University of Waterloo Leverages 3D Printing Technology

UWAFT's 3D Model

UWAFT’s 3D Model

Printing a scale model of almost anything you can imagine may seem like a far-off concept, but the technology is actually available now. The University of Waterloo’s EcoCAR 2 team’s (UWAFT) process for designing and printing a 3D model is rather simple. First, UWAFT designs the working part or model prototype in a software program called CAD. Team members then decide what material, such as polycarbonate (PC), acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) or PC-ABS should be used to create the part. Simply put, these materials are known as thermoplastics, which become pliable or moldable at higher temperatures and once cooled they return to a solid plastic state. The printer used on the Waterloo campus is called the Fortus 360 MC and it uses Fuse Deposition Modeling (FDM) technology to print out the 3D CAD designs. The production grade thermoplastics are heated up, laid down and fused together during the cooling process.

UWAFT has access to multiple 3D printers across campus. Depending on the material used, students pay anywhere from $5 to $10 for each cubic inch of the 3D model. This new technology has allowed school teams and companies around the world to create visual prototypes, which they can use at events or meetings with sponsors to better represent an idea or design. UWAFT has even printed working parts that have been incorporated into the Chevrolet Malibu, including a contoured charge door to match the shape of the car. It is clear that the use of a 3D printer has been an invaluable asset to UWAFT, as the team can print a model of its car and print actual working pieces.


Mayor Halloran of Waterloo holds UWAFT’s 3D model after a team presentation

Having a 3D model of the car has allowed the UWAFT team to explain complex engineering concepts to sponsors, students of all ages, influential community members and the general public. Having the different parts painted with different colors has made it easy for the general public to understand how the team modified the car`s architecture. In the picture on the right, Mayor Halloran of Waterloo, ON is holding the 3D model of the car after our presentation about the EcoCAR 2 competition, UWAFT team`s community involvement and implementing EV chargers around the city of Waterloo.