The Bloodhound Supersonic Car (SSC) team from the UK is continuing its journey towards claiming the world land speed record. After testing its rocket engine last year, the team has turned to 3D printing technology for another critical part of the high speed vehicle – a tip that, if all goes well, will be the first part of the car to break through the 1,000 mph (1,610 km/h) mark in 2015.
To print the titanium tip, the team is using Renishaw's AM250 manufacturing-grade laser melting machine, which is used to 3D print prototypes and components that require heavy-duty construction. This process is also known as laser sintering and essentially involves fusing fine layers of metallic powders together with a high-power laser beam.
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As the Bloodhound SSC attempts to break the land speed record of 763 mph (1,228 km/h) set in 1997, the 3D-printed tip will be subject to forces as high as 12 tonnes per square meter. The 3D printing process allowed the team to create a titanium tip that is hollow and features walls of varying thickness to reduce weight, but is rigid enough to withstand the stresses of a 1,000 mph run.
"To machine this component conventionally would be extremely challenging, result in design compromises, and waste as much as 95 percent of the expensive raw material," explains Dan Johns, lead engineer on the project.
The tip will be bonded to the vehicle's carbon fiber monocoque body, which will be propelled by the rear-mounted rocket engine. The Bloodhound SSC is now being assembled at the Bloodhound Technical Centre in Avonmouth, Bristol, which opened July 4.
The video below discusses the importance of 3D printing to the development the Bloodhound SSC.