From concept to component, materials drive prototyping

Paul Boughton

Philippe Christou looks at some of the latest rapid prototyping materials and production technologies now able to cater for all a manufacturer’s needs, from concept design to finished part, faster and more cost effectively than ever before.

The pioneering development work undertaken by companies in rapid prototyping materials is continuing to bring ever more efficient rapid tooling and production solutions to the world’s manufacturing industries. The impact of this new technology has delivered not only critical production time and cost benefits but has also had important strategic implications for global industries as well by opening up new markets and helping to achieve real market share growth within these.

This intense programme of customer-centric product and technology development has seen the usage of synthetic tooling materials, industrial adhesives and epoxy composites move into completely new applications.

Today, Huntsman Advanced Materials is one of the leading suppliers in epoxy and other thermoset specialties for composites, rapid tooling solutions and industrial adhesives. These comprehensive product ranges are used throughout the world’s manufacturing industries but particularly in the automotive, aerospace, marine, wind energy, consumer electronics and medical sectors.

Some of the most radical developments in recent years have been in rapid prototyping and production technologies such as the first ABS-like stereolithography materials; new low density tooling boards, lighter and easier to handle while still retaining high temperature resistance and Huntsman’s Cliffhanger Casting System for the simultaneous production of multiple large automotive parts.

The Cliffhanger Casting System provides customers with a unique tailor-made rapid tooling system for medium to large sized parts. The key to Cliffhanger lies in its large flexible bed of pins which can be programmed to produce either a positive or negative mould of the required component part. Using CAD data from the customer, the pins are set to the pattern for the production of single or multiple parts, which are then cast using specially developed RenTool resins. The large size of the Cliffhanger bed – 2.7mlongx2.1mwide – means several parts can be cast simultaneously such as a vehicle roof, doors and a front spoiler. This makes Cliffhanger extremely time and cost effective.

In a recent application for European automotive manufacturers, Renault, the Cliffhanger system and RenTool materials have been used to manufacture the prototype part of a car wing. Using Cliffhanger, delivered a 30percent cost saving compared to traditional foundry production methods and because the part needed very little additional finishing, it also reduced production time by three weeks. Together this greatly reduced the overall development time and costs for the car.

Seen for the first time at Euromold, in December 2005, the new RUFRSpyder roadster prototype, the P2/2, is an example of the versatility of design that can be achieved with modelling board technology.

The RUFRSpyder prototype, the P2/2, is the latest automotive design vision from Alfredo Stola, and the first creation from his new Studiotorino project. This first prototype for a planned production series of just 49 cars, was developed using BM5185 styling and modelling boards from Huntsman Advanced Materials.

Alfredo Stola has been at the forefront of the Italian automotive design industry for many years, originally through the Stola Group and now with Studiotorino. For the R Spyder project, Studiotorino collaborated with the high performance car manufacturer, Alois Ruf of RUF Automobile GmbH, based in Pfaffenhausen, near Munich in Germany.

The elegant streamlined shape of this open-topped roadster highlights the superb quality of finish that can be achieved using Huntsman Advanced Materials styling and modelling boards even with a highly complex aerodynamic design. A flawless finish was also critical for the successful application of the painting system that Alfredo Stola has developed for his concept cars, which takes ten days to complete.

“We have used Huntsman Advanced Materials BM5185 modelling boards for many previous projects,” said Alfredo Stola, “so we know it is ideally matched to our very demanding standards.

“BM5185 provides a toughness and durability easily comparable with traditional modelling materials such as clay or wood, but it is much more versatile – lightweight and easy to machine or hand finish to any design refinements, with very little waste.

“Because of this we knew it would be key to the successful development of our RSpyder prototype, the P2/2. It has helped us give shape and reality to what I call ‘a Fine Sports Car’ much more quickly and cost effectively than you can with traditional materials.”

Huntsman Advanced Materials BM5185 is a medium density styling and modelling board with a low co-efficient of thermal expansion (10-6K-1) and a compressive strength and a flexural strength of 10-15MPa. It has very good surface finish quality and good machinability.

The P2/2 is a fully functioning prototype and at its heart is the RUF3.8 litre engine. This 24 valve, six cylinder engine gives the P2/2 a top speed of 172mph (280km/h) and an acceleration rate of 0–62mph (100km/h) in just 4.7seconds.

Rapid tooling technology and prototyping materials will continue to see ground breaking innovations, driven by the needs of the world’s manufacturing industries.

Philippe Christou is Technology Manager EMEA of Huntsman Advanced Materials, Basel Switzerland.


Recent Issues