Rear Suspension Rocker Arm Mounts & Nose Mounts

Rocker Bushing

Rear suspension rocker arm mount shaft bushing

Above you’ll see that my welding continues to improve, although slowly. In response to the deleted commenter of the day, yes, we do use dyslexic dwarfs to do our welding, but we get ours from Lithuania. Good guess, though!

Next we have photos of the rear suspension rocker arm mounts. As these have to be positioned correctly in three dimensions and three axes, and none of those are X, Y, or Z, it took about a week to get these fabricated and fitted. Starting with laser-cut pieces proved useful as that gave me a known-good shape to start from, but some of the frame rails could be a few millimeters off. Also, every time I weld on something it distorts. Both halves of the rocker arm mounts must be precisely concentric and exactly the correct distance apart. Unfortunately they are not connected directly to each other in order to allow for rocker arm movement between them so there’s plenty of opportunity for them to move, even though I did the welding with the rocker arm shafts in place. In the photo with the control arms installed, you’ll see one answer to that: a long piece of steel rebar turned to fit inside the rocker arm shaft bores. Pounding on that with a rubber mallet would move the bores back into alignment a bit at a time.

Also, nose mounts. In the end these look terribly simple, but it took me a lot of thinking about how to do this. They have to be strong enough in one direction to lift the nose of the car with a pivoting jack, and in the other direction they have to support the downforce of the front wing. Also, they can’t protrude or be sharp so as not to injure another driver in a crash while taking the tremendous force of a forward impact, and have to allow the nose to be adjusted in three dimensions and two axes for proper body fit. Body installation begins here; the rest of the body will be keyed off the nose.

Nose Mounts

Nose attachment points laser cut and welded in place.

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Fabricating the Pushrods & Upper A-Arms / Wishbones / Control Arms

Finished

Finished set of control arms, tierods & pushrods

The upper control arms are all identical except that the bearing cups are mirrored from the left to the right so that the snap rings are on the bottom. If I can find a way to stake the spherical bearings then all four could be identical. Staking is a process that uses a hydraulic press to deform the bearing cup into a chamfer around the circumference of the spherical bearing, holding it permanently in place.

I printed out the layout of both control arms onto size A0 paper, glued the paper to a sheet of plywood, and drilled holes for the centerlines of each rod end and spherical bearing. This gives me a jig I can use for tack welding the parts in place. Washers under the bearing cups locate them vertically for tacking. The bearing cups proved a little too thin to weld without distortion, so I had to re-cut the spherical bearing bores after welding. Luckily I have an indexable end mill of just the right diameter, and running my mill at high speed with a lot of coolant gave a good finish on the bores. I then pressed the spherical bearings into place before painting as I wanted to make sure there were no glitches that would require messing up the paint to fix.

I sprayed Jotun Penguard 2-part epoxy paint directly onto the steel after first making sure the steel was scrupulously clean with a Scotchbrite pad on an angle grinder, followed by a cleaning with acetone and paper towels. The finish came out beautifully.

Custom Radiator, Lathe Cooling, Suspension Progress

Time for a few miscellaneous updates.

Lathe Coolant

Homemade lathe liquid coolant system

I was always dreading having to machine steel. I had to do it  slowly to keep the temperature down and avoid chatter, even though I use carbide cutter inserts. Then I read somewhere that home hobbyists tend to be afraid to run the lathe & milling machine at high enough RPM to keep the cutting inserts happy, but  if they do it will cause the insert to overheat and be cooked in two seconds. I figured I can find the cojones to run my equipment at maximum speed as well as the next guy…

So one day I was browsing at my new favorite store, Hardware House in Rayong, and I saw a gallon container of cutting coolant fluid for sale. I’d had no idea of how to find this stuff in Thailand, or even how to ask for it, so it was pure luck to stumble over it. Or you could call it diligence in going up and down every aisle in Hardware House looking for things I might need. They also had flexible fluid squirters and 12-volt water pumps, so I put together my own fluid cooling system, pictured above. I drive the pump with an automotive battery charger which allows me to reduce the voltage and amperage to get the correct flow, and it works like a charm! Now I can cut steel like I used to cut aluminum.

Front Shocks

Front shocks, shock mount, and rocker arms test fitted

First CNC Parts, Class Photos

Uprights

Suspension uprights, two left, two right

Getting caught up on my blogging…

Shiny Happy CNC Parts

I’m getting some interest in the car from here in Thailand, but they want it SOON. So I’ve had to step up the rate of progress, even though it hasn’t showed here on the blog. Instead, I’ve been designing and designing and designing… It’s a big step from an assembly design that seems pretty much correct, to a set of drawings and IGES or DXF files that you’re willing to pay real money to fabricate. Everything has to be checked, from the load cases used in the finite element analysis to the hole clearances for every bolt.

For example, did you know that a 1/4″ bolt doesn’t go into a 1/4″ hole? The proper size of the hole is 0.257″ for a close fit or 0.266″ for a free fit. Of course, then you have to take into account the width, or kerf, of the laser beam used to cut the metal, which can be 0.01″ or 0.25mm but varies with the type of material and thickness being cut, and the laser beam is actually a cone that can be focused on the top, middle, or bottom surface of the piece. Many parts had to be redesigned for the materials and processes I’ve been able to locate in Thailand. Here it’s not a simple matter of looking up all the local suppliers on Google and giving one a call. Thailand has a great number of very small companies that rarely have websites, and even if they exist they’re mostly in Thai, which as a special favor to web search engines uses no spaces between words. Yes, you read that right. Using no spaces would be OK if there were only one way to parse a stream of Thai characters, but haha, you make joke, eh? And then if I can actually get someone on the phone, I have to communicate in Thai. Like that’ll work.

Last year I was looking for a foundry to cast aluminum uprights, and I found one (using Startpage, not Google) less than an hour from here. Their website had a Google map and everything! So I drive there, and I’m within 100 feet or so, asking motorcycle taxi drivers where the company is. No idea; there’s never been a foundry around there. I show them the address and they say oh, that’s way over on the other side of town. The person answering the phone number has no idea what I’m talking about. I give up.

On the other hand, recently one of those Google ads that look like the first links on your search actually showed me something that I needed and couldn’t find with a search: a small local company that fabricates custom radiators. So I managed to find their shop this week and got a quote for the radiator. Quote comes by email entirely in Thai. Google translate does a pitiful job of translating Thai, but I caught on the email wasn’t spam. Fantastic price, by the way. Cheaper than what I paid for a used race car radiator on EBay. I decided I didn’t really like how that one would fit, so I designed one that’s ideal for my application and figured I’d worry about fabrication later. Problem solved, yay!

The Thai racers who are interested in the project have emphasized that the price is crucial, which means more redesign. Surprisingly for me, this is the same thing I’ve heard from the people in Singapore who’ve contacted me. Sometimes it’s easy to dash off a quick machined aluminum design, but it takes a lot more thinking to do it with laser-cut steel pieces. The equivalent in steel typically ends up being a little heavier, but that’s an example of why Formula 1000 has a minimum weight rule. Laser-cut steel hand-welded into a complex component is just about free in Thailand.

Where before I was planning on making just about everything in my machine shop, now I’m looking at fabricating as much as possible at subcontractors. Luckily a friend found a large CNC machine shop not too far from here, and the guy running it speaks English and understands drawings and computer files and tolerances and clearances and everything. I’ve now received my first batch of CNC machined parts from them and they look great. Combined with the first batch of laser-cut parts and a few parts I’ll fabricate and modify myself, I now have everything to make the car a roller.

Anyway, on to today’s gallery:

Fabricating the Suspension Attachment Points

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!