Infinium, a space-age solar panel on wheels and the University of Michigan's ultra-sleek contender for the upcoming World Solar Challenge, is a product of advanced engineering technologies like 3D printing and 3D scanning from Z Corporation.
The university's solar car team uses a ZScanner 700 to inspect prototypes against digital designs to ensure accuracy for wind tunnel testing. The scanner also captures the engineering data from solar car prototypes from throughout the team's 20-year history.
The team uses a ZPrinter multicolor 3D printer to create prototypes of parts like its ergonomic steering wheel and motor housing. The prototypes help the team conduct form, fit and functional testing before production. The team also "ZPrints" molds for lightweight carbon fiber parts and car models for display.
"Each time we use the ZPrinter to create a part prototype, mold or car model we save weeks and thousands of dollars by not sending the work out to a service bureau," said Steve Hechtman, 2009 project manager, recent graduate and four-year member of the University of Michigan Solar Car Team. "Each time we use the ZScanner we know we're capturing precise engineering data to drive critical design decisions. We're working faster and smarter, and Infinium shows it."
The team will take Infinium, unveiled June 5, to the World Solar Challenge, an 1,800-mile race across Australia in October 2009. Co-sponsored by Z Corporation, the team is a perennial high performer: it won the North American Solar Challenge (a 2,400-mile race from Dallas to Calgary, Alberta, Canada) five out of nine times and has finished as high as third in the World Championship three times. Twenty years after a group of University of Michigan students won the GM Sunrayce USA, the precursor to the North American Solar Challenge, the team remains the most visible and successful solar car team in North America.
Advanced technologies help Infinium perform
Five times more aerodynamic than a Corvette with contours shaped by a supercomputer, Infinium employs space-grade gallium arsenide solar panels that convert sunshine into power that is stored in highly efficient lithium batteries. The batteries are capable of carrying the car 300 miles in pitch dark. Their efficiency helps the car recharge on sunny days even while being driven. Infinium has a top speed of 87 miles per hour and weighs only 400 pounds.
The university's engineering approach exemplifies the standardization of 3D scanning and printing in advanced R&D organizations. A 3D printer creates physical models from 3D CAD data much as a document printer creates letters and presentations from office application data. A 3D scanner is one way of gathering data for 3D printing.
"We're proud to sponsor the University of Michigan Solar Car Team, and we strongly support the important work students are doing for the school as they advance their career prospects," said Z Corporation CEO John Kawola. "Even more importantly, the team is using 3D technology – CAD and Z Corporation printing and scanning – to uncover efficient renewable energy solutions for the future."
About Z Corporation
Z Corporation makes products that enable users to capture, edit, and print 3D data with unprecedented speed, ease, versatility and affordability. These products include the world's fastest high-definition 3D printers -- machines that produce physical 3D models from digital data in multiple colors – and uniquely portable 3D scanners – handheld machines that digitize 3D surfaces in real time. Z Corporation technology is enabling a wide range of applications in manufacturing, architecture, civil engineering, reverse engineering, geographic information systems (GIS), medicine and entertainment.