The creation of Energica seat through professional 3D printing and Windform® materials
In Modena, homeland of supercars and motor valley of Italy, the first high-performance full electric motorcycles ‘Ego’ was born in Energica Motor Company S.p.A. Ego was rigorously developed using F1 technologies and the Windform® family of high performance composite materials. Energica was created and engineered through the CRP Group, whose decades-long activity in the field of High Precision CNC machining and professional 3D printing, along with Windform® composite materials for Additive Manufacturing, allowed the creation of innovative and avant-garde solutions that have made Energica a unique model throughout the world.
The use of Laser Sintering technology and Windform® composite materials enabled Energica to be on the market quickly, accelerating the prototyping and product development phase.
The Energica project stems from the entrepreneurial vision of the Cevolini family, owners of the CRP Group, after the CRP Racing experience in parallel with eCRP back in 2009.
The CRP Group was fundamental for the industrial development of Energica since the very first prototypes, which contain parts made with Selective Laser Sintering technology and Windform® carbon or glass fibre filled composite materials. The materials were engineered by the RD department of CRP Technology, the CRP Group’s company that has been dealing with professional 3D printing for over 20 years.
Energica has also benefited from the experience gained by the CRP Group in over 45 years of activity as a supplier of innovative and cutting-edge technological solutions alongside the major F1, Moto GP, Rally Raid and ALMS teams. The Group has always provided these teams with a high level of support during the entire development phases of the projects, from the early stages of design and development to the construction process, with consequent recognition of an innovative approach in the use of new materials and technologies.
The object of this application case is the creation of the Energica motorcycles seat .
Energica team took advantage of the support and expertise of CRP Technology, the CRP Group company leader in the field of professional 3D printing with Windform® composite materials.
CRP Technology handled the construction of the functional 3D printed seat and passenger seat for R&D and testing phases.
The decision to opt for the creation of functional 3D printed prototypes, that would allow a thorough study to reduce the margins of error on the injection mould, is the result of a process undertaken by CRP Technology together with the Energica Motor Company team engineers.
The professional 3D printing technology and Windform® composite materials enabled the Energica team to shorten design and product development activities.
The Energica seats are made up of a soft seat and a seat plate. The seat plate is a resistant component, as it supports the soft part that must bear the weight of the rider, and it guarantees flexibility to avoid damage resulting from the use of the bike on rough roads and sporting use.
3D printed functional seat plate prototype in Windform GT. Assembly/fitting test
In addition, the seat can be opened to allow access to the charging socket: the opening and closing mechanism therefore plays a role of primary importance.
Energica Ego charging socket. Credits Royce Rumsey
Creation of the 3D printing prototypes
CRP Technology manufactured two functional prototypes, using Laser Sintering technology and Windform® high performance composite materials.
On all prototypes the development and validation activities of the components and the verification of the design solutions were carried out applying specific test plans (ergonomics, assembly/fitting) aimed at verifying both the full correspondence to the functional needs and compliance with the quality and reliability objectives required.
It is notable that the 3D printed seats manufactured by CRP Technology have been used throughout the Energica motorbikes validation tests, Bosch’s ABS validation tests included.
Seat must be confortable and aesthetically pleasing. It must resist to impact, atmospheric agents and usury, and include reliability features.
To meet these needs, CRP Technology manufactured the first prototype using LS technology and Windform® RL rubber like-composite material for the soft part, and Windform® GT for the seat plate.
Windform® RL is the durable thermoplastic elastomer material with exceptional rubber-like distinguishing features from Windform® family of high performance composite materials.
Its mechanical characteristics make it particularly suited for Additive Manufacturing applications requiring complex geometries, and where flexible characteristics is a key requisite.
It was chosen to simulate the foam.
Energica motorbike 3D printed functional seat prototype in Windform® RL composite material (soft part). Front and back. To note its rubber like features and sandwich structure. Credits photos (front and back): Gianluca Muratori
The seat plate is in Windform® GT, composite polyamide material glass fiber reinforced from Windform® family of high performance composite materials.
Windform® GT is especially suitable for applications where resistance and elasticity are required. It can be considered a highly valuable material in various and functional applications in regards to vibration and shock.
The next phase involved the bonding of the two parts (soft seat and seat plate) and the coating of the component by fixing with staples.
Energica Ego 3D printed functional prototype (covered). Detail of the fixing with staples
No particular difficulties or problems were found during this phase: 3D printed parts in Windform® composite materials can be covered by any material (upholstery, microfiber, leather) and stapled.
All Windform® materials allow the coating to adhere well to the 3D printed parts, guaranteeing a secure anchor that resists over time.
The 3D printed prototype in Windform® RL and Windform® GT was then returned to Energica team, who tested it by mounting it directly on the bike and tested it on the road.
By the tests carried out on the first 3D printed prototype, the Energica staff noticed a slight bending of the seat that went beyond the initial intent.
The issue was faced with the support of the CRP Technology technicians: a ribbed structure was added to the base of the seat plate in order to stiffen the component.
3D printed functional seat plate prototype with ribbed structure in Windform GT. Details
The new version of the seat plate prototype with the ribbed structure, was manufactured in Windform® GT and Laser Sintering technology. The soft seat (which was made in Windform® RL for prototype no. 1) was replaced by foam.
The next phase involved the bonding of the two parts (soft seat and seat plate) and the coating of the component by fixing with staples. No particular difficulties or problems were found during this phase.
The 3D printed second prototype was then returned to Energica team for testing.
The tests gave positive results and the Energica engineers were satisfied: the issue of sligh bending had been successfully overcome.
Once the project by the Energica team was approved, the mould makers developed the mould for industrial production.
Creation of the finished product using traditional technology
The professional 3D printing technology and Windform® composite materials enabled the Energica team to shorten product development phases, and to continue testing the component/prototype directly on the motorbike waiting for the end-use plastic part.
“The availability of a whole range of high performance composite materials, the Windforms® , for the creation and manufacture of Energica functional prototypes – Energica team states – was the key: with the support of CRP technicians, we selected the Windform® materials closest to the plastic one.
Additive Manufacturing and Windform® materials by CRP Technology , have allowed us a comprehensive approach on the prototypes, carrying out all the tests both static and on the road.
Plus we have been able to work with the mould makers in a new way. These functional components, which are much more than just aesthetic prototypes, allowed us to examine the application, and annotate some improvements for the final mould. We therefore saved time and money: when we gave the authorization to proceed with injection moulding, we knew that the pieces would come out perfect and ready to be used.”