The tech is being employed to test and build components including mirror housings and air intakes.
Seat’s performance-orientated sub-brand, Cupra, has revealed how it is using 3D printing technology to develop its latest models. The company says it is using the technology at its base near Barcelona to create its new touring car, the Leon Competición.
The 2-litre, 335 bhp racer comes with 3D printed door mirrors, air intakes and cooling intakes, which Cupra claims enables it to reduce the vehicle’s fuel consumption while also increasing stability, speed and safety. The state-of-the-art multi-jet fusion technology also allows the company to fashion parts more quickly and efficiently.
That means that during testing, the company can create a number of different prototype designs more easily, allowing faster testing processes. Printing a door mirror housing can take around 20 hours, but Cupra can make six at a time. These can then be tested in the wind tunnel to find the most aerodynamic shape.
Cupra fits the prototype parts to the car, then puts it in a wind tunnel capable of blasting air at more than 180 mph. Using sensors on the car’s surfaces, the engineers can collect data and compare components’ aerodynamic qualities.
When development is complete, Cupra will offer the Leon Competición to customers, allowing anyone with the money to buy the race car. The Spanish firm says the car will be the first touring car to be available for online ordering.
“For the new Cupra Leon Competición, we modelled the steering wheel's centre control module, the bonnet air vents, door mirrors and the brake and water-cooling inlets,” said Xavi Serra, head of technical development at Cupra Racing. “The main goal is to have a lot of parts in a short time. We can quickly test a wide variety of designs and furthermore, this technology enables us to react swiftly to any changes in the design process.
“The bigger the variety of parts we can test in this facility, the better. It enables us to make much faster progress. The results were excellent, and some were even surprising, because we were looking to push the material to its limits. This technology is and will continue to be key in countless fields to make the most complex ideas a reality.”
Meanwhile Virginia Palacios, head of systems product management for 3D printing and digital manufacturing, at HP, said the Cupra project showcased the uses of 3D printing.
“The work with CUPRA demonstrates the power of 3D printing and digital manufacturing – changing the way the world designs and manufactures,” she said. “3D printing is going to signal a turning point in the automotive industry by accelerating lead times and HP 3D technology is helping designers create parts that could not be produced with other technologies.”