“The best thing about 3D printing is that you’re fearless in trying things out.”
Arash Farboud, founder, CEO, and lead designer at Arash Motor Company, a maker of hypercars and sports cars, knows a thing or two about being fearless. Not only did he start his company during a highly competitive time within the auto industry, but he entered a market that was teeming with already-established luxury sport car brands.
But over the course of 20+ years, Farboud found his company measuring up to the heavyweights. Arash Motor Company predominately makes boutique, lightweight, high power, and beautiful sports cars in low volume. Farboud’s cars are designed to provide each owner with a unique and exhilarating journey down the open road. The company offers several models, including the AF8 Cassini sports car and AF10 electric-petrol hybrid.
Farboud’s latest venture pushes him into the realm of electric hypercars. Built with ultimate performance in mind, the new hypercar comes equipped with a carbon motor cartridge, multiple electric motors, an advanced battery pack, and a sleek aerodynamic design.
Farboud has been using 3D printing in his design and development process for years. He has been a long-time fan of MakerBot 3D printers, starting with the Replicator 2, which he bought six years ago and still uses to this day for small model parts for customers.
He also has the Replicator Z18, which has been quite a workhorse for him over the years. Its ability to produce large, tall, and strong structures has allowed him to use it for a mix of prototyping, production parts, and scale models.
Farboud is most excited about his shop’s latest acquisition: the MakerBot METHOD X.
“When we received our METHOD X, it was like Christmas morning,” Farboud enthused. “Like any other MakerBot printer, it was very easy to use right out of the box. The unboxing and setup instructions were easy to follow – and it had us printing immediately. We really love it.”
For the company’s latest electric hypercar project, Farboud and his team utilized all three MakerBot 3D printers for a range of applications, giving them the flexibility and speed needed for production.
First, the team used the Replicator 2 to produce the full-scale model which now sits on display in their boardroom. To create the model, it was printed in multiple pieces, glued together, and then hand-painted.
From that point on, the team began designing the complex chassis structure and the aerodynamic structure. This was where the Z18 excelled. From new techniques like suspension and wing design, wishbone suspension checks, hub and center lock fitments, and scale models to show structural parts, the Z18 proved itself to be very useful.
With the METHOD X, MakerBot Nylon Carbon Fiber, ABS, and Tough, they were able to make production parts for the vehicle. The METHOD X is able to produce parts in real form, allowing the team to use the parts for stress tests, brackets, gears, and other components for the car.
The hypercar has a lot of complex pieces inside, such as the rear and lower rear wing, so the team had to figure out how to reduce the weight of machining aluminium. To do that, they instead used 3D printed nylon carbon parts.
“We’re using a lot of bracketry, fasting points, and fixing points around the car in a 3D-printed nylon carbon fiber. We’re also using a lot of interior structures in ABS and nylon carbon fiber because it’s quicker and easier to make. We’re trying to get 95+% of the car in a composite material to be even higher, and we’re also trying to reduce the complexity of manufacturing to 3D printing. We’re only focusing on the parts that really matter in composite manufacturing - chassis, body panels, some interior structures. We’re deskilling a lot of the processes in some ways and upskilling in other ways for the complexity and accuracy,” Farboud stated.
“3D printing in-house also means you can get things done quickly, immediately, and at the lowest cost possible. That means you’re able to experiment without too much fear and worry about spend. You’re just spending money on your filament and your time so that allows you to try things out fearlessly,” he continued.
The team used to send parts out to be machined locally or overseas, which was costly and time-consuming. With direct access to 3D printers, they can send their CAD design directly to the METHOD X to make a part, check it, and test it. With the technological advances in 3D printing, there is little to no need for post-processing and they can immediately take the printed part to check and test on the car.
The standard timeline for car production can be lengthy, about three to four years. The timeline for the hypercar shortened a bit as the team did not have to deal with petrol engines, fuel systems, exhaust systems, gear boxes, or the typical calibrations.
With three designs from sketch to scale modeling to CAD modeling to fixtures, servicing, and interiors, the team was able to shorten their timeline to 12 months. From that point on, they were able to create a couple of prototype and test vehicles – and then move towards full productization.
“The MakerBot 3D printer series reduces the time from a file on a computer screen to prototyping and checking for touch and feel. That’s a big thing. Sometimes you miss a hole or a fixture, but you can catch that on a CAD model. Then after it’s printed, you can physically check it,” Farboud said.
“We are still using every 3D printer that we own because they still work really well. They have an ability to make parts dependent on size and their usage. In fact, the METHOD X and Z18 are currently being used nonstop at our facility. This allows us to not only produce parts as needed, but we can experiment with different filaments. It’s a 24/7 operation for 3Dprinting,” he continued.
The team uses nylon 12 carbon fiber for structural parts and anything that is put under tension. In addition, due to their strong thermal properties, both ABS and carbon fiber are frequently used as part of other machined carbon fiber structures, which would need to be cured at 90°C. They also use Tough for majority of the work, which has medium requirements for performance in terms of structural stability and pressure management. The team plans to experiment with more METHOD materials.
“The METHOD X has a built-in advantage of having a heated chamber, which is critical for us as it allows for dimensional accuracy. As the part is being made, the base doesn’t move and there is no warping. This allows for high accuracy for a 3D printer of today’s standards. We’ve done several tests and it’s been very accurate each time,” noted Farboud.
As a small company, Arash Motor Company is able to produce small volume parts, in a very similar manner to motorsports or aerospace. With 3D printing, it allows the team to try out their suggestions on improving performance - from the composite structures, to the engines and electric motors, to the aerodynamics.
Prior to 3D printing, Farboud and his team would go through the cumbersome process of fabricating aluminium, bending aluminium, welding things together, shaping things from blocks of aluminium or foam and wrapping them in materials, or some other less accurate and time-consuming way.
“This takes a long time with very skilled people. And now that skill isn’t there anymore, or it’s becoming even more expensive,” Farboud said. “With 3D printing, the steps toward making trial parts have become easier. The focus now is getting your CAD design right. After that, you just press play and it gets made right there in your shop.”
“The amount of resources needed to do those steps is straining. Once you have a 3D printer to eliminate a lot of those steps, then you’re allowing your resources to be used on things that really matter to you,” he continued.
The team uses MakerBot CloudPrint to slice, manage, preview, queue, and monitor their prints. MakerBot CloudPrint allows each of the designers to view the status of the prints on any of the printers.
“It helps because sometimes you want to know when something is done and you need to start a new print, or to see if something is stuck, then you can stop the print. Allows everyone to understand where they are in their schedule for manufacturing,” said Farboud.
The team has plans to continue using METHOD X and Z18 to create more production parts to be used in the future.
“Most people think that 3D printing filaments being used are not strong enough, or that 3D printing is only used for models or prototypes. But we’re actually using these parts on cars. They are accurate for our applications. We are using these parts on a daily basis for production. They’re going to our customers,” stated Farboud.
“We’re finessing moving on the ground fast. The future is pushing us towards space, space travel, space exploration. The knowledge we’re gaining from making things fast, lightweight, and efficiently would lead to the brace for space exploration projects,” he continued.
“It’s an exciting world that we’re in right now.”