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Small business joins the automotive research conversation

Small business joins the automotive research conversation

Griffiths Precision Moulds (GPM) is conducting independent research into the use of 3D printing and electro-active aerodynamics for the design, manufacture, and performance of supercars. Brad Griffiths, a senior CAD engineer at the small family-run business on the Wirral, designed the experimental vehicle using 3D modelling software back in 2018 and is now coming to the end of a five-year building process. The car is called Nighthawk, “which is apt,” Brad laughs, “given how many hours of sleep I have lost in the process of making it.”

The research being carried out at GPM demonstrates the benefits of electromechanical systems for improving the overall performance of supercars. The Nighthawk uses electricity, rather than traditional heavy hydraulics, to operate the moving parts on the vehicle that exploit aerodynamic force and promote performance and speed. “Electro-mechanical systems are lighter than hydraulic-mechanical systems, and the reduced weight increases performance and improves handling,” says Brad.

The car body is 3D printed from a lightweight yet durable ABS filament, which he then covers in 2x2 carbon fibre weave before sealing it with epoxy resin. Besides rigidity, the composite also provides a slick finish – something we have come to expect of the super-light supercar genre. The bodywork for Nighthawk aims to prove that 3D printing materials are robust enough to meet the demands of the road, not to mention the harsh conditions of the race track.

Brad’s single-handed effort in designing, printing and building the car reinforces the idea that 3D printing is the future of low-volume car production. He shows us how such technology facilitates automotive manufacturing by small businesses and individual engineers by removing traditional tooling constraints. Crucially, Project Nighthawk highlights the investment that some small businesses, like GPM, are making into automotive research. It shows the extent of access to 3D printing today, as well as the mastery of such technology by small enterprises.

Brad concludes: “Small businesses should not be afraid to join the conversation when it comes to innovations in automotive manufacturing, as the next big thing in design and engineering can come from anywhere, especially when driven by passion.”


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