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Clear, 3D-printed axles

by David Zatz on

Long ago, the three engineers who created the first Chrysler car were puzzled by problems in Studebaker engines. They solved them by making clear valve covers so they could see exactly how the valve gear was lubricated (or, more accurately, not lubricated).

Now, FCA US, the former Chrysler is using 3D-printed clear axle covers to develop axles, instead of trying to observe fluid movement through cut windows. The plastic components are only used for testing, but allows engineers to check virtual analysis of fluid flow, enabling better efficiency and longevity.

3D printed axle cover at the CTC

Six new axle families have been used by Chrysler since 2009, according to Transmission Powertrain Vice President Jeffrey Lux.

John Nigro, Vice President of Product Development, said that the Chrysler headquarters building now has 7,900 engineers and a total of 14,000 employees under one roof. The 5.4 million square foot building is the largest headquarters in North America, aside from the Pentagon, and the only automotive center that can take a car from sketch to production and advertising, according to the company.

FCA also said one of its wind tunnels can generate the highest wind speeds (160 mph) of any domestic automaker. The headquarters, which also has 129 dynamometer cells, opened in 1991 and is now at a historic level of staffing.

The Chrysler Technological Center, or CTC, will be featured in the company’s exhibit at this week’s SAE World Congress in Detroit.

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