Kawasaki Puccetti Racing takes pole position using 3D printing and scanning technology

The Kawasaki Puccetti Racing team has integrated 3D scanning and 3D printing into its day-to-day workflows, revealing that it used additive manufacturing to win Round 5 of the World Superbike Championship in Italy in 2019.

Specifically, the team used a RangeVision 3D scanner to scan its Kawasaki racing motorcycle and optimized the fairing of the 3D model using aerodynamic modeling algorithms. The revamped fairing was produced using a 3D printed mold and installed on the bike prior to the race.

Internal testing showed that the lightweight carbon fiber composite fairing increased the speed of the motorcycle by up to 4km/hour. The team’s driver also noticed the speed improvement, especially on the straight runs of the track.

The carbon fiber fairing was produced using a 3D printed mold. Photo via Kawasaki Puccetti Racing.
The carbon fiber fairing was produced using a 3D printed mold. Photo via Kawasaki Puccetti Racing.

A need for speed

In the world of motorsports, there are a whole host of factors that affect speed. These include the power of the engine, the weight of the bike, and the aerodynamics of the body. As a result, racing teams place a major focus on aerodynamic modeling and testing, which enable the geometry of the vehicle to be optimized to give that much-needed edge.

However, traditional manufacturing technologies often struggle with complex and free-form shapes, which is where the design freedom offered by additive manufacturing comes in particularly handy. Coupled with 3D scanning, 3D printing can be great in situations where lightweighting and optimized drag profiles are a priority.

The bike was scanned using a RangeVision 3D scanner. Photo via Kawasaki Puccetti Racing.
The bike was scanned using a RangeVision 3D scanner. Photo via Kawasaki Puccetti Racing.

Integrating 3D scanning and 3D printing into the mix

In preparation for the World Superbike Championship, Kawasaki Puccetti enlisted the help of Russia-based carbon fiber specialist UMATEX Rosatom.

To start off, the company scanned the entire bike using a RangeVision Spectrum 3D scanner. The scanner is characterized by its small size and portability, which was especially important considering UMATEX had to send its experts over from Russia to Italy. This 3D scanning workflow initially involved spraying the motorcycle with a special matte spray and covering it in tracking dots to serve as markers for the scanner.

The bike was then digitized with two different models – one with the fairing and one without. This was done so UMATEX could accurately model the shape of the underlying mounting points to ensure the new fairing would be a perfect fit. Aerodynamic modeling algorithms were then used to model an optimized fairing geometry: one that would allow for even higher speeds.

Finally, it came time to construct the new fairing. Kawasaki Puccetti turned to Russia-based 3D printer manufacturer PICASO 3D, which used its own FormaX material to 3D print the fairing molds. Carbon fiber layers produced by UMATEX were then laid out in the forms, heated, and filled with a reinforcing material to produce the final fairing. As well as fitting like a glove, the new fairing was lighter and more durable than the original part, leading the Kawasaki Puccetti Racing team to finish first in both of its races.

The Kawasaki motorcycle with its carbon fiber fairing. Photo via Kawasaki Puccetti Racing.
The Kawasaki motorcycle with its carbon fiber fairing. Photo via Kawasaki Puccetti Racing.

The automotive and motorsport sectors have been prime adopters of 3D printing over the past few years. Earlier this year, NASCAR team Stewart-Haas Racing turned to 3D printing to produce end-use brake pedals 32% lighter than their conventional counterparts. Working with Autodesk, the team managed to use Fusion 360 generative design software to improve the rigidity and overall safety of the components too.

Elsewhere, UK-based hypercar manufacturer Arash Motor Company also announced the use of 3D printing technology for the production of end-use automotive parts. Using printers developed by Stratasys subsidiary MakerBot, the firm 3D printed a number of structural parts that would be put under load, including bracketry, fasting points, and fixing points.

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Featured image shows the Kawasaki motorcycle with its carbon fiber fairing. Photo via Kawasaki Puccetti Racing.




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