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6 July, 2015 - 00:04 By Kate Sweeney

Cambridge 3D printing boost for Sheffield motorsport drive

Sheffield University car for the Formula Student international competition

Wallwork Cambridge, a surface engineering specialist, is working with students at Sheffield University to use 3D printing to overcome technical challenges and produce a race-ready car for Formula Student international competition.

A particularly sticky problem with brake components was solved by the students in collaboration with the Wallwork unit that specialises in ultra-hard coatings for aerospace, motorsport and other challenging situations. The Sheffield students chose titanium as the material for callipers and other key brake components. 

This is strong, fatigue resistant and light in weight, but has one major drawback. Being a relatively soft material, compared to steel for example, titanium can bind in metal-to-metal contact under load.

Dr Jonathan Housden of Wallwork said: “The parts were manufactured by the Sheffield students using a 3D printing process. Machining of the mating surfaces had been undertaken to overcome the surface roughness that is typical of 3D printed parts to provide a smooth substrate to apply the coating.

“Simply applying a hard coating to this machined surface would be insufficient since the titanium substrate alone is too soft and the coating would fail, so we applied our duplex coating, Nitron-O. This enables titanium alloy to be used in high-load sliding wear situations where it could not otherwise be used, providing a hard-wearing surface.”

Components have been returned to Sheffield for final assembly and trials before the race event. International teams will gather at Silverstone for the race and technical judging between July 9 and 12 after which the students will disperse to follow careers in industry or further study. 

Dr Housden said: “Engineering is a dynamic profession and projects like this help us engage with the next generation of engineers, a collaboration that is mutually beneficial.”    

• Anyone wanting to follow the Sheffield motor engineers story can do so on their You Tube channel

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