Kepler Motors Brings Titanium Uprights to the Roadway with Additive Manufacturing and CRP Groups’ Expertise
What it takes to build a hypercar that can go from 0-60mph in under 2.5 seconds
When World Speed Record Holder Russ Wicks set his sights on producing a supercar like no other, he was determined to incorporate state-of-the-art automotive engineering and applied science materials with the latest advanced technologies available to produce a “road” car with unprecedented performance, style, safety, and efficiency. The result is not just a supercar, but a hypercar; the MOTION.
What makes this hypercar so unique and impressive is the engineering innovation. Rather than adapting previously designed high performance cars, the Kepler engineers and aerodynamicist analyzed each component and material going into the design of the hypercar with the objective of obtaining peak performance.
Kepler Motors will produce only 50 MOTION hypercars, each hand-assembled
From the beginning of the design process, the engineering team knew they would incorporate additive manufacturing for the production of low-run parts for Kepler’s exclusive hypercars. However, what they discovered was additive manufacturing could be used to produce 3D printed patterns for investment casting. This capability prompted the engineering team to re-evaluate and re-design parts without traditional manufacturing limitations. Leverage additive manufacturing technology allowed the team to create a cast titanium upright.
Kepler Motors sought out experts with Formula 1 and additive manufacturing technology know-how to assist with the cast titanium uprights. The Kepler team quickly realized that the CRP Group (www.crp.eu) was the only vendor of choice.
By partnering with CRP Group, Kepler Motors was tapped into a network of companies that could provide a custom solution. Two specific divisions within CRP Group were placed on the project team: CRP USA and CRP Meccanica. CRP USA coordinated the project between Kepler, the various divisions within CRP Group, and the design consultants, leveraging their Formula 1 and additive manufacturing expertise. CRP Meccanica was selected for the project to provide cooperative design expertise for the uprights, as well as guidance on how to combine the use of additive manufacturing, rapid casting and precision CNC machining.
Designing Without Limitation
More, and more, designers, engineers and manufacturers are examining the potential of using additive manufacturing technology to 3D print parts for low-run production of parts. The perception of how to design for manufacturing is changing.
“It is very common for a company to rethink their design as soon as they understand the potential with 3D printing,” said Stewart Davis, Director of Operations, CRP USA. “Once an engineer understands the possibility of manufacturing highly complex designs and shapes using additive manufacturing technology and applications, shapes that could not be manufactured by traditional processes, they begin designing without limitations. By combining 3D printing, rapid casting and precision CNC machining, engineers can think outside of traditional manufacturing methods and design complex, intricate parts.”
In order to remove preconceived design elements, Kepler Motors Engineering Director Derk Hartland focused on designing the hypercar from the inside out. Knowing what they wanted to achieve, the Kepler Motors Design Team knew they would need to look at alternative manufacturing methods to achieve the quality and innovative hypercar they envisioned.
Cast titanium upright by Kepler Motors
The innovative MOTION is designed with best-in-class features. The MOTION has 800 horsepower resulting from a unique dual powertrain. Power comes from 550hp Twin-Turbo V6, driving the rear wheels while acting independently of two electric motors (totaling 250hp) driving the front. The unique all-wheel-drive system launches the MOTION from 0mph to 60mph in under 2.5 seconds with a top speed of over 200 mph. The MOTION sits on a carbon fiber composite monocoque chassis and body, F1 style double wishbone, and pushrod suspension with cast titanium uprights.
The cast titanium uprights are just one component that makes the hypercar so unique. Because the suspension of this hypercar is exposed to all of the loads associated with cornering, down-force, braking and acceleration (which can occur in various combinations with each other), the uprights connect the wheel and half-shafts to the wishbones – one of the most complex and critical parts of the car. Multiple load scenarios were used with Finite Element Analysis (FEA) to ensure an optimal design that is strong, lightweight, and elegant.
Along with strength, weight are a critical aspect of (any) car’s suspension. In the case of the MOTION hypercar, the suspension performance is critical. The upright of the MOTION was designed to withstand the loads from all components effectively with minimum weight. The shape is complex as it secures multiple components.
“Lightweight, strength and durability is essential for the hypercar to achieve its performance,” said Russ Wicks Founder Kepler Motors. “Cast titanium is top-of-the-line technology for this application, which for the Kepler MOTION was the only choice. Other cars use aluminum cast or billet for this application with a bulky, weaker and heavier result.
“Typically, aluminum is used for the uprights and the material thickness is increased, which reduces the flexibility of the design,” continued Wicks. “Because of the increased material thickness, accuracy of the machining is critical to ensure correct position of components as well as complicated angles of machined faces. This makes CNC machining imperative, yet can restrict our design creativity. Working with CRP Meccanica allowed us to streamline the process. Using their laser sintering additive manufacturing technology to 3D print the pattern for casting the upright in titanium allowed us to design an optimal lightweight and strong part with no compromises. CRP Meccanica managed the entire production process – design to end part. They took the 3D printed upright patterns to the foundry, cast the upright patterns in titanium, precision CNC machined the titanium uprights, conducted the FEA analysis and inspected the final uprights. The results were better than we could have imagine.”
Derk Hartland, Kepler Motors (left), Stewart Davis, CRP USA (right)
Kepler Motors Leverages CRP Group Expertise
“We partnered with CRP Group and their network of companies because they are experts in F1 and know how to apply additive manufacturing to the overall design process,” said Derk Hartland. “Being able to leverage the knowledge of Stewart Davis and his team was critical to the rethinking how we designed our upright.”
CRP Group has extensive knowledge of motorsports, space, defense, design, automotive and UAVs. Integrating the industry applications with additive manufacturing technology and advanced materials, free-form design and shorter time-to-market are a few of the advantages CRP offers.
The CRP Meccanica, CRP USA and CRP Technology (www.crptechnology.com) expertise encompass the use of additive manufacturing (3D printing), high-precision CNC machining, non-destructive testing during process phases, CMM dimensional controls to guarantee the total and complete traceability of every part, from the certification of the metal alloy to the certification of final testing, before being mounted on the vehicle.
“CRP Meccanica was a pivotal part of our design process,” said Hartland. “Cast titanium is an art form and it requires expertise and experience to create an optimal part. The companies of CRP Group were very helpful, professional and a pleasure to work with throughout the entire project.”
About Kepler Motors
Kepler Motors was founded by World Speed Record Holder Russ Wicks. Kepler’s initial product, MOTION supercar, was first unveiled at the Dubai International Motor Show in December of 2009. Kepler will produce 50 MOTIONs as ownership will go to a small, exclusive and elite group of individuals. Each vehicle is hand assembled and deliveries start in 2014.