The University of Michigan team that built the recently unveiled ‘Infinium’ solar car used Z Corporation 3D printing and scanning technology to quickly and affordably create prototypes, moulds and vehicle models.
BURLINGTON, Mass., USA, June. 2009: To the untrained-eye, Infinium appears to be nothing more than a solar panel on wheels. But, to those in the know, it’s the University of Michigan’s ultra-sleek contender for the forth-coming World Solar Challenge. For the team that designed and built it, Infinium is also and a product of advanced 3D printing and 3D scanning from Z Corporation.
Michigan’s solar car designers used a ZScanner® 700 to inspect prototypes against digital designs to ensure accuracy for wind tunnel testing. The scanner was also employed to capture the engineering data from previous solar car prototypes, built throughout the team’s 20-year history.
The Michigan team used a ZPrinter® multicolour 3D printer to create prototypes of parts like Infinium’s ergonomic steering wheel and also its motor housing. The prototypes help the team to conduct form, fit and functional testing before production. The team also “ZPrinted” moulds for lightweight carbon-fibre parts and car models for display.
“Each time we use the ZPrinter to create a part prototype, mould or car model we reduce development time by weeks and save thousands of dollars by not sending the work out to a service bureau,” said Steve Hechtman, 2009 project manager, recent graduate and four-year member of the University of Michigan Solar Car Team. “Each time we use the ZScanner we know we’re capturing precise engineering data to help us to make critical design
decisions. We’re able to work faster and smarter and build a better car. Infinium is the result!”
Infinium will contest the World Solar Challenge: aAn 1,800–mile race across Australia in October 2009. Co-sponsored by Z Corporation, the Michigan team is a perennial high-performer and has won the North American Solar Challenge (a 2,400-mile race from Dallas, Texas to Calgary, Alberta, Canada) five out of nine times. It has also finished as high as third in the World Championship three times. Twenty years after a group of University of Michigan students won the GM Sunrayce USA, the precursor to the North American Solar Challenge, the team is arguably the best-known and most successful solar car team in North America.
Advanced technologies give Infinium high performance.
Thanks to slippery contours shaped by a super-computer, The University of Michigan claims that Infinium is five times more aerodynamic than a Corvette sports car. The vehicle employs space-grade gallium arsenide solar panels that convert sunshine into power. That power is stored in highly efficient lithium batteries, which are capable of carrying the car 300 miles in the pitch
dark. Their high level of efficiency means that they can even recharge on sunny days while the car is being driven. Infinium has a top speed of 87 miles per hour and weighs just 400 pounds.
The university’s approach to engineering is a fine example of how organisations that invest in 3D scanning and printing can dramatically improve their research and development practices. A 3D printer creates physical models from 3D CAD data, much as a document printer creates letters and presentations from office application data. A 3D scanner is a very efficient way of gathering data for 3D printing.
“We’re proud to sponsor the University of Michigan Solar Car Team, and we strongly support the important work students are doing for the school as they advance their career prospects,” said Z Corporation CEO John Kawola. “Even more importantly, the team is using 3D technology – CAD and Z Corporation printing and scanning – to uncover efficient renewable energy solutions for the future.”
About Z Corporation
Z Corporation makes products that enable users to capture, edit, and print 3D data with unprecedented speed, ease, versatility and affordability. These products include the world’s fastest high-definition 3D printers — machines that produce physical 3D models from digital data in multiple colours – and uniquely portable 3D scanners – handheld machines that digitize 3D surfaces in real time. Z Corp. technology is enabling a wide range of applications in
manufacturing, architecture, civil engineering, reverse engineering, geographic information systems (GIS), medicine and entertainment. For the latest news and information from Z Corp., visit www.zcorp.com.
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