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When James Suh '14, Penn Scott '13, and Marcus Risland '14 set out to design a supercar last year, they didn't know when or how exactly they were going to reach their goal. But after a summer working at Lehigh's Mountaintop Campus and with a 1:8 scale 3D printed model in their hands, their dream is quickly taking form.

The Xiphias Concept, whose name comes from swordfish in Latin, aims to evoke the agility and distinctive look of its namesake. Suh explains that its mission is to continue redefining the driver experience and address the concerns of the Millennial Generation.

"Our priority is to reach a harmony between a car's technical and creative elements," he says. "These days, car companies are facing a lot of pressure not only from their competition, but also from rising emissions standards and fuel costs. We want to give automotive developers an added competitive, yet emotive, edge."

A project with this level of ambition demanded an interdisciplinary approach from the start.

Scott (IDEAS), Suh (Product Design), and Risland (Finance) came together to apply what they've learned in the classroom and now are focusing in on an engineering, design, and economics project that promises major impact in the coming years.

Spider-web Chassis

In the search for a stronger and lighter support skeleton, Scott believes he has found the answer by combining two cutting-edge technologies—3D printing and topology optimization.

3D printing, the process in which even the most complex shapes can be built layer by layer, opens up new possibilities for low-waste manufacturing. And it's perfect for topology optimization, a computer simulation process that strips away all unnecessary material inside structures.

After months of preparation, Scott expects to arrive at a chassis looking like a spider-web—a net of thin, crisscrossing structural members tracing out the load-paths through the car. Once testing their design's crashworthiness using Finite Element Analysis is complete, the students will present a 1:8 scale chassis that is also 3D printed, with little or no waste.

"That's the beauty of our process," says Scott. "If you're a company who wants to build a super-efficient structure, you won't be forced to buy 20 tons of material and throw out 19 in the fabrication process, which is currently the reality."

Xiphias Project = Money Saved

How then to demonstrate the Xiphias Project's impact in terms of commercial competitiveness? Risland plans to interpret Scott's results and predict the exact points in a manufacturer's business model where topology optimization and 3D printing will have an effect.

"We want to analyze how companies can improve their supply chain, reduce waste, and optimize time-to-market efficiency. By translating our engineering processes into financial data, this project will serve as a valuable tool in improving the financial aspects of an operation," says Risland.

Looking Forward

Hand-in-hand, these tools may give the Xiphias team an entirely original picture of how cars will be developed in the future. At the very least, they expect this concept to define an approach to design and manufacturing that opens new possibilities for efficiency without sacrificing creative spirit.

"In the end, this project isn't just about taking us one step closer to a future that's cleaner and quicker," says Scott. "It's about building a future that also thrills us when we arrive."

Support students like these with a gift to the Lehigh Fund

Posted on Wednesday, December 11, 2013