12/31/11 This has been a very interesting year, to say the least - but we're just getting started! In 2012 we have many ambitious goals and putting the D2 into regular production is one of them. Three of the cars have already been sold and anyone contemplating tooling around in one during the summer months should probably get in touch soon :)
In the meantime, now that the Stiletto is sitting on its own wheels, the construction of the first D2 can start. The tubing kit is now laid out on the table and the jigging fixture is already being built.
Expect to see a lot of progress over the next month. Here's to an exciting new year!
01/03/12 I was recently asked just how 'self-jigging' the CNC tubing kits are. The answer is 'somewhat'. The cuts are all extremely accurate and the bends reasonably so (better than I had expected). However, this does not make for an assembly that just leaps together by itself. It still requires fixturing and careful measurement and setup. The first time through a chassis build it's an iterative process, where both the frame and the initial jig are built up together going back and forth between the two. The chassis is then removed for finish welding, fitment of brackets and components and usually the initial drive tests. When the frame is complete (with all brackets and fittings) it goes back into the fixture so that the fixture can be updated and finalized. For subsequent builds the process is much quicker but still requires a great deal of skill and patience.
Below are a couple pictures of the D2 frame and fixture being built, from the ground up.
Having the flat cast-iron table of the right size helps immensely but this task could be accomplished with a much simpler setup if need be. All you need is a reasonably rigid reference of appropriate dimensions. It can be made in any number of ways from a wide variety of materials. In this case, the table is what we have and I have to say it was an awesome find back when we got it.
More pictures soon as the build continues.
01/18/12 A whole lot is going on (I sometimes wonder how I keep track of it all) so I'm just going to put the highlights in this post although only some of it is D2 related. First, after waiting a couple of days for some laser-cut parts, the D2 frame continues. The pictures below illustrate the somewhat 'self-jigging' aspect of the process, in that the tubes are first positioned without having the jig there. To get to this point the vertical tubes on each end were tacked in, after being measured and aligned off the flat table. Once the big tubes are roughly in position and held in place by straps, there is a lot more measuring and the jig is then built up to this level - at first temporarily, then with more permanent welds. And so on. This is why the first frame takes weeks and subsequent ones take days. Tristan is already wishing the measuring were done with.
While Tristan is focused on the D2 I've been working with the CNC. The current project is a set of uprights for a production car. Since they have to fit existing geometry (with some tweaks of my own, of course!) they are a bit of a challenge. What also doesn't help is that their size is at the very edges of our machine's working envelope. So I'm learning a lot about tool changer management, clearances, fixturing and other tricks. It's fun, in an often-frustrating way. For example in reviewing G-codes before running the program I saw that the machine was going to plunge the drill bit right back into the hole it just drilled and THEN move the part for toolchange. That would not have been pretty. I did expect it (that's why I was reviewing the codes) and so I figured out a fix before any breakage had a chance to occur. There are countless opportunities for it at every step.
Of course each corner is different (not what I would do if I had a choice) and therefore a set requires programming, setting up and running four different parts. The fronts require four setups each, the rears five. But it's good experience and once I figure these out I'll be able to do a lot more with the machine.
Speaking of machined parts, the bellcranks are back from anodizing, along with a lot of Pearl parts.
I really like how the clear anodize turned out. We may start using it more than we have been. The bellcranks will get assembled and shipped out in the next couple of days and at some point we'll start reassembling Pearl, too. But the three D2s are a higher priority right now. And then there's the Pikes Peak car (and more on the Stiletto) but that's a whole other story. Busy, anyone? ;)
01/23/12 More progress on the frame. Because we don't have all the fixturing in place yet the assembly is at times a house of cards - a lot of various tubes have to be positioned, in the right order, in the correct relationship to each other, and held in place long enough to measure, verify, adjust and tack weld. This can be a frustrating process at times. And yes, sometimes rather loud :) But things are moving along.
While Tristan is busy with the D2 frame I'm moving right along the learning curve with the CNC. The current set of uprights stretches to the edges of the machine's envelope and requires learning many new techniques. Couldn't have asked for a better learning progression (from the first simple inserts to bellcranks and now to these uprights). The rears are more involved than the fronts.
And of course in the process of making parts the machine makes a LOT of chips. Since they are not compacted the volume of chips produced seems disproportionate to part size.
We do recycle these at a scrap metal place and get a little bit of the money back but it's a fraction of what the material cost to buy. Mostly we do it for the recycling. This also shows why on a production machine a chip auger is a must-have option.
01/24/12 What's in a day's work? Well, look at the pictures below and compare to yesterday's post... :)
In case you're wondering, the uprights are an upgrade for Elise/Exige and will be available exclusively through Sector 111 after the testing is done. They provide a 1" drop without changing shocks/springs and alter the geometry that Lotus designed to try and keep average drivers from getting in over their head.
01/30/12 The initial welding on the frame is done, the rest will be completed off the table. So today it came out of the jig and now sits on its own.
To get some initial sense of proportions I set it up at ride height and tried the entry/exit procedure. It's pretty straightforward although it would be a challenge for girls to look graceful doing this in a skirt...
The rollbar makes a good hand-hold (if you tried this in an Elise you'd crack the windshield because the A pillar is plastic on those cars). Yes, you stand on the seat just like in an Atom. Bead seats will be standard but we'll have some full seat options as well. The windshield support tubes don't seem to be much of an issue, at least not for me. They're thin and don't block any of the view although I suppose some people would take a little to get used to them.
On the styling front, I'm revisiting the lights again. Below are some pictures of the latest - the housings would be machined from billet and the units are designed so they can be oriented anything from vertical to horizontal in 15-degree increments (the lights themselves need to be 'upright' so they'll have to be rotated within the housings). The standard orientation is 45 degrees. Yes, they'll be available for sale at some point for people doing their own cars (as will just about every component we make).
The silver rings could probably be painted black (or bodywork color?) if desired. I suspect they serve a cooling function for the lights so might not want to cover them up. The low beam is the smaller unit, that's the one that has to meet height requirements in some jurisdictions, so being able to rotate the assembly will give people additional options.
02/07/12 Much in the way of happenings. Besides all the Pikes Peak stuff, we've now received two of the customer engines and the accompanying bits and pieces which are many. A way had to be found to organize and keep track of what is what (and who's) so M found a set of industrial shelves and figured out where it would go and what would go on it. The result looks rather fun, after all of us working on it for a couple hours.
Brings some perspective to everything we're doing, all at once.
A couple days ago I did some higher-quality renderings of the D2 as it stands at the moment. The added realism made three things clear: the car definitely has potential, color matters, and I still have some ways to go on refinement both detail-wise and overall.
More renderings are on the D2 gallery page.
With the frame welding essentially complete next up is the suspension for the first car. We'll start with fixtures, then weld the arms, pushrods and bellcranks. Uprights are already here and will be assembled with the other parts after the arms get powdercoated. While we put off frame powdercoat until after the first drive, the arms have several press-in components (balljoints, bushings) that would be wasted if we had to take them apart for finishing. So on these assemblies we do the finishing upfront.
Lots more to come.
02/13/12 The subject of aero came up recently. With the car's speed potential most people will want some kind of a downforce-generating package, especially for the track. Since it has to integrate with the rest of the car both visually and structurally the aero package affects some other design choices I'm currently making. So I figured this would be a good time to do at least a rough first cut of it. The resulting pictures are below. Better renderings will be done a bit later.
This will definitely need some refinement - right now it looks a bit crude and angular and while to some extent this gives it a certain toughness I think improvements can be made. When I have time :) Right now the focus is still on getting the first chassis drivable and now that I have at least a basic idea of how the aero will integrate, the choice of some bracket locations and other bits is more clear (notice the main panel styling has changed as well and will evolve further still). Which was the goal.
02/16/12 Since D2 is front and center at the moment the post goes on this blog but really there's a ton happening everywhere. But first the D2 - Tristan is making good progress on the suspension arms and their respective fixtures.
In the meantime I've cleaned up the styling some more. Not quite there yet but I personally like the direction it's taking and overall the response is very favorable - including from the guys with money down, who get extra say :) I have some ideas I want to try in the next few days. It's a process.
Now on to other stuff. As our sponsors know there's progress on the Pikes Peak car (and much more to come) but that's already posted on the Peak blog. The things I'll mention here are the progress on the D1 and D4. Today we got both D1 and Pearl frames back from powdercoating.
Pearl will get reassembled first because it's already scheduled for some appearances soon, and some upgrades too. The D1 won't be far behind though and work is in progress on finishing the pilot pod molds and other items. Spring is going to be feverish, in a fun way :)
03/19/12 The first set of wheels/tires is finally here. The rears are 315/30-18 and are HUGE. But that's what you need when you have 430 hp and 440 lb-ft in a 1,600 lb RWD car. R888 is the standard tire.
The second picture shows the rear wheel/tire for D1, D2 and Stiletto. All have same power but different missions in life. Horses for courses :)
All the suspension bits are here, just waiting on some miscellaneous hardware and then the car can sit on its wheels. Should be pretty soon.
We're also looking at various seating options. Standard will be BSS 'bead seat' either custom molded or one of standard molds. For optional setups we're looking at Tillett, Corbeau and this full-containment unit from Stohr (not cheap but very light and very nice).
Much more to come shortly.