Manufacturing ATV suspension parts using a carbon fiber mold technique is our senior project. This should make the suspension more stable and lighter than those used on today's ATVs.
Beginning in the computer lab, we take measurements from the OEM suspension and build 3D models of our parts. This allows simulated tests of material strength and functionality.
Our 3D models serve in the manufacturing of our parts. A wax model is made directly from our computer model so that we can see any changes that need to be made before production begins.
Using our 3D model as data, the automated router creates the molds.
Our hubs are milled from aluminum, again using our models.
After milling we polish the hubs.
Our finished hubs and molds are polished and ready for use.
The A-arms and tie rods for our suspension are made of woven carbon fiber. Before the chemical hardener is applied the carbon fiber is soft and pliable, but after curing becomes very strong and rigid.
We apply the hardener to the carbon fiber by hand.
After all the preparation is done we are ready to mold our parts.
Our first attempt doesn't go very well. The foam that we injected to expand the carbon fiber leaked through the mesh. The parts were still very strong, but didn't look nice at all.
On our second attempt we use a plastic sleeve between the foam and the carbon fiber. The liner works; the foam expands perfectly, pushing the carbon fiber tightly against the mold, giving us a smooth finished piece.
The lower control arm pieces are cut and welded.
The welds are then smoothed with a grinder.
This photo shows our finished control arm and some of the tools we used in the building process.
The spindle assembly is the last piece that we make.
We paint our parts for presentation.
We remove the OEM suspension to test our new parts.
Our parts install easily and everything is positioned exactly like our model. Our suspension is lower, wider, and lighter than the OEM suspension. Increases in stability and, less noticably, speed are expected during actual testing.
Our project taught us a lot. We went into it not knowing anything about carbon fiber manufacturing. But by using the skills we've learned through our program, and doing our own research, we ended up with really professional results.