Finishing the Body Master Pattern

I ended up applying ten coats of SikaFloor epoxy to try to build a hard base for further finishing. Even this gave me problems, though, as it appears that the two-part urethane foam continues to expand indefinitely. Every time I would finish a section, next time I looked at it, it needed more work. For a long time I just thought my eyes were getting more demanding, but I finally realized the body buck was slowly changing shape, bulging out between the ribs. Once I figured this out, I just tried to finish the molds as fast as possible. I also installed air conditioning in this part of the workshop, and kept it running at night to avoid temperature-cycling the pattern.

If you’re thinking of doing this yourself, a better way to do it would be to just fiberglass straight over the plywood forms, using tape or something to support the first layer of fiberglass while curing. About a 3mm fiberglass shell should do it. Then use body putty right over that, using standard auto-body finishing techniques. That way there’s no foam between the ribs to push outward and mess up the shape. The only time you need foam is when you’re really sculpting something, like the sidepod air intakes. Oh, by the way, plan on about 1,000 hours of work.

After the floor epoxy there were several rounds of primering, puttying and sanding, followed by two coats of black two-part epoxy paint. This was sanded with 400, 800, 1200, and 2000 grit wet-or-dry sandpaper, then machine-polished with rubbing compound. The top layer was 9 coats of “Hi Temp Mold Release”, applied by hand strictly according to the instructions.

When I started to think about how to split up the body panels, I realized that the “horse collar” head surround would be impossible to remove when the car was finished, as it would interfere with the main roll hoop. This necessitated going all the way back to the SCCA rule book, where I took another look at the minimum cockpit opening specifications. I found that I could meet the minimum cockpit opening size with a fixed head surround, but I had to cut the “arms” off it. So, you get to see that surgery in the photos below.

Building the Body Buck: Part 1, Ribs & Foam

Here’s what we’re building, sort of. Rather than build a CAD model of an actual assembly of stringer and rib parts, I extruded cuts into the solid model so that the slots will appear in the correct places when I make cross-section drawings at the appropriate locations. This is actually harder to visualize than you might think. I wasn’t sure it would go together flawlessly, especially since the cuts in both the ribs and stringers went to two different depths depending on the typical height of each region. I didn’t want long floppy sticking up from the cuts:

Body Buck CAD

Original 3D CAD model showing slots for assembling plywood ribs and stringers.

Hot Off the (3D) Press: Suspension Upright 3-D Print

The suspension uprights have gone through a long evolution, but I’m zeroing in on the goal.

First Design: Machined Billet Aluminum

This design uses radial-style brake caliper mounting. Needed to be redesigned when someone ordered the lug-mount calipers and had them delivered all the way from the USA. Probably a Freudian slip as they’re less expensive.

Machined Upright

Second Design: Fabricated Steel

Fabricated Upright

Second design was fabricated from steel. Unfortunately, welding will eliminate the temper in the heat-affected zones. The weakening due to this is hard to predict, and can only be eliminated by heat treatment. That would mean days or weeks finding and learning to deal with a heat-treatment supplier.

Mesh Quality

Mesh used for finite-element analysis of fabricated steel upright.

Upright FEA

Finite-element analysis stress plot for fabricated upright. Strong enough, but where are those heat-affected zones?



Third Design: Cast Aluminum

Here’s the final result of literally hundreds of design revisions, ensuring that the upright is strong enough and as light as possible. This design is made possible by the new technology of 3d printing, which will be used to make the master “plug”, from which molds will be made to cast the actual part. Note that the steering arm is not an integral part of the upright, but is modeled together with the upright because the FEA runs much faster this way.

FEA mesh plot for cast upright

FEA stress plot inner

Cast Upright FEA

View from outside

Finally, the Master Copy

The upright had to be split into four pieces for 3D printing; split vertically so I can make two mold halves and remove the masters from the molds, and split horizontally to fit the 3D printer. The 3D printer extrudes hot ABS plastic in X-Y layers onto a heated Z-axis stage with 0.3mm resolution. The print is slightly rough and the parting plane is slightly warped, which will have to be corrected with auto body putty, primer, sanding, and paint. The cast aluminum blank will still require several machining steps to cut off the gate and sprue, drill mounting holes, bore the bearing hole and retaining ring slot, and mill the brake caliper mounts. Still far better than trying to machine individual parts (or even a mold pattern) this complex, which would be approximately impossible and semi-infinitely expensive.

Beautiful, huh?

One half printed in two colors to highlight the split required to fit it into the 3d printer

Set of 4

Full set of four 3d prints. The cylinder protruding in the upper left is the gate, where molten aluminum will be poured into the finished mold.

Top View

Some people get excited by shoe sales. I get excited by this!