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NTU students behind NTU Venture 9 design on race day (via NTU)

While some students are busy doing keg-stands, others are designing the first-ever solar-powered 3D-printed racecar. That’s what students at the Nanyang Technological University spent the past year doing, and it paid off. The record-breaking solar race car won first place in two categories at Shell’s Eco Marathon Asia last weekend.


The initial project was simple. Sixteen undergraduate engineering students from various backgrounds were commissioned to design something using a 3D printer and flexible solar panels, from scratch. Over the course of a year the students designed not one, but two solar-powered, 3D-printed cars that push the envelope of the possibilities of fuel-efficiency.



NTU Venture 8 (left) and Venture 9 (right) (via NTU)


The first car is titled the NTU Venture 8. It is an urban concept car and its cockpit was constructed using 150 3D-printed plastic parts, to maintain a lightweight composure. The car itself has vertical opening doors and is fitted with flexible solar panels that move with the car as it turns, to maximize efficiency at an impressive 37mph. The car is fully electric and wowed judges at Shell’s Eco Marathon Asia.



NTU design team with NV8 and NV9 (via NTU)


The second car the team made was titled the NTU Venture 9 (we know, very creative). The solar-powered micro-car is a low-to-the-ground electric three-wheeler that runs on hand-made silicon solar panels. The hand-made panels move with the car as it turns too, allowing it to maintain speed on turns. With this, the tiny racecar also features a huge curved windshield and nose to make it exceptionally aerodynamic. 


While the cars gained a lot of press because of their ingenuity (as they were designed entirely from scratch and not based on previous models), they were wildly successful at the Shell Marathon. The NV9 was up against 124 teams from 16 countries and won first place in both innovation and fuel-efficiency. The car also came in fourth for speed after an on-track race and was awarded fifth place for safety. The NV8 was also unveiled on race day and the crowd was impressed with the NTU team’s creativity.


The purpose behind the NTU project was to take a novel approach on fuel efficiency. Despite Shell’s fuel interests, the premise behind the Eco Marathon Asia is actually meant to challenge participants to push the boundaries of possible distance travelled with minimal fuel resources. Participants were only allowed to use electric battery, ethanol, diesel, bio-diesel, hydrogen and petrol fuels to power their concept cars and awards were given to teams who exhibited the highest levels of fuel efficiency. The competition has run in Asia since 2010, and was organized in Europe even earlier.


The NTU is not stranger to Shell’s Eco Marathon. It’s competed in five of them already, and NTU engineering students have even travelled internationally for the opportunity to showcase its alternative energy ingenuity. Recently, students competed in Australia’s biennial World Solar Challenge, and beat Cambridge, UC Berkeley and MIT teams. The small school packs and punch and will continue to enhance its alternative fuel technologies.


Maybe one day we can expect the see the NTU Venture 8 in the consumer market, along with the other urban concept cars from Shell’s competitions. Until then, we’ll see Shell when we fill up.



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Aerojet Rocketdyne, has successfully conducted a series of hot-fire tests of key additively manufactured components for its AR1 booster engine. The testing of the main injector elements at its Sacramento facility represents an important milestone in the development of the company’s AR1 engine and keeps it on track toward having a certified engine in production in 2019.



Aerojet Rocketdyne completed hot-fire testing (above) of a single-element main injector for the AR1 rocket engine that was completely built using Additive Manufacturing.

The AR1 is a 500,000 lbf thrust-class liquid oxygen/kerosene booster engine that is seen as an American-made alternative to engines such as the RD-180, which is designed and built in Russia. The 2015 National Defense Authorization Act calls for the RD-180 to be replaced by an American-made alternative for national security space launches by 2019. This thrust class enables the engine to be easily configured for use on multiple launch vehicles, including the Atlas V and the Advanced Boosters being considered for NASA’s Space Launch System.

The hot-fire tests were conducted to evaluate various main injector element designs and fabrication methods. Several injectors were fabricated using Selective Laser Melting (SLM), an additive manufacturing process that uses 3D CAD data as a digital information source and energy in the form of a high-power laser beam to create three-dimensional metal parts by fusing fine metal powders together. Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, enables the rapid production of complex engine components at a fraction of the cost of those produced using traditional manufacturing technologies, where solid blocks of material such as titanium are progressively machined away to form parts.

Aerojet has two 3-D printers; one is 10 in., the second is 15 in. According to the company up to 75% of the design cost can be saved using additive manufacturing for AR1, and products can be produced 90% faster.

Aerojet is also developing propulsion technology for miniature satellites that could possibly lower mission costs and accelerate mission schedules. The MPS-120 CubeSat High-Impulse Adaptable Modular Propulsion System (CHAMPS) is a hydrazine propulsion system that provides both primary propulsion and three-axis control capabilities in a single package. It contains four miniature rocket engines and feed system components, as well as a 3D‑printed titanium piston, propellant tank and pressurant tank. The entire system (below) fits into a chassis about the size of a coffee cup.



3D printed compressor stators and synch ring brackets for the PW1500G (above) will power the new Bombardier CS series of commercial airliners (below)



Additive manufacturing, also known as three-dimensional (3D) printing can be used to build parts and products of almost any shape or geometry, produced from a 3D model or other electronic data source.

But while 3D printing now is more widely accepted as a technology than ever before, the core competencies of its users have been in producing prototypes or low volume parts rather than delivering mass quantitites of printed parts for mission- critical applications such as the production of jet engines.

Until now, that is. When Pratt & Whitney delivers its first production PurePower PW1500G engines to Bombardier this year, these engines will be the first ever to feature entry-into-service jet engine parts produced using additive manufacturing. 3D printing technology is being used to produce compressor stators and synch ring brackets for these production engines.

In the PurePower PW1000G engine family, a gear system separates the engine fan from the low pressure compressor and turbine, allowing each of the modules to operate at their optimum speeds. This enables the fan to rotate slower while the low pressure compressor and turbine operate at a high speed, increasing engine efficiency and delivering lower fuel consumption, emissions and noise. This increased efficiency also translates to fewer engine stages and parts for lower weight and reduced maintenance costs. As the exclusive power plant for the Bombardier CSeries aircraft family the PW1500G engine contributes to the aircraft’s claimed 20% fuel burn advantage over current in-production aircraft, according to Bombardier, The engine also delivers a 50% reduction in noise as well as lower CO2 and NOX emissions, P&W reports.


Pratt & Whitney says it has produced hundreds of prototype parts to support the PurePower Geared Turbofan engine family's development (and, it claims, more than 100,000 additive manufacturing parts in all over the past 25 years for various uses).The company describes itself as “a vertically integrated additive manufacturing producer with our own metal powder source and the printers necessary to create parts using this innovative technology.” It further claims it has realized up to 15 months lead-time savings compared to conventional manufacturing processes and up to 50 percent weight reduction in a single part.


The East Hartford, CT-based aerospace company is also collaborating with the University of Connecticut to advance additive manufacturing research and development. The Pratt & Whitney Additive Manufacturing Innovation Center is the first of its kind in the Northeast region to work with metal powder bed technologies. With more than $4.5 million invested, the center aims to further advance the company’s additive manufacturing capabilities, while providing educational opportunities for the next generation of manufacturing engineers.


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