The University of Applied Sciences Ravensburg-Weingarten is participating in a collaborative state university project supported by industry leaders, including Porsche and Siemens. The goal of the research project “Digital Product Life Cycle” is to establish a fully integrated and automated digital development process for the production of customized products, in this case the development of a one-off self-balancing scooter.
The students have been challenged to explore different technologies and processes to overcome the limitations of traditional manufacturing when producing with quantity of one. From idea generation and product design to the creation of complex prototypes for functional testing, designing each stage of the development process for additive manufacturing has been crucial to the success of the project.
“Producing the core prototype parts for the self-balancing scooter was a real stumbling block until we discovered 3D printing,” says Dr.-Ing. Markus Till, head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at University of Ravensburg-Weingarten. “We designed the entire product development process around Stratasys’ additive technologies, enabling us to quickly design and produce a fully-functional prototype of a geometry that was previously too complex to be created through any other traditional method – offering the first viable alternative for quick and cost-effective customized production.”
The frame and platform parts of the self-balancing scooter were 3D printed in Nylon6 material on the large-scale Stratasys Fortus 900mc Production 3D Printer, enabling the larger parts to be 3D printed in one piece. The self-balancing scooter platform was then fitted with a 3D printed rubber-like cover for better grip, produced in Agilus30 material on the Stratasys Connex3 Color Multi-material 3D Printer.
“Using traditional manufacturing processes such as milling or molding, the most notable challenge is developing the scooter’s body frame, which houses several parts from motor to electrics,” he explains. “Firstly, the structure of the part is too complex for subtractive methods, while the turnaround times are too time-intensive to meet the production schedule. As a result, we’ve seen students start to ‘think additively,’ leveraging the capabilities of the 3D printing to design with more freedom and with customization in mind.”
Following the successful role of 3D printing for customized production in the self-balancing scooter project, the university has now extended the use of 3D printing to a wider range of engineering projects to verify designs and validate concepts.
“Not only is 3D printing playing a more prominent role in our curriculum, we are also encouraging more students to bring their projects to life on our 3D printers to visualize and improve their design skills,” Till says.
“The University of Applied Sciences Ravensburg-Weingarten is a prime example of how designers, engineers and manufacturers today are involving additive manufacturing from the outset of product design to be able to exploit its benefits throughout the entire development cycle,” Andy Middleton, president EMEA, Stratasys, adds.
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Sources: Press materials received from the company.