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Supercars and Windform RS: a match made in heaven

CRP Technology's Windform RS, a carbon-fiber-filled composite, has numerous applications and benefits for high-performance vehicles.

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What do Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Dallara, Ducati and Pagani have in common? Yes, they are all Italian car brands. But more than that, they all come from the same part of the country, the Emilia-Romagna Region, also fittingly known as Motor Valley. Since 1996, Motor Valley has also been home to 3D printing company CRP Technology, which has closely aligned itself and its unique range of high-performance composite SLS materials with the local (and global) automotive industry, playing its part to shape the future of high-performance vehicles.

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. Our focus in this article is, as you may have guessed, the latter.

The company has deep ties to the automotive sector. Beyond being based in a world-famous automotive hub, CRP has provided 3D printing services to automotive clients from its facilities in Modena, Italy, Mooresville, North Carolina and Dubai. Understandably, CRP cannot disclose who its clients are, but it has provided insights into which of its materials automotive makers are using and the types of parts that can be integrated into the latest high-performance supercars.

Windform RS

High up on the list of CRP Technology materials for automotive applications is Windform RS, a polyamide-based carbon-fiber-filled composite. 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 is also water and oil resistant and has been rated HB under UL 94 flammability tests.

CRP Technology and Windform RS, a carbon-fiber-filled composite that has numerous applications and benefits for high-performance vehicles.
3D printed Windform components are today in use by several leading sports car brands for high-performance vehicles.

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. As CRP explains, the SLS composite meets the requirements of supercar manufacturers on many fronts: it can produce custom parts with complex geometries, it is lightweight, it is durable and strong, it is resistant to various stresses and conditions, and it offers cost and time benefits compared to conventional manufacturing techniques.

Enabling automated controls

CRP Technology highlights a big opportunity for its Windform range of materials, created in-house specifically for delivering on performance in sectors where lightweight and mass reduction are a must. Today’s cars are notable for their built-in connectivity and automated controls. These features necessitate advanced software, of course, but they also require certain hardware components, including various electronics, fluids, and high-power energy cables. These parts must fit seamlessly and safely into vehicle structures. 3D printed Windform housings can help integrate these various pieces of hardware, enclosing them, harnessing them and fitting them into compact or narrow spaces while providing for inspection capability.

CRP Technology and Windform RS, a carbon-fiber-filled composite that has numerous applications and benefits for high-performance vehicles.
Windform fluid retention components can operate submerged in oil and at high temperatures.

For instance, CRP Technology can produce customized retaining ducts and cable trays that protect and guide high-power electrical cables. Windform RS can withstand the high temperatures of 800V power cables and simultaneously protects the cables from liquids, like oil and water. Moreover, the custom components can be optimized for easy access, simplifying inspection and maintenance. In the category of housing and retention systems, CRP has also 3D printed cooling ducts, wire harnesses and coaxial fans.

Enhancing gearbox performance

Windform RS has also been validated under the conditions typical of a supercar gearbox, successfully withstanding high stresses and extreme settings. Notably, CRP says an oil circuit supply and intake pipe system with 3D printed Windform RS hoses actually 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. The 3D printed system also proved to be a success after months of continuous use in a gearbox at speeds reaching up to 340 km/hour.

CRP also 3D printed an oil pan baffle, a component that helps keep motor oil from moving around while the car is in motion and ensures the engine always has access to oil. Made from Windform RS, this larger component was tested under the same conditions as the oil circuit supply and intake pipes system and demonstrated excellent durability and fatigue resistance. Moreover, CRP says that thanks to the low density of Windform RS compared to aluminum and all-carbon materials, the oil pan baffle benefited from enhanced performance.

Improving aerodynamics

Windform RS is not only applicable for internal housing and gearbox components: CRP has also successfully used the SLS composite material for the production of aerodynamic automotive components. With excellent strength, stiffness and impact absorption, Windform RS stands up well to the mechanical stresses that external supercar features face.

CRP Technology and Windform RS, a carbon-fiber-filled composite that has numerous applications and benefits for high-performance vehicles.
Windofrm components are equipped to withstand heavy pressures at top speeds.

Aerodynamic features like winglets and louvers are common in supercars and are similar to those used in 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.

In addition to winglets and louvers, CRP Technology says its solution is also suitable for front spoilers, splitters and vortex generators (which are placed on the surface of a car and create a swirl of air to increase downforce and improve airflow). 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.

Time and cost benefits

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. On the one hand, additive manufacturing allows for the design of complex geometries and consolidated components. This has two big benefits: parts can be optimized for weight reduction and performance, while assembly times can be dramatically reduced. Windform RS in particular is known for its smooth surface finish post-printing, which can reduce post-processing times and enhance aerodynamics.

CRP Technology and Windform RS, a carbon-fiber-filled composite that has numerous applications and benefits for high-performance vehicles.
Aerodynamic components for supercars, like DSR winglets, are 3D printed for enhanced airflow.

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 especially relevant for supercars and race cars, which are made in low volumes and often feature customized components. These high-performance vehicles can benefit hugely from the cost and time efficiency of 3D printing small- or mid-batch products. In terms of lead times, CRP has successfully brought special edition components from concept to reality in just three weeks (much faster than the estimated 12-17 weeks it would take using conventional tooling processes).

As a service, CRP Technology is ISO-9001 certified (with 9100 on its way) and delivers parts that meet automotive customer standards, which involves high investments in staff training and the continuous deployment 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 the compliance of parts to 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. Overall, every CRP part is produced to meet the highest standards and the company is constantly working to raise that bar. Windform RS is one of a dozen Windform SLS powders developed and validated by CRP Technology that is helping it to push these boundaries. You can find its full Windform portfolio here.

This article was created in collaboration with CRP Technology and first appeared in 3dpbm’s Automotive AM Focus 2023 eBook.

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Tess Boissonneault

Tess Boissonneault is a Montreal-based content writer and editor with five years of experience covering the additive manufacturing world. She has a particular interest in amplifying the voices of women working within the industry and is an avid follower of the ever-evolving AM sector. Tess holds a master's degree in Media Studies from the University of Amsterdam.

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