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Introducing Artec's Eva; one of the world's best and most versatile 3D scanners. This incredible piece of kit is helping many organizations, like SNAG Racing, design and fabricate their own parts to help custom build cross-country race-winning cars.
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SNAG Racing design and build race-winning custom vehicles
Racing driver Sergey Karyakin and his team SNAG Racing regularly compete in cross-country races across the punishing terrain of the deserts of Chile, Morocco, and Peru, the mountains of Bolivia, and the vast steppes of Russia and Mongolia. Their custom-designed and built cars have to be both fast and robust enough to survive the brutal conditions, varying altitudes and temperature ranges experienced in these different parts of the world.
During their most recent race, the Rallye du Maroc in October 2019, Karyakin and his team needed to survive an endurance cross-country race over a 5-day period. The race covered a total of 2,506 km and their vehicle not only had to survive the challenge but also be fast enough to have a chance of perhaps winning.
This was a lot easier said than done, to say the least.
The rally took the team through rock-strewn deserts and over sand dunes as far as the eye could see. It also included unforgiving salt flats and skirting along mountainsides with many a blind corner mere seconds away.
Amazingly, not only did they survive the ordeal, but their car was so well designed that they managed to snag (pun intended) the Silver Medal for their category. But for fans of the team, this came as no surprise -- they have form when it comes to nailing races like this.
But what is more impressive, is that SNAG Racing design and build their own race cars. They tend to start with a 172-horsepower Can-Am Maverick X3 RS Turbo R and build a new chassis around it to comply with the race entry requirements of the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile).
But they go much further than simply complying with the requirements. With some serious corporate sponsors behind them, just good enough is not acceptable.
Karyakin learned very early on in his career that even small differences in performance can mean the difference between winning or being the first loser. The car itself, he found, is key to either being a champion or going home empty-handed.
“When the drivers are all top-level, even small boosts in performance can give you those golden few extra seconds needed to launch you over the finish line first,” explains Karyakin.
Each of SNAG Racing's cars is custom designed and built
To ensure their race cars are the best they can be, the team begins by designing new components for their cars. The idea is to reduce weight while increasing or retaining strength and maneuverability, etc.
When SNAG Racing first started out, the design stage was achieved by making paper model mock-ups of their custom parts. These were then translated into sheet metal copies which were welded before the multi-step process of proper fabrication commenced.
This process used to take around 2 months or more for just one simple part to be readied for installation into the vehicle. With packed racing schedules throughout the year, this lead time was not acceptable and a way to speed up the process had to be found.
While searching for an alternative, Karyakin eventually stumbled across 3D scanning and additive manufacturing. He was also introduced to the guys at Artec and their amazing professional handheld 3D scanner, the Eva, by Artec's official reseller Cybercom Limited.
Eva is a lightweight 3D scanner used around the world in fields such as reverse engineering, manufacturing, healthcare, and others. Cybercom is a specialist in 3D scanning and printing, as well as service providers, and offers a wide range of solutions to match any relevant application.
Cybercom showed Sergey Karyakin and the team at SNAG Racing how the combination of Eva and Artec Studio scanning and post-processing software could help them slash production times and, more importantly, costs. Not only that but they were suddenly presented with a tool that could help them create their own parts to even higher specs than before.
It was a match made in heaven. The Artec Eva has helped slashed mock-up and production times and costs. The guys at SNAG Racing immediately put the 3D scanner and software through its paces over the days and weeks that followed.
According to Karyakin, their workflow goes like this: “First we prepare a part to scan, and that can be anything from a-arms, mounting points, shocks, links, knuckles, other suspensions, and frame parts, etc.
We clean it up to get the surface ready for best results, making sure it’s fixed in place, and then we push the scan button and do the scan, just moving the scanner around the object and watching on the laptop screen as the 3D scan is coming to life. To be frank with you, it’s as easy as pie!”
By being able to capture an original parts' geometrics and mounting points in extreme 3D precision (often to submillimeter), the Eva has allowed the SNAG Racing team to reverse engineer a wide range of parts. Using the software that comes with the Eva, they were able to make the new parts lighter, stronger, and more durable, which translates into faster, tougher cars to match the punishing conditions that they face countless times in every race.
Some redesigns were so extreme that only the positioning of the mounting parts was retained. On other occasions, modifications were less severe and were mostly focused on switching to newer, higher-performance materials.
The entire SNAG Racing team has noticed the amazing contrast in production capacity and slashed turnaround times offered by Artec's amazing scanner.
“Essentially one of us can scan half-a-dozen parts before lunchtime, including post-processing in Artec Studio, and then have the 3D models exported over to CAD by that afternoon,” said Sergey. He added, “Sometimes we do our CAD work in AutoCAD, other times in Bosch Rexroth CAD software, or another CAD system, depending on the parts we’re working on.” - explained Karyakin.
SNAG Racing are very impressed with their new toy
Nowadays it takes the team a maximum of three weeks to design and produce a new part from scratch. This time includes everything from 3D scanning to CAD design, and CNC milling or 3D printing in various materials including plastic, metal, Kevlar, etc. But it has also opened up entirely new possibilities for them that never seemed possible before.
“I can say that this is the future of small-team racing right here. It doesn’t require any advanced training. I’m a race car driver, not a design engineer, but I can do this. And my technicians are now doing this.
With Artec, we can design and implement new ideas in such a short span of time, without having to depend on any parts suppliers, who definitely won’t have the flexibility and know-how to make the kinds of parts we’re making now, exactly how we need, when we need them,” said Karyakin.
He continued, “Artec is allowing us to push our creative boundaries further than I ever imagined. Sure, it’s a rally car built on a commercially available foundation, but from there, 3D scanning has opened the door for us so we can make our cars exactly as we’ve dreamed, within short timeframes, and within budget.”
“When I was first checking out 3D scanning and 3D printing, there were traditional guys who said it was dangerous to try and do this work ourselves. But I didn’t listen to them. Listening to them would mean standing in line behind all the other guys.
And I want to be first. For me, that’s what 3D scanning is all about: bringing the power to innovate right here into our hands, where we can create what we know will work best, not wait around and hope that somebody will make for us what we need right now.”
The team's flirtation with 3D scanning, CAD design, and 3D fabrication was met with a little suspicion at first. This was because there were initially very serious doubts about the durability and longevity of their new in-house parts.
But with time and experience using the kit, these doubts have long since evaporated.
As Karyakin explained, “Our version of quality inspection is like this: because we’re all experts at racing, after each leg of a race, we get right in there and check out the custom parts up close, so we know what kinds of wear and tear they’re going through if any.
New designs get that much more inspection, so nothing slips past us. We’re experimenting with new materials and designs all the time, and we keep detailed notes about everything, which is the only way to do it as far as I’m concerned.”
The chaps at SNAG Racing are not stopping there. With their winning results in hand and their designs for upcoming races around the world, they want to kick things up to the next gear in terms of their high-performance modifications.
“We’re now devoting more focus to fusing various composite materials with metals, to get the best from both worlds, essentially marrying flexibility and ultra-lightweight with maximum strength. So far the results have been extremely encouraging,” said Karyakin.