November 23, 2021
3D printed parts don’t necessarily come to mind when formulating the design and build of an off-road vehicle that can survive severe conditions, including rough terrain and wet conditions. Yet for a group of student engineers competing in the Baja SAE challenge, 3D printing held the keys to scoring a competitive edge, allowing the team to quickly iterate prototypes as well as produce sturdy end-use parts.
One of several student competitions promoted by SAE, Baja SAE challenges undergraduate and graduate engineering students to design and build a robust and rugged all-weather, single-seat, off-road recreational vehicle that would appeal to the non-professional weekend off-road enthusiast. As SAE’s most rugged student competition, Baja SAE is a way for up-and-coming engineers to learn the ropes, moving beyond textbook theory to designing, building, and testing real-world products in a fast-paced collaborative environment.
A team from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology turned to 3D printing technology from B9Creations to 3D print several components of its winning competition vehicle, which placed 10th worldwide in the most recent Baja SAE competition. Competing against 62 teams, the SD Mines Baja SAE team took the lead over competitors from Texas A&M University, Johns Hopkins University, and Michigan Tech University, using B9Creations’s Core 5 Series XL 3D printer and its Rugged-Nylon 6 3D printing resin to turn out parts for this year’s competition.
The SD School of Mines and Technology Baja SAE team 3D printed a variety of prototype and end-use parts using the Core 5 Series XL printer, including a 4wd activation lever, various spacers and bushings, gas and brake pedals, as well as mounting for electronics. Also key to the team’s success was leveraging the Rugged-Nylon 6 material, which offers advantages such as low modulus, high elongation, and high impact strength, making it tough enough to churn out parts that could replace traditional injection molded components and stand up to the rigors of long-term, real-world use. The SD School of Mines and Technology Baja SAE team was also able to leverage Rugged-Nylon 6 to verify designs for their vehicle’s spline patterns, which require extreme accuracy to function properly.
As part of the competition, student-built off-road vehicles are put through a tech inspection and brake check, a maneuverability hill climb event, and a four-hour endurance race.
B9Creations’ Core Series 3D printers employ Digital Light Projector (DLP) technology to cure photo-reactive polymers. The printer family touts print speeds up to 100+ mm per hour and repeatable performance with 0 calibrations. The company’s Rugged-Nylon 6 material is positioned as an equivalent to injection-molded nylon and is idea for snap-fit and wear resistant parts, especially useful for functional testing and low- to mid-volume production runs.
The SD School of Mines and Technology’s Baja SAE team is now back at the drawing board, leveraging the B9Creation’s 3D printers to design its next-generation off-road vehicle for subsequent competitions.
Watch this video to see the Baja SAE competition in action.
About the Author
Beth Stackpole is a contributing editor to Digital Engineering. Send e-mail about this article to [email protected].Follow DE