3D Printed Components Composite materials: Autonomous electric vehicle equipped with tailor-made components

Source: Press release

For Local Motors' autonomous electric vehicle Olli 2.0, Italy-based CRP Technology manufactured two applications using Windform composite materials. As additions to the original Olli 2.0 model, the 3D printed parts have supported the individual approval for a project in Europe.

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Olli 2 0 model without wipers.
Olli 2 0 model without wipers.
(Source: CRP Technology)

The ground mobility company Local Motors’ autonomous electric vehicle Olli 2.0 includes some 3D printed parts manufactured by CRP Technology in Windform composite materials. The Modena-based company, which has been involved in professional 3D printing with Windform composite materials since 1996, was contacted by the EMEA management of Local Motors to build some parts mandatory in order to obtain individual approval for Europe. Carlo Iacovini, General Manager EMEA, Local Motors, states: “Olli is operating in campuses, stadiums, industrial districts and local communities around the world. To approve deployments in Europe, it needed some additional components, not required in US market.” Among them, there were the windshield wipers and parts.

To add the wipers the company opted for the retrofit technique, or re-adaptation process, through an integration on the 2.0 model. The car manufacturer started from the original project, and adapted it to its needs. These phases (retrofit and integration) were carried out in Italy, based on the original design produced by the Engineering Team in Chandler. It’s been a demanding job, since Olli 2.0 ’s unique design is characterised by a tall rectangular pod with wide-set headlights and expansive windows nestled between a frame.

“That’s exactly the reason why the wipers arm could not be positioned from above, but from the below side of the front window. Thus, the Local Motors’ Engineering Department designed a new front bumper with brackets for fixing both the wipers starter motor and the front wiper washer reservoir,” adds Iacovini.

During the wipers assembly phase, the Local Motors Engineering Team noticed that the motor protruded from the modified front bumper: “To avoid the issue we therefore thought — comments Iacovini — to add two coordinated covers, with the purpose of concealing the protruding part (the first cover) and protecting the pressure system of the washer reservoir from external agents (the second cover).”

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The Local Motors team designed the motor cover from scratch. For the wipers washer reservoir flap valve they modified and adapted the design of the flap valve of the charging socket on Olli 2.0’s rear bumper. In this way it was possible to maintain homogeneity from the design point of view.

Once identified the parts to manufacture — the motor cover and the washer reservoir flap valve of the wipers system — Local Motors turned to CRP Technology: “We wanted to collaborate — states Iacovini — with an European firm, therefore we contacted CRP Technology, a company I have known for a long time and with which I have collaborated on relevant projects. Relying on CRP was the winning choice: the uniqueness of Windform materials in terms of quality and strength allow achieving optimal results in a short time.”

After a careful study of the projects, CRP Technology experts opted to create the parts using professional 3D printing / Powder Bed Fusion process with composite polymers fibers-reinforced (also known as Selective Laser Sintering) and two materials from the Windform Top-Line range:

  • The polyamide-based composite material Windform XT 2.0 Carbon fiber reinforced for the wipers starter motor cover (component with mainly aesthetic purpose, but also functional, able to contain / support the oscillatory movement of the motor);
  • The polyamide-based composite material Windform LX 3.0 Glass fiber reinforced for the washer reservoir flap valve (component with mainly functional purpose, and partly aesthetic).

Component 1 is a starter motor cover. It is a rectangular part in Windform XT 2.0 material, a sort of protruding oblique parallelepiped with a puncture for the placement of the wipers arm and a smaller one for the water hose. The main function of the part is aesthetic, but considering its position (next to the motor) it has to: guarantee electromagnetic compatibility, resist the oscillating movement of the wiper arm and blade, withstand the continuous stress and vibrations caused by the traffic circulation on roads, preserve the electrical unit from external agents. For these reasons, the part needed to be made of a material that would provide stiffness and strength combined with high lightness, ensuring the creation of an accurate, reliable and durable application. Windform XT 2.0, one of the top-of-the-range materials from the Windform Top-Line for its mechanical properties, and representing a perfect choice for functional applications, was therefore chosen.

Component 2 in Windform LX 3.0 consists of a rectangular structure frame and the flap valve equipped with magnets to access the wipers washer reservoir. Its main purpose is to ensure quick access to the wipers washer reservoir positioned behind, to protect it from external agents and to resist the continuous stress and vibrations caused by the traffic circulation on roads. Furthermore, it also has to be accurate in detail. It therefore needed to be manufactured in a material that guaranteed reliability, good resistance and aesthetic return: Windform LX 3.0 was chosen for its excellent properties and the wide spectrum of use.

Afterwards Local Motors conducted on the “modified” Olli some electromagnetism tests in the anechoic chamber. The EMC testing concerned the whole windshield wipers with excellent results. No critical issues were proposed in regard to the 3D printed parts in Windform composites.