While we get a real kick out of every single part we manufacture, there’s really something special about a customer presenting us with a one-off concept to work with them on — from the design to the manufacturing of an end-use product that exceeds their expectations.
There’s no doubt about it, we aren’t ones to shy away from a challenge, and getting those creative juices flowing is what we thrive on. Recently, we were lucky enough to be approached by a keen Southland race car driver who, unfortunately, had a bit of a run-in with a structure while out on the track. As a result, the bumper of his Wolf Mondeo suffered significant damage, rendering the car unfit for driving. Instead of replacing the bumper with an alternative part, our customer decided to leave it with us to entirely remake, with the intention of optimising its design and creating a mould that could be reused if the damage was to happen again. In addition to this, aftermarket adjustments had been made to the bumper, so it just made sense to start from scratch.
We began by taking our Creaform 3D scanner to the car itself, and inch by inch, creating a digital prototype of it to determine how the bumper part would fit to the physical attachment points, and what we could do to make it even better. Rather than replicating it exactly, we actually tweaked the design in terms of the way the airflow was captured and distributed, and adjusted the volume through the cross-sectional area to make it more lightweight. We used computer-aided design (CAD) and supporting imagery after scanning the bumper on its own to make these technical modifications. One of the advantages of using additive manufacturing to generate this part was that we could recreate the ducts in the bumper to make them detachable. As a result, if the bumper was to be damaged but the ducts remained intact, we would only have to print a new bumper on its own. Because the original bumper didn’t quite fit the car frame right, we also had to manipulate it slightly in order for it to slot in smoothly.
The next step was choosing a machine to bring the digital file to life. Using the Stereolithography (SLA) ProX 800 Polymer 3D Printer was a no-brainer in this case. This machine is suitable for high-quality, detailed medium to large functional prototypes, clear parts, and investment casting masters. It also has the largest build chamber of our machines, which comes in handy when you’re working with bigger parts. While we had to split the bumper design into three parts, they were all manufactured in the same build and attached together seamlessly once they were printed. With this technology, we printed the parts and then made a mould of each one, just in case we needed to print more than one part in the future, and then laid fibreglass into the mould to create the finished bumper part. Due to the capabilities of the SLA, we were able to avoid the need for surface finishing and the part was ready as soon as it came out of the mould.
When we were all set, we made a few minor adjustments and then it was time for our customer to come in and see it for themselves. When they fitted the bumper to the car, it was absolutely bang on in terms of being the perfect fit. Not only were we able to meet our customer’s needs, but we were also able to do it all in-house. Having the technology required to do jobs like this means we don’t have to worry about outsourcing work and in turn, it cuts a whole lot of time off jobs, keeps the communication clear, and achieves a higher level of efficiency all-round.