Fuel-efficient car with disruptive 3D printing

At the University of Nottingham, the engineers are developing lightweight automotive components using new additive manufacturing processes to boost vehicle fuel efficiency, while cutting noise and CO2 emissions. The components will be constructed using selective laser melting (SLM). SLM uses a 3-Dimensional Computer Aided Design (CAD) model to digitally reproduce the object in a number of layers.

Each layer is sequentially recreated by melting sections of a bed of aluminium alloy powder using a laser beam. Layer by layer, the melted particles fuse and solidify to form novel structures that can be made up from complex lattices to provide a light-weight component.

SLM is a highly disruptive AM technology, helping to increase functionality and lower the number of separate components in production. This significant mass saving cuts component costs and increases overall vehicle efficiency.

The Functional Lattices for Automotive Components (FLAC) project aims to achieve significant weight reductions in mass (40-80 per cent) and optimised thermo-mechanical performance in new vehicle components. The use of advanced lightweight materials in the project will serve to minimise wastage. Only the required material is incorporated into the built component, reducing costs, increasing the ability to manipulate the material to achieve the required performance and efficiency. The three-year FLAC project also will demonstrate the viability and cost analysis of the industrialisation of SLM, along with possible manufacturing routes and supply chain models.