IAV sees huge potential with 3D-printed pistons

Besides tires, few components on a vehicle take as much punishment as pistons in an internal-combustion engine.

Constantly pumping at speeds up to 39 ft. (12 m) per second under intense heat and pressure, these cylindrical workhorses reside at ground zero as energy is created and harnessed for driving the wheels.

Conventional pistons are cast or forged from aluminium or steel and automotive engines need at least three and as many as 12 to satisfy demanding consumers. IAV Automotive Engineering is piloting the far-out concept of 3D-printing metallic pistons, a process that would revolutionise the production of a vital powertrain component while making it lighter, more resistant to high temperatures and faster to manufacture.

While today’s pistons are solid owing to the casting and forging process – with the rare exception of a cooling channel integrated within the crown, behind the ring of some diesel pistons – IAV demonstrates that pistons don’t have to be solid. Instead, with 3D printing, a piston can be created one layer at a time through additive manufacturing and a super-strong honeycomb lattice can replace the solid material, reducing mass about 25% while also optimising the cooling of critical areas, reducing friction and parasitic losses and improving material properties 75% compared with traditional pistons.

Taking that much weight out of the piston has an immense ripple effect, says Robert Dolan, IAV’s director-commercial vehicle and government programmes. This first appeared in WardsAuto.

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