When i first started to work on the OpenRC Project back in 2012 i sweeped the web for information about 3D Printing and R/C cars and what i found was that the general attitude was that 3D printed R/C cars will never (ever) be good for anything else than maybe a interesting showcase. There´s even a quote from a forum in the OpenRC Truggy video. Most seemed convinced that a 3D printed R/C cars would never be able to compete with (or beat) a factory made R/C car.
That just changed this past spring!
The HPD F1 Project
Just like the OpenRC F1 the HPD F1 is a 1:10 scale F1 R/C car but the similarities stop there. Some two years ago fellow Swede Kent Asplund set out to create a 3D printed F1 R/C car but unlike the OpenRC F1 he wanted something that would be competition grade and comply with current regulations. Out of that idea the first iteration was released Aug 13, 2016. Since then a dedicated group of people have further worked on and improved upon the design and several iterations has since emerged. They have all been into R/C cars for a long time and carry alot of knowledge from conventional R/C cars and have adapted much of that to the design philosopy where the process of 3D printing sets many of the rules.
A rainy day last summer i went to a racetrack south of Stockholm to meet up with these guys, have a chat and see what the fuzz was all about. I brought my own car and while racing it around a racetrack it soon get´s obviuos that it severly limited by the fact that the handling is awful without proper suspension. After the last and final crash i got the chance to testdrive the HPD F1 that belong to Bengt Burns and i must say, wow! That car was so much fun and amazing to drive, it flew around the track and stuck to the road like glue in the corners. I even crashed (as i always do) a couple of time and came out without a scratch. Needless to say i was impressed. And as hard it is to admit, a bit surprised too.
There´s a short story and video from that day and you can read it here.
A Great Resource
I learned alot that day as we discussed both the technical aspects of combining a competition grade R/C car design with a technology like 3D printing. We talked electronics, materials and tires. As most (not all) of my earlier encounters with R/C car racers had been full of skepticism on their part this one was refreshing in the way that instead of doubting what could be done with a 3D printer they were fully convinced they would be able to compete (and already were at the time) with the more sophisticated conventional cars. We stayed in touch and i have since got alot of my questions answered especially around electronics and having someone to ask that have all the answers is something i´m very grateful for! Thanks guys!
Everything Turned Upside Down
A couple of months back i got a message saying Bengt won the last race and the entire “Mid Swedish Cup”.
So what´s the competition like then? Well, think thousands of R&D hours, high tech manufacturing facility, carbon fiber, sponsored drivers that travel the world to compete etc. In many ways they are considered the ones to beat. One company known for their hightech (and expensive) cars are Team Xray. And let me tell you, those cars are just beautiful. The engineering that goes into those cars are incredibly impressive. In fact you should head over tho their website and read the stories about how they develop their cars. This will also give you a better picture of why i said that 3D printing changed and will never be the same. These cars are so sophisticated they have countless little details & parameters you can change to get the very best and optimal performance for the course and conditions of the race. And that´s what makes this win even more impressive!
While i know Bengt, Kent and the others are great drivers their opponents are too so it´s no easy task to take that title!
Just like the OpenRC F1 the HPD F1 is open source and you can download, print your own and further improve the design if you want, everyone is welcome. The winning car by Bengt Burns is available here and the files for the currently latest HPD F1 design by Kent Asplund (V2.1) is available on here.
It´s Only Going To Get Better
While we probably won´t see these cars in a top level competition just yet i think after this weekend the sceptics should rethink. 3D printed products are here to stay and they can actually give “the real thing” a run for it´s money! It´s not going away and it´s only going to get better, it´s just evolution!
We are just getting started! =)