Weight of Vehicle Reduced by 40%, Energy Efficiency Increased

Additive Manufacturing for Automotive Applications.

3D printing for automotive applications enables companies to customize designs and constantly improve parts by prototyping. These 3D printed vehicle parts can be produced in a relative short period of time. As a result additive manufacturing is used to meet the rapidly changing demands of customers, which helps to differentiate from competitors in the automotive industry.

Additive manufacturing, 3D printing, is still upcoming in the automotive industry. That is why its important that the engineers of the future, the automotive students, experience the possibilities of 3D printing during their study.

Engineer Developing Energy Efficient Vehcile with 3D Printed Parts
The technical vehicle inspection at the Shell Eco-marathon
Energy efficient car with 3D printed parts

HAN Hydromotive: Design, Build and Test

The HAN Hydromotive is a team of students from the HAN University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands, studying Automotive. It all started in 2009. After a school project, called HAN Eco-marathon, a group of enthusiastic students started the HAN Hydromotive team to participate in the Shell Eco-marathon. The Shell Eco-marathon challenges student teams around the world to design, build and test driveable ultra-energy-efficient vehicles. The goal is to cover an x number of meters within a specified time and use as little energy as possible.

Insourcing 3D printing in automotive

Since 2010, several multidisciplinary student teams have been constructing amazing vehicles at the HAN University. The techniques have been improved over the years and more background studies have been done to build the optimal Shell Eco-marathon vehicle. Also new technologies have emerged to further optimize the development process, for example 3D printing. In 2015 the University invested in a Tractus3D FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) printer which allowed the team to prototype and test particular automotive parts.

Hein Lucassen, Engineer Brakes & Suspension at HAN Hydromotive, explains: ‘’We have chosen to produce the vehicle parts with a 3D printer in-house because this way we can manage the process ourselves, without being dependent on an external organization. We create a drawing in SolidWorks (3D CAD design software) and convert it into a STL file. After this we can prepare it for additive manufacturing in the 3D printing software. This software enables us to adjust the level of infill of the object. In some cases we use a low filling level, to decrease the time of the print job and produce extra light parts, for example containers and trays. In case we need really strong products, we increase the filling level, which makes the product stiff and stronger. If we have to rely on an external company to make us a complex part, this would take a long time. With the 3D printer at our location, we produce the part in a short amount of time.’’

Developing the City Car of the Future with a 3D Printer

In the UrbanConcept class of the Shell Eco-marathon, HAN Hydromotive develops the city car of the future, which is legal to drive in public space. This involves a number of engineering challenges including the use of a windshield wiper, lighting and several safety precautions. The body is obliged to protect all elements in the vehicle. Wheel boxes are a requirement and there must be a permanent roof on the vehicle and 4 wheels. Furthermore, the car must meet a standard baggage requirement. For example, a laptop needs to be easily taken. When developing these vehicle parts, a 3D printer was used to produce them and perform tests.

3D printed vehicle parts used as end-product

The HAN Hydromotive team 3D printed various objects to add to the vehicle so the overall weight stays low, for example trays to store the printed circuit boards (PCB) in the vehicle and other enclosures for electronics. They also have 3D printed caps for the capping of the mass points and clamps which allows them to guide electronic cables. Other 3D printed automotive parts are used in the brake sensor.

3D printed vehicle parts used as prototype

Thanks to 3D printing the automotive team is able to see if a certain prototype part fits, for example the calipers and the steering wheel, before sending the design to a manufacturer. It’s useful to 3D print products to test and check if it fits, making sure the design is good. This way they reduce production time and failure rate as they eliminate the chance of ordering a mis fitting product at an external company.

Decreasing costs

HAN Hydromotive achieved large cost savings through the use of the 3D printer. ‘’Instead of buying vehicle parts we can 3D print it ourselves. The material costs for a single print are below 1 euro, while otherwise the purchase would cost dozens of euros. Especially when it comes to customized designs, investing in a 3D printer is a low cost solution,’’ says Lucassen.

Accelerating developments

HAN Hydromotive accelerated the development time of the car as well. The team is able to make the automotive parts quicker as they are not dependent on other people or companies. When a design is ready they can immediately manufacture it by 3D printing it. When the 3D printed vehicle parts do not meet their expectations, they can alter the design and print the objects again within a short amount of time.

Hein Lucassen explains: ‘’The advantage of 3D printing is that we are able to produce 3D printed vehicle parts in a short amount of time and easily can make customized solutions. Automotive parts that deviate from standard products are difficult to find at a wholesaler. With our 3D printer we don’t have to worry about this and make the parts ourselves. We mainly use PLA and ABS filaments. With these two filaments we can make products that meet our requirements. ABS is for example used in the vicinity of the electronics because of its strength and heat resistance.’’

Additive manufacturing providing the solution

The body was initially designed in SolidWorks last year, but eventually created on a mold of polystyrene foam blocks. Because the polystyrene was sanded by hand, the body did not longer exactly match with SolidWorks. This led to problems when printing a model of the caliper in 3D. In SolidWorks they fitted perfectly, but not in real life. So it was important to adapt the design of the caliper and 3D print it again. By 3D printing they solved this issue fast.

3D printing improved the car in many ways

‘’The car is mainly improved on simplicity, especially because we can adjust parts to our own preferences. For example, we have placed the live data display for the driver at the most ideal location. In this case, we do not have to spend a long time searching for braces or other less handy solutions. Furthermore, also the weight of the vehicle has been decreased through usage of the 3D printing technology during development and by applying light 3D printed vehicle parts. Compared to the car of 2015, we have reduced the weight by 40%. As a result the vehicle is more efficient and can travel a longer distance, using less fuel’’, says Hein Lucassen.

Engineer working with 3D printed car parts


  • Develop ideas quick and easy
  • Make complex parts at low costs
  • Not dependent on other companies for parts
  • 3D printed vehicle parts can be implemented right after designing, reducing the development time
Blue 3D Printed Electronic Enclosures
3D printed electronic enclosures
White 3D Printed Display Enclosure and Mount
3D printed display enclosure and mount

Achievements with the Energy Efficient Car

With the 3D printer, the students of the HAN Hydromotive team can prototype faster and easier. They can alter their design, print it and test it, till they have the perfect 3D printed vehicle parts. Additive manufacturing is also cheaper and lighter than, for example, the same type of process when working on steel. The Arval Inspire II vehicle was developed in 3D and completely built from composites. During construction in 2015, a number of objectives were taken into account. One of those aims was to make the Arval Inspire II street legal. With a consumption of 1: 510 km / l the team has proven that it is possible to produce an extremely economical car for the Dutch roads.

Car with 3D printed parts driving on a race circuit

Consumption of 1 :570 km / l

In 2016 HAN Hydromotive introduced their third vehicle, the ABN AMRO Lease Accelerator. The goal with this vehicle is to win the Shell Eco-marathon. In the first year they achieved a consumption of 1: 570 km / l. The team contains 15 students which work hard to improve and further develop the vehicle. According to Kevin Bonke, Team Manager, they have made a light and aerodynamic vehicle that contains many new technologies.

Group photo of the HAN Hydromotive team participating at the Shell Eco-marathon

New efficiency record?

The goal of the Shell Eco-marathon is to cover an x number of meters within a specified time and use as little energy as possible. As described, last year an admirable result was achieved of 570 kilometers per liter. This was a personal record for HAN Hydromotive. In 2018, the team was aiming for an even better result, 700+ km on 1 liter of fuel. Unfortunately, due to mechanical problems they did not succeed to complete the marathon.

Engineer testing the energy efficient vehicle

Using a Tractus3D printer

Tractus3D printers provide several benefits for the automotive industry. Hein Lucassen explains: ‘’We made the decision to invest in 3D printer of Tractus3D because it 3D prints at a high resolution and it has large build volume including heated build platform. This allows the students to produce 3D printed vehicle parts with for example ABS and PLA material. In 2015 we started using the 3D printer and it has been great working with it ever since. The printer is accurate, speedy, reliable and can handle a lot of materials. Also the printhead nozzle and the heated bed are fast at the set temperature, so we are not wasting a lot of time waiting.’’