Recently we sent four of our Haynes Model V8 engines to the world-famous West Point military academy where cadets put them into 3D renderings.
We caught up with Lieutenant Colonel Josh Keena, an associate professor at West Point, who taught the course and shares how he guided the cadets to 3D-print engine parts using our models.
How did you come up with the idea for the 3D printing project?
We thought it would be an enjoyable and enriching project for the cadets to analyse, design, and ultimately produce an engine component for their class project.
Doing it on a quarter-scale model engine with 3D printed components was a way to accomplish the goals with the resources available for a single semester class.
The general theme last year was forced induction, with one class supercharging the V8 engine and the other class turbocharging it.
We linked the design and analysis to homework assignments so as to provide a semester long theme. After the cadets built the stock engine models, they were very motivated to make their own parts for it.
Has anything like this ever been done before in the history of West Point?
We use additive manufacturing (AM) or 3D printing frequently for coursework as well as for rapid prototyping in support of cadet projects.
Last year a cadet we advised designed and 3D printed a novel design for a quarter-scale rotary engine.
We routinely support reverse engineering (RE) requests to 3D print components, and of course 3D printing is used extensively by the cadets to transform their Computer Aided Design (CAD) creations into a tangible item.
What were the biggest technical challenges you had to overcome at the beginning?
Given the cadet skills with CAD and 3D printing, the technical challenges were pretty straightforward. For those components that had moving pieces – the supercharger and turbochargers – the cadets had to be mindful of tolerances and clearances to avoid interference between parts.
There were similar challenges for the teams that had thin-walled components, e.g. the intake manifold and exhaust teams.
For all of the teams, the cadets had to accurately render the component interface, either with the V8 engine or with the paired component, to ensure proper fitment.
Did you have much experience of 3D printing before this project?
Yes, we are very fortunate to have several 3D printing capabilities here including Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), Fusible Deposition of Material (FDM) a.k.a. ABS printing, and Stereolithography Apparatus (SLA).
Each has its strengths, challenges, and appropriate applications.
I've used all, and on this project most of the components were done with our FDM printers. The thin-walled parts were done on our SLS machine.
What were the biggest lessons that you and the cadets learned during the project?
The teams learned the importance of careful measurements, detailed planning, and of course starting early.
Because the project ended with a hardware deliverable that also required inter-team coordination and collaboration, the teams had to work on it progressively throughout the semester.
The cadets also learned about sharing resources and accounting for external demands, as the 3D printers are used to support several courses and cadet projects.
What difference do you think the project has made to the confidence and skills of the cadets?
The biggest lessons learned (and challenges faced) were in programme management and communication. The teams had to collaborate because of interface considerations.
For example, the intake manifold team had to convey any changes to the supercharger team else the parts would not mate appropriately. Same went for the exhaust manifold team and the turbocharger team.
It was interesting and very rewarding to watch the two classes monitor the respective progress of the other class.
The supercharger class would see the hardware being produced and mounted on the turbocharger class engine and vice versa.
Is anything else as exciting as this in the pipeline?
This year the theme is the long block, so we are focusing more on the engine interior, so to speak. I have cadet teams redesigning everything from the pistons to the camshaft.
We also plan to use an SLA 3D printer to produce the parts in a transparent resin that will provide a see-through appearance. We are also planning to begin work on digitally rendering the entire engine using 3D scanning technologies.
This would be a considerable undertaking but it could then allow a virtual environment for true collaboration amongst teams.