FLINT — A miniature race car 3D printed by Tom Spendlove, engineering instructor at Baker College of Flint, has not only claimed first place in a race.
The design advanced the understanding of 3-D printing for students in Spendlove’s computer aided engineering classes fall quarter.
“The students ran analyses on the design and its manufacturability, and checked the best way to build or print it,” he said. “It’s the type of real-world project in which we want to involve our students. Even though it was a miniature car, it had to work.”
The project was between Spendlove and Classic Instruments, a Boyne City-based company that designs and creates instruments for classic “street rod” cars. Turning to Spendlove for the model that was produced with 3-D printing was a natural because the company and Baker College had already worked on previous projects during the past three years.
Classic Instruments used the miniature race car in the “Manufacturer’s Shootout” heat of a pinewood derby race at an aftermarket hot rod convention in Las Vegas, pictured below.
Classic Instruments designed the car, and Spendlove transferred that design to a 3-D printer, which created the chassis in one piece.
“We made a couple of configurations to get the best build on the 3-D printer,” Spendlove said. “Because the car was going to be a showpiece, I printed it as slow as possible to get the best detail.”
The finished product is 6 inches by 12 inches and is made of corn-based thermoplastic called PLA. Classic Instruments finished out the model, adding paint and other details.
According to Devin Butterbrodt, who is in new product research and development for Classic Instruments, 3-D printing provided an edge over other production options.
“The 3-D printer built a car with features that are not feasible with other manufacturing processes,” he said. “A CNC milling machine would not have been able to machine the details without multiple, costly setups. Taking the traditional approach and carving it out of a block of wood would have been time consuming and not as accurate. It has been a great experience working with Baker College and its engineering program.”
After its victory, the miniature car stayed in Las Vegas and was included in a live auction at a later automotive specialty products trade event. Proceeds were used for charitable donations and scholarships.
The largest private college in Michigan, Baker College is an accredited, not-for-profit higher education institution serving more than 23,000 students on multiple campuses and online. Baker grants certificates and associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in more than 150 programs across diverse academic fields, including business, health sciences, engineering, information technology, education and human services.