Later that day, the new prototype proved a perfect fit and its cooling performance confirmed. Using the Fortus once more, he produced the part again - this time using high-temperature PPSF plastic - to be used as a tooling buck to create a fibre-glass mould.

Early on the third day, the mould was used to create the final part from carbon fibre, which, following a reasonable curing interval, was fixed to the car the same day allowing plenty of time to transport and prepare it for the next race. In all, FDM technology enabled this crucial component to be designed, validated and manufactured in only 56 hours.

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