Prototyping prowess through 3D printing

The iNet helps Vitesse develop their prototyping capabilities.

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The Company

Vitesse Engineering Services Ltd (VESL) has over 15 years of design and analysis experience. They work in a wide variety of industries including automotive engine design.  They have experience of design projects at all levels, from on-site machine tool design for aerospace and nuclear applications to F1 engine R&D.

What They Do

The company focuses on offering design services, in particular, the design of lightweight structures.  They also have extensive experience in materials and process selection and analysis capabilities in Computational Fluid Dynamics and Finite Element Analysis.

The Challenge

Vitesse Engineering Services wanted to move from being a services based company to one developing their own products and intellectual property. However, they did not have the capability to manufacture their own products, and found that commercial suppliers were unable to offer sufficiently fast turnaround at low costs for multiple design iterations.

They were also interested in knowing more about opportunities in the space sector.

They had two product development projects that they wanted to progress:

Satellites components: Vitesse Engineering Services Ltd had designs in progress for new satellite products which were close to the pre-production prototype stage. These product designs aimed to use optimised structural design techniques to offer increased payload mass for a tightly controlled maximum satellite mass. 

Automotive lighting: They had developed the intellectual property for a number of key components for a headlight system in collaboration with another local SME. The next phase of this collaboration was to seek type-approval for the lights to allow them to be used for niche road applications. 

Having the manufacturing facilities in house would allow the company to faster develop these innovative new designs and to supply the prototype, pre-production and production parts for both of these products.

The Solution

Vitesse Engineering Services Ltd applied to The iNet for grant funding from the ERDF Catalysing Growth programme to enable them to purchase two 3D printers for prototyping.

The first of these printers employs a unique technology to incorporate composites into a matrix, making parts very much stronger and stiffer than any other additive manufacturing machine is able to. 

The second is capable of producing components with fine, production-ready, surface finishes, combined with an ability to produce very small, well-defined details.

In addition to the support from ERDF Catalysing Growth, Vitesse Engineering Services Ltd also received coaching and signposting support from the Loughborough University Space Incubator programme which introduced them to the sector.

Vitesse parts

The Outcome

The machines purchased by Vitesse Engineering Services have been used to produce components for several projects. A number of prototype components have been produced before committing to the manufacture of a low-mass metallic Cubesat chassis. This chassis is being developed with the aim of producing something lighter than currently commercially available, allowing greater payloads, and the 3D printers allow them to see how easily the main chassis components are assembled, and how best to integrate and actuate the kill switches.

In the field of automotive lighting, a number of Le Mans race cars will be equipped with 3D printed parts made by Vitesse Engineering Services on the new machines. They were able to deliver a batch of 35 bespoke parts to a new design within two days. This has led to a number of other development projects with the same company.

As existing clients heard about the 3D printers and discovered that Vitesse Engineering Services could produce parts overnight they have been involved in some small but interesting automotive and motorsport projects which will hopefully lead to larger projects in time:

• A major car manufacturer is soon to release an exciting ‘hypercar’ costing in excess of £1 million and some of the systems are being tested using equipment which contains parts made on the 3D printers for one of their specialist suppliers.

• A racing engine manufacturer has taken delivery of some trial parts to be included in the intake system of an endurance racing engine. Vitesse Engineering Services were able to take their original design and, understanding the capabilities of the machine, suggest design improvements for reliability, weight reduction and improved integration.

• A motorcycle race team is planning to do some engine performance development work using 3D printed intake system parts and a quick change system to allow a large number of configurations to be tested on a single day. A number of parts have already been tested on track by another customer.

• A further motorcycle racing customer hopes to improve upon their current pit equipment and concept design work will soon start before moving to production of scale working models.

“These machines have been a really good addition to the company’s capabilities. I can now design and produce nice-looking complex parts in a matter of hours. This is good news for my clients as they can quickly get strong, detailed parts in their hands, and good news for my business, as I can do more development cycles, more quickly and cost-effectively”

Wayne Ward, Vitesse Engineering Services Ltd
About the client

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Vitesse Engineering Services Ltd
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