With the sound of engines revving in the distance, I knew I was in the right place. Out of a sea of trailers, I was looking for a car that was a little out of the ordinary. Not only was it one of the only front-wheel-drive race cars at Buttonwillow Raceway, CA that day, but it was the ONLY car outfitted with 3D printed parts. The Volvo C30 driven by Tim Hunter was prepped and ready to go — featuring 3D printed mounts, air ducts, clamps, camera mounts, and even an airbox, this car has benefited by utilizing the latest additive manufacturing technology.
Buttonwillow Raceway, CA. Feb. 21, 2021.
Tim, who is an electrical engineer, came to Airwolf 3D a couple of years ago looking for a machine that would print large parts with materials that could easily withstand the heat and abuse if placed within a high-performance race car. The amount of progress he had made with the EVO 22 was astounding — saving him time, money, and allowing him to customize parts for higher performance. He had integrated the 3D printer into his workflow at a remarkable rate and was able to gain an edge to his racing that other drivers couldn’t.
The Volvo C30’s engine bay showing the 3D printed airbox covered in gold insulation.
As I arrived at the garage where Tim and his VT Racing team were located, I noticed they were prepping the car for the day’s final SCCA races. With a gray carbon, white, and bright green color scheme, the Volvo C30 was looking great. I couldn’t help but notice the large 3D printed ducts that he had told me about a year ago. With the time trickling down, I was able to sit down with Tim to talk about the 3D part integration into his car and how the EVO 22 has changed the game for him.
Tim Hunter’s VT Racing Volvo C30.
“With the bigger air ducts I’ve been able to design and build for the race car, it has reduced the amount of consumption of brakes, rotors, and brake pads,” Tim explained. “Getting these things cooled down at race temperatures is critical to the longevity of these parts.” He went on to explain the importance of being able to customize and design things the way he wants, without absorbing the high-cost of short-run manufacturing in more traditional methods.
One of the 3D printed air ducts located under the front right control arm.
Tim mainly utilizes ABS and polycarbonate. These two materials, along with the extremely large build volume, are the main reason he decided to go with the EVO 22. There are many large 3D printers, and with even larger build volumes, but they don’t feature some of the most important characteristics of a professional unit being used for end-use parts. From the heated chamber to the high-end electrical components, the EVO 22 is a perfect fit for any race shop, and after seeing Tim’s race program put it to action, I am convinced that every racer needs a machine like this in their arsenal.
As we talked more, I learned about other items that are in the works. He plans on working on the ducts to improve the cooling even more. “I’ve actually been able to extend the life of the rotor from 1 to 6 races.” Other items in the works are a custom shifter gate, allowing the driver to be more precise with the shifter, and a custom drinks cooler holder.
The car features custom-designed polycarbonate camera mounts that are used to hold his racing camera system. This system allows Tim to comply with racing rules, as well as give him live data from the car. He has also designed and printed custom hose clamps and holders used for the race suit’s cooling system. This has allowed him to route the hoses exactly the way he needs.
Rear camera mount printed in polycarbonate.
Custom hose clamps/holders used for the suit’s cooling system.
As race time was near, the VT Racing Volvo lined up next to the other cars, warming up its engine, and getting ready to take on a pack of Mazda’s and other more popular race cars. When Tim took the track, his car sped through the straightaways and soared gracefully through the turns — 3D printed parts and all. It was an amazing sight. This wasn’t a gimmick. This wasn’t proving that you could add 3D printed parts to race cars, but it was proving that 3D printed parts could actually be BETTER than production parts. Seeing it in person was a sight to behold.
The VT Racing Volvo C30 speeding through a straightaway.
Unfortunately, Tim’s time on the track wouldn’t go his way that day. He was rear-ended shortly into the race on a tight turn, and he couldn’t recover in time to take the podium. With that being said, it was still a successful weekend as they got much-needed testing in. With more plans in the works, I am sure Tim is printing away on the EVO 22 and improving the car even more.
Disaster strikes — the day comes to an end as Tim is rear-ended in a tight turn.
To this part and other examples of 3D printed racing automotive parts, be sure to visit our booth at SEMA 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada in November!