…and the father of the year award goes to…Sterling Backus!
Physicist Sterling Backus has made it his mission to show his son (and all other children) how cool science and engineering is, by demonstrating the power of technology. How? He took on a project of creating a life-size, functional and mostly 3D printed Lamborghini Aventador in his own backyard!
He and his son have been working on it for over a year now. “My son asked if we could build it,” Sterling recalls. “His inspiration – he says – came from racing video game Forza Horizon 3. I have always wanted a supercar, so it did not take much asking.” Backus and his son try to work on the project at least one hour every day for consistency.
Many other manufacturing processes had to be used along with 3D printing, such as carbon fiber vacuum infusion and encapsulation, CNC machining (using a mill and lathe from Backus’ work), waterjet cutting for door hinges and suspension parts. Not all the parts were 3D printed which just added to the amazing learning experience. “We even put encapsulated parts out in the summer sun for more than 6 months here in Colorado’s intense sunlight for a science experiment to see if they would hold up. They did, of course,” Sterling says.
The entire body (panels, headlights, taillights, interior parts, and air vents) of the car was 3D printed. The chassis, the engine, transaxle, and other structural parts (such as the door inner structure, etc.) were not. So far, they’ve used a total of 220 spools of thermoplastics including PLA for the carbon fiber encapsulated parts. At least 50 of those spools went to “mistakes” but it was all part of the experience.
They made the car on a budget. So far it has cost him only $20,000. Sterling said:
We decided that we would use advanced technology to build the car, However, we needed to do it on the cheap. This led us to research different automotive construction techniques. We wanted the car to be safe, so we decided on steel for the frame. In the end, after choosing 3D printing for most of the body of the car, we needed it to be strong.
As he wasn’t sure what exactly to do since there were very few choices for materials that could stand the heat and stresses a car body would see, Sterling searched for answers on the internet. He said:
I saw a YouTube video on carbon fiber skinning, and vacuum molding which led us to carbon fiber encapsulation of the 3D printed parts. After all this, our objective became showing the car off at the local schools as a STEAM project, to get kids interested in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math.
Most of the 3D printed parts were encapsulated in carbon fiber, or carbon fiber kevlar for added strength. The parts that were not printed were sourced from a combination of eBay, Wilwood brakes, Holley Dominator ECU and some Lamborghini parts suppliers. “Some Lamborghini parts are not that expensive, or are used,” Backus said. The cars frame was custom made, designed from scratch. The engine is an LS1 from a 2003 Corvette, mated to an inverted Porsche 911 transaxle, with a kit from Kennedy Engineering.
This project is a personal project which they say will not have a Lamborghini logo or other clear references to the Italian supercar brand. Backus said:
The parts’ design is based on the Lamborghini Aventador, but we have changed each panel significantly, to add our design flair. In addition, no molds are made, and none are for sale. This is a one only project, and not for sale.
So if you’re smart enough, dedicated, and patient, you too can print any car you want for yourself in you own backyard. Backus said:
[I think that] the most important skill is the ability to learn, and make mistakes. We have made many mistakes and ‘YouTube University’ has really helped us through. My own training as a physicist, love for cars, engineering, and passion were definitely helpful as well.
If this project doesn’t inspire the next generation of kids to get into engineering, science, and additive manufacturing – to learning about the future of advanced manufacturing while having a lot of fun – then nothing will!
You can follow the project updates on their Facebook page.