Racing to the Finish Line

Jan. 2, 2020
3D scanning and additive manufacturing enable high performance racing team to benefit from reverse engineering.

When SNAG Racing’s Sergey Karyakin slams his foot down on the accelerator and his car thunders from 0-60 in 4.4 seconds, he has no time for doubts. His team competes in cross-country races across the deserts of Morocco, Chile, and Peru, throughout the mountains of Bolivia, and over the vast steppes of Russia and Mongolia. Their custom-designed cars experience brutal conditions at all altitudes and temperature ranges.

Their most recent race was the Rallye du Maroc in October 2019, a 5-day race demanding they cover 1,557 miles (2,506 kilometers) and cross the finish line in one piece. Of course, this is easier said than done. The Rallye took them through rock-strewn deserts, over sand dunes as far as the eye could see, unforgiving salt flats, skirting along mountainsides with blind corners only steps ahead. SNAG ultimately took home the silver medal in their category.

Karyakin doesn’t race with commercial race cars. Instead, SNAG starts with a 172-horsepower Can-Am Maverick X3 RS Turbo R and builds a new chassis to comply with the race entry requirements of the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA). To crank up their performance to the next level, SNAG began designing new components for their cars to reduce weight, increase strength and maneuverability.

Initially, this required creating mock-ups, which transitioned to sheet metal, welding, and the multi-step process of fabrication. While effective, this process often took a minimum of two months for one part.

Scanning using the handheld 3D scanner Artec Eva and additive manufacturing have completely changed the process for Karyakin. By first digitally capturing the original parts’ geometries and mounting points in precise submillimeter 3D, Artec Eva allows SNAG to reverse engineer a whole range of parts to make them lighter, stronger, and more durable.

This combination ultimately translates into faster, tougher cars to match the punishing conditions SNAG faces when racing. Sometimes their designs are so dramatic, only the mounting points remain the same. Yet, other times, the modifications are subtler and mostly focused on switching to new, higher-performance materials.

The new process takes a maximum of three weeks to custom design and produce new parts. “3D scanning has opened the door for us so we can make our cars exactly as we’ve dreamed, within short timeframes, and within budget,” he says.

Any doubts about the durability and longevity of their in-house parts have long since vanished. There were serious concerns in that direction, especially in the beginning. But time and experience have proven them right.

The process starts with cleaning the surface and stabilizing the part so there is no movement during the scan. Once it is ready, SNAG scans the part with Eva, and post-processes the scan in Artec Studio before exporting it to either AutoCAD or Bosch Rexroth CAD. After that, Karyakin’s team sends the model for 3D printing or CNC milling. Karyakin tells IndustryWeek that SNAG is now working with different metals, plastics, including carbon and Kevlar. Looking forward he also plans to move into the use of laser cutting for sheet and profile metal, as well as laser bending, welding, and gluing/bonding.   “We’re now devoting more focus to fusing various composite materials with metals to get the best from both worlds, essentially marrying flexibility and ultra-light weight with maximum strength,” he says. “So far the results have been extremely encouraging.”

The biggest challenge? Understanding which surfaces the scanner can and cannot see as well as finding the right kind of spray to choose when scanning black and shiny surfaces. “We now understand the specifics of scanning our parts and components, so we know what works best for our needs. We have found suitable sprays and now have no trouble scanning black and shiny surfaces,” he says. “As a result, we can consistently scan with an accuracy of 0.1-0.5 mm and we can quickly make new parts that go right onto the car without any special modifications.”    

About the Author

Peter Fretty | Technology Editor

As a highly experienced journalist, Peter Fretty regularly covers advances in manufacturing, information technology, and software. He has written thousands of feature articles, cover stories, and white papers for an assortment of trade journals, business publications, and consumer magazines.

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