Rapid Prototyping Process Races Engine to Finish
-- Using a rapid, patternless casting method, Soligen was able to cut the lead time to produce a racing engine for Buckley Systems’ GP 500cc motorcycle (r) by 40%, as well as increase its horsepower by 25%. --
In 1998, Buckley Systems, Ltd., a New Zealand Grand Prix motorcycle team, had an idea for increasing the horsepower and performance of their racing engine. The only problem was getting its newly designed engine block cast, machined and tested before the start of the next race. Traditionally, Buckley would go the route of conventional sand castings for its engine components. However, with time running out and the expense involved in making tooling for just a few castings, it was open to methods of rapid prototyping and manufacturing. Making conventional patterns and coreboxes to cast this complex engine barrel would take 5-6 weeks at best. It didn’t have that much time.
The engine block casting it had designed required a complex core to form the water jacket and cylinder features. This manufacturing necessity narrowed the playing field of RP processes. After researching a number of different rapid prototyping methods that could convert the 3-D CAD data to a cast part, it chose Soligen, Inc., a company out of Northridge, California, that works with a rapid, patternless casting method called Direct Shell Production Casting. This process uses 3-D printing to make a ceramic mold complete with integral cores and gating directly from the CAD data.
Buckley emailed Soligen the 3-D CAD data and received A356 T6 aluminum engine castings ready to assemble and functionally test in 18 business days, half the time of conventional methods. “The complexity of our design along with the need to meet a short lead time led us to this patternless casting method,” said Buckley Project Engineer Paul Tracey. “We were in crisis mode, and only this process could get us a race-ready part when we needed it.”
The result for Buckley has been a 25% increase in horsepower, considerable savings in time and money, and avoiding pattern modifications for each revision.
Original article appears at Engineered Casting Solutions