Audi has produced a 1:2 scale model of its iconic 1936 Type-C (Typ C in German) race car. The little racer was made with unique 3D printing technology involving the melting of metallic powder. The sandy material has a grain size of 15-40 thousandths of a millimeter; about half the diameter of a human hair. Lasers melt the powder, which is then applied one layer at a time. Audi says that this increases the range of complexity when printing 3D objects.
“Together with partners in the area of research, we are constantly exploring the boundaries of new processes,” said Audi/Volkswagen exec Dr Hubert Waltl in a press release. “One of our goals is to apply metal printers in series production.”
The diminutive Audi has some big shoes to fill. Between 1934 and 1938, the original Type-C took home multiple Grand Prix victories, and set land speed records for closed cockpit vehicles. It was engineered and manufactured by a skunkworks division headed by Ferdinand Porsche. By 1936, the racer was fitted with a 6-liter mid-mounted V16 motor pushing out 520 horsepower.
The Volkswagen Group runs 14 toolmaking facilities in nine countries, and the metallic sand printing process is the first result of a collaboration of resources. Audi can can currently produce complex shapes of aluminum and steel measuring close to 10 by 8 inches. These components retain a higher density than those produced by traditional methods such as die casting or hot forming. It is also easier and faster, while producing less waste.
As a result of the process, the baby Silver Arrow was assembled from multiple components, rather than being printed as one piece.
3D metal printing works much like the production of plastic, and Audi’s toolmaking division is looking for ways to implement the technology into production vehicles. The baby Type-C is a proof of this concept.