Tradition and innovation rarely go hand-in-hand. However, our latest vehicle development and production tool combines the best of both worlds. The RapidFit Hybrid Cube uses the design ingenuity and modularity provided by 3D printing together with a fully machined aluminum body in white.
Normally, car manufacturers use an array of fixtures, development bucks, and cubes to build a vehicle during the development process. Yet the sheer number of tools used adds complexity during assembly. And greater complexity can lead to increased costs and risks to production timelines.
To solve this tooling issue, we created the RapidFit Smart Cube: a modular cubing solution that uses 3D-printed parts. The Smart Cube’s adaptability simplifies vehicle development while speeding up the engineering and production phases. However, while the solution offers many benefits, some manufacturers still prefer certain features found in standard cubing solutions. This is where our latest innovation, the Hybrid Cube, comes into its own. It merges innovation with familiarity.
“The Hybrid Cube combines an aluminum machined BIW (found in conventional cubing systems) with our 3D-printed, lightweight, and versatile modular design,” says Koen Briers, Sales Manager at RapidFit. “Although we had this solution in the pipeline for a while, we wanted to wait for a customer that required a standard BIW but was still open to innovation,” he says.
How innovation breeds even more innovation: RapidFit teams up with a leading EV car company
The U.S.-based car company, a global leader in electric vehicle (EV) production, worked with us on some projects in the past. But the company wanted to utilize a new method incorporating the best of both manufacturing techniques for their latest model. “They have a new range of cars in pre-production. And the production plant required a new cubing solution that could deliver on their strict standards in the shortest possible time frame. The Hybrid Cube instantly came to mind,” says Koen.
Our team upgraded a conventional cube based on an existing design and integrated it with the modular approach found in the Smart Cube. The benefits of taking this approach to create the Hybrid Cube are three-fold. The first is that parts provided by different suppliers can be examined against each other to ensure compatibility. The second benefit is checking parts and details against the BIW to see how they fit. And finally, quality engineers may review and compare a piece side-by-side with a nominal (or perfect) component.
[The] materials and the combination of manufacturing techniques make the Hybrid Cube a unique proposition and will help car manufacturers drive down their development costs in the longer term. In effect, the Hybrid Cube is more adaptable and user-friendly than conventional cubing solutions.” — Koen Briers, Sales Manager at RapidFit
“All incoming parts can be inspected alongside each other. So, you will know exactly how much deviation there is between each part next to nominal parts. Also, by checking the supplied parts against a fully machined body, our customers see the complete picture immediately. A full host of elements — interior trims, wire harnesses, the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) unit — can be checked and compared to the body’s position, fixation, and other criteria. That’s the main goal and a big advantage of the Hybrid Cube. Now, manufacturers have the option of blending conventional and additive techniques for even greater innovation,” emphasizes Koen.
The next famous cube? The Hybrid Cube aims to streamline car production
The Hybrid cube is lighter than a full conventional cubing system. Plus, it offers economic and ergonomic improvements to a car’s design, as modules on the cube are easy to manipulate. “We use a variety of materials: steel inserts; alumide parts made from an aluminum and nylon mixture; carbon frames to create lightweight constructions; and aluminum extrusion. These materials, and the combination of manufacturing techniques, make the Hybrid Cube a unique proposition and will help car manufacturers drive down their development costs in the longer term. In effect, the Hybrid Cube is more adaptable and user-friendly than conventional cubing solutions.”
And what did the car manufacturer think about the Hybrid Cube? Well, their automotive engineers received a cubing solution that fulfilled their expectations and is aligned with their image as industry trendsetters. More importantly, the Hybrid Cube helped the company build and update its latest model rapidly. And the part of the cube that utilizes an interchangeable part design allowed the team to perform quality checks for fixtures more efficiently than before.
Koen strongly advocates that more car companies embrace 3D printing and believes the Hybrid Cube is the ideal starting point.
“We recognize that some manufacturers feel more comfortable using manufacturing techniques found in conventional automotive production. However, we want to show them there are alternatives. The RapidFit Hybrid Cube proves that combining 3D printing innovation with a traditional cubing solution is possible. It’s easy to use and improves overall quality. Our cube is completely original and exemplifies our style of doing whatever it takes to boost efficiency and time-to-market for our customers.”