Partnered with CAD, there’s also a move toward using Finite Element Analysis on some high-end components. FEA helps designers predict the life of a material or structure by showing the effects of cyclic loading. The main application that is making a difference for hot rodders is allowing the simulation of extreme loads and shocks to find where potentially catastrophic defection or twisting occurs. Think spindles, wheels, and other suspension components.

12. The Rise of Rapid Prototyping

Besides being badass, there was an ulterior motivation for choosing the Agent 47 Harbinger Mustang for an issue where we’re looking into the quickly evolving hot rod industry. Thanks to its association with a large-scale rapid prototyping company, some fairly high-tech processes were used to create various parts of the car. Most of these processes aren’t really new to the manufacturing industry in general, but the fact that they’re now being employed to turn out hot rod parts is.

The benefits of rapid prototyping are easy to nail down: less fabrication time, more precise output, and easy design tweaks. It’s fringe now, but much like how advanced CNC machines have become commonplace, we wouldn’t be surprised to see more creative hot rod parts arising from them in the not-so-distant future, since they can dramatically reduce the hours required to go from concept to reality. Rather than subtractive manufacturing methodologies, such as traditional machining like CNC, these processes are known as additive manufacturing, since they build layer upon layer to create parts. It’s CAD to reality in short order.

13. Stereolithography Apparatus (SLA)

Stereolithography uses a vat of liquid UV-curable photopolymer resin (DSM 18420 Protogen resin, in this case) and a UV laser to build physical objects one cross-sectional layer at a time, typically 0.05 mm to 0.15 mm. The laser causes each layer to cure, solidify, and adhere to the previous layer. When needed, a blade sweeps across with fresh resin to create another layer. Eventually, a complete part emerges from the goo, ready for testing.

Wonder what’s spilling out of the finished airbox prototype in the photo? Stereolithography requires support structures to maintain the form and position of the layers of resin as the laser is curing it into solid form. The tiny triangular mesh is generated automatically during the design phase and broken out of the part after it’s completed. If you really want your mind blown, check out the video of the Harbinger’s airbox being created in Forecast3D’s SLA 7000 machine on PopularHotRodding.com!

14.Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) .

What looks like a finely cast badge actually started as powdered metal that was literally built up 20 microns at a time. After another fine layer of powder (DirectAlloy 718 for the badge) is laid down by a sweeping blade, a 100-watt laser sinters the metal along the X and Y axes into a solid layer. Much like SLA, a supporting structure is often built along the part that later gets removed. It’s all about time here as well; DMLS can create complex metal parts using a wide array of alloys in days versus weeks. Because of that, it’s slowly becoming the preferred method over CNC machining or investment casting for prototypes.

Bryan Rogers at Agent 47 admits that they have been using DMLS for five years and people still get caught with their noses to the glass mesmerized by the process. Check out the process in action for yourself in Forecast3D’s EOS GmbH M270 machine on PopularHotRodding.com.

15. Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

What DMLS is for metal, SLS is for plastics. SLS also has a few advantages over SLA: the ability to build parts without a support structure, a stronger nylon base material, and most importantly, the ability to work on all axes during the build process, as opposed to SLA, which only operates on the X and Y. That versatility allowed Forecast3D to create optimally shaped brake cooling ducts for the Harbinger Mustang’s front splitter.