3D Printing at CorkSport

You may have seen some funny looking parts floating around on the CS channels that did not look like the typical aluminum or steel parts you install on your Mazda or Mazdaspeed.

These plastic parts are made through 3D printing, a method we use often in R&D to really understand the ins and outs of a part. We’ve been getting a lot of questions lately on our 3D printers so I thought I’d run through what they are, how they work, and what we use them for.

3D printing is quite a simple process even though it may not seem so to start. In normal manufacturing, you start with a block of material and cut away portions until you achieve the shape you want. In 3D printing, you add material (usually plastic) layer by layer until the shape you want is achieved.

For a lot of 3D printers, including both of the CorkSport printers, you can visualize a hot glue gun attached to a robot. The robot controls where the “glue” is extruded and once the first layer is complete, the robot simply moves the object downward slightly and another layer begins. The second layer attaches to the first and you slowly gain height and shape until your part is completed.

This method is uses plastic “filament” as the material fed into the machine. Think of a spool of wire but instead of being made of copper, it’s made out of a recyclable plastic. This material is fed into the machine where it is melted and extruded like the glue in the above analogy. Other 3D printers use liquid resin that is solidified layer by layer or a powder material that gets bonded together layer by layer. The image below shows an almost empty vs brand new filament spool for our large 3D printer. To give you some scale, that is a 4 inch inlet air filter next to them– 10kg is a lot of filament!

We have two printers at CorkSport, a large Gigabot, and a small MakerBot 2X. The Gigabot can print anything that will fit in a 2-foot cube which is more than enough space for the majority of CorkSport parts. The MakerBot is much smaller, only about 9.5” by 6” by 6”. We typically use the Gigabit for most of the R&D testing and the MakerBot for making cool stuff for you all! However, the MakerBot uses a different plastic material that is stronger and more resistant to heat, allowing the parts to be tested on a running Mazda (albeit for a short time).

Barett and I use our 3D printers as tools to aid in R&D. We can take apart directly from a design in SolidWorks to a physical object extremely easily. Once we are happy with a design, it gets saved as a “mesh” made up of hundreds or thousands of tiny triangles. This is imported into a “slicer” program that does just as its name says: slices the part into layers. The part information as well as the settings for the print is exported to an SD card, which we use to upload the information to the printer.

Once we hit “print” all we have to do is wait. Smaller parts like brackets and fittings can be printed in an hour or two while large parts like manifolds or intercooler piping can take multiple days. 3D printers enable us to start a print on a Friday afternoon and leave it like this:

When we show up on Monday, the print is complete, ready for a test fit, and looking like this (Mazdaspeed 6 FMIC Piping):

I can’t express enough how much easier it is to have a physical part to test fit than to try to measure in all of the awkward angles and spaces that exist in a Mazdaspeed engine bay and hope your design will fit.

Having the capability to make a quick and inexpensive prototype to throw on a car can save countless hours and headaches down the road. This is why we use 3D printers so extensively: it makes producing great parts for you all so much easier. Some of our manufacturers even use our 3D prints to help understand the part, help with quoting, and even use them for mold/jig making. At CorkSport, our 3D printers are used almost as much as our 10mm sockets!

I’ve just scratched the surface on 3D printers, their uses, and capabilities so, if you have any questions post it down below!

-Daniel

Tools Every Mazda Owner Needs in their Garage

Tools Every Mazda Owner Needs

Whether you only change your oil or have done multiple engine swaps in your garage, its necessary to have the right tools for the job. Since we do everything from engine builds to big brake kits here at CorkSport, we definitely spent a lot of time wrenching, and have discovered a few “must have” tools along the way.

The basics are a necessity! While you can take apart just about everything on a Mazda with only an 8, 10, 12, 14, 17, 19, and 21mm socket/wrench, it’s important to have a good mix to make your life that much easier. Short and deep well sockets, multiple drive sizes, lots of extensions, breaker bars, and so on can all help you remove that awkwardly placed bolt.

A few other must-have basics I find myself using in the CS shop:

  • Small 1/4″ drive ratchet-perfect for the 8, 10, and 12mm bolts in tight spaces
  • Ratcheting wrenches-for when a socket just won’t fit. Flex head ones for even more versatility.

 

  • Crows foot wrenches-you won’t use them often but they’re a lifesaver that one time you need them.
  • Impact gun-cordless or pneumatic, these can speed up any install.
  • Wheel safe lug nut socket-the plastic outer sleeve prevents any scratches to your wheels.

 

Developing exhausts for the Mazda lineup means repeated installs/removal of full exhaust systems and Oxygen sensors. This is helped immensely by a proper Oxygen sensor socket and some penetrating fluid. If you’re planning on upgrading your exhaust, I would definitely recommend getting an O2 sensor socket to get it done right.

 

 

One of the more recent tools we have acquired at CS is a set of exhaust hanger pliers. When coupled with some lubrication, these make removing those pesky rubber hangers so much easier.

 

 

While elbow-deep in the engine bay, it is so much easier if you can actually see around the turbo! We are a little spoiled at CS with how well lit the shop is, but for those less lucky, find yourself an under hood light.

 

 

Still having trouble seeing? Pick up a telescoping mirror that you can angle around to try and locate that hard to see nut or bolt. These are also extremely handy if you cannot find a socket or piece of hardware you dropped in the engine bay. Pick up a kit that includes an extendable magnet as well and recovers anything you may drop.

 

I always try to be prepared when performing maintenance or doing an install. Having a factory service manual really helps with this. Torque specifications recommended disassembly procedures, and fastener locations are all laid out in the FSM.

I also try to look for any unusual tools that may be needed for an install as not having the right Allen head socket or external Torx socket can derail an install. Check online for the FSM for your car, most can be found with a little hunting. Certain installs are also made easier with custom vehicle specific tools available from aftermarket companies (the CorkSport Injector Puller for Instance).

 

Last but not least is having a friend to help you with the install. While you cannot keep this very special “tool” in your garage all the time, it can be invaluable to simply have another set of hands around.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, however; I hope it helps out some of you when attempting a difficult install. Have any other special tools you find yourself using when working on your car? Let us know down below!

-Daniel

Mazda Motor Oil

There are always lots of opinions on motor oil flying around the internet these days.  I normally skip chiming in on any of the conversations as someone, in the end, goes away with hurt feelings but not today!

Back in December, we ran our 2015 Mazda 3 2.5 Skyactiv at the 25-hours of Thunderhill race which like the title says is a 25-hour non-stop race.  In the spirit of doing things which are a bit, insane CorkSport entered our Mazda 3 which no one had done before in this long of an endurance race.  

For an event like the 25-hour, the internet says you should run a bit thicker oil due to the high rpm and non-stop abuse on the track. I am more at the end of the arena of doing what the engineers at Mazda designed the car to use so we ran 0W20 oil in the car.  We did use a great product, Motul 0w20 racing oil to prove a point that with modern engines and oils you don’t need to up the viscosity.

After 25 hours of non-stop racing the car to the redline and never giving the car a break, we drained the oil and sent it off to Blackstone laboratories to get an analysis done on the oil.

Based on the internet knowing everything we would expect to see the oil viscosity wiped out from the non-stop running and heat as well as there being lots of impurities found in the oil from the same.  In reality, the comments from the report are pretty boring really. They mentioned the lead found in the oil which was from race gas we burned up in the car during testing as this motor is completely stock so there is no lead in the engine bearings.  There really isn’t anything else to say about it.

So the next time someone tries to tell you that you need to change to a non-stock weight of motor oil in your Mazda send them to this blog and run what the engine is supposed to have with a good quality oil.

Happy Mazda Motoring!

-Derrick

 

Mazda Hybrid?

Mazda 3 Hybrid??

I was looking at the Mazda Japan website the other day and noticed that there is now an option for a Mazda 3 gasoline hybrid listed.  Years ago Mazda announced that they were working with Toyota hybrid tech and this looks to be the result.

There isn’t a lot of detail listed with the description of the model so I decided to do a comparison of the Mazda 3 against the current model year of Prius as the 2 vehicles are most likely running the same hybrid drive setup.

Price:  With the current exchange rate the Mazda 3 hybrid is ~$23500 which is almost the same as the current Prius price shown of $23475.  You get more car with the Mazda 3 for the price and a car which handles like a car should. Win here for the Mazda.

Styling:  Right away I can tell you I prefer the styling of the Mazda 3 over the Batmobile inspired Prius which looks like someone used a late 50s Chevy and applied the styling.  

Fuel Economy: This one is the funniest thing and really shows where Mazda’s engine tech is beating all of the other manufacturers.  Toyota Prius 1.8 hybrid gets 56mpg in combined city/highway. Mazda 3 2.0 hybrid gets 63mpg. Caveat on this data, I took the economy listed on the Japanese page and converted it to MPG so they are not based on the same drive cycles.

If your Japanese skills are on point check out the landing page for the 2018 Mazda 3 Hybrid yourself here.  Just a note google translate won’t let you convert the page due to SSL from Mazda’s page.

So you are asking why do I care about a hybrid and in all honesty I probably won’t own one myself but if it does happen I prefer to at least own one that handles worth a crap and has decent driving dynamics.  I can’t say I have ever heard anyone raving about how good the chassis is in a Prius.

 

-Derrick

 

An Inside Look at CorkSport R&D

All CorkSport products go through an extensive process to ensure they are the best fitting, looking and performing parts that they can be. As a product development engineer, I see all of these steps on a day-to-day basis, but we don’t often talk about how an idea evolves into a CorkSport part.  Sit back and read on as I give you a glimpse of what goes on during CorkSport R&D.

Concept and Planning

All parts start out as an idea. They come from many sources: employees, forums, car shows.  One of our biggest sources of ideas is YOU! Check out the blog on submitting product ideas for more info on how our customers give us their thoughts.

At the beginning of each quarter, all product ideas are evaluated to determine which are feasible and which are going to be pursued moving forward. After the extensive list is narrowed down, they go into a more in-depth evaluation.

This includes defining the scope of the project, how many man hours it is expected to take, evaluating all expected costs of production, and setting a retail price. Without this evaluation, we would encounter all sorts of roadblocks along the way that would delay getting parts out to you all. If everything is looking good, the project is approved and moves forward.

R&D Begins

At this stage, it’s time to get our hands dirty (literally in some cases). First, we investigate the car the part is for and the scope of the project to understand exactly what the goal of the part is. Doing this allows us to find all design constraints and look for things we may not be expecting. Replacement part diagrams and factory service manuals can be vital here, especially if we do not have a Mazda or Mazdaspeed readily accessible.

By now we usually have a good idea of what features we want the part to have and can move forward with creating an “MVP”. A minimum viable product is just what it sounds like. Not necessarily pretty or optimized yet but good enough to get to see if an idea will work and to check fitment. During MVP creation we have to consider all design constraints, desired features, integration with other CS parts, and even how to manufacture the part. Check out the changes below from an early MVP to the final design for our GEN3 TMM.

If the part can be 3D printed, we print the initial MVP and test fit. Test fits are by far the most unpredictable part of the whole process as sometimes we discover an issue that can change an entire design. Depending on the part, we can have one test fit and be good to go or four and still have work to do. Once we have revised the MVP to a point where it fits well, looks good, and can be manufactured relatively easily, a functional prototype is produced.

Functional Prototypes

This is where the fun really begins; test fitting is a 3D print is one thing, having the part made out of metal is a whole new story. Depending on the part, we sometimes have to skip directly to this stage as it cannot be easily printed in-house. We always have to be careful doing so to limit the number of expensive prototypes we have made. Sometimes this goes well, other times not so much… This swaybar prototype was limiting suspension travel.

A functional prototype also allows for any testing that we may do. Whether it be on the dyno, track, or on the street, all CorkSport parts are used and abused to ensure they hold up to what you can throw at them. Check out an early CS Throttle Body getting tested on a flow bench.

If we are happy with a prototype, this is where you all can get involved again. We often use “Beta Testers” to get another opinion on the part and to see if they come across any issues. From here we sometimes have revisions that need to be made and another prototype produced but ideally, we are ready to move on.

Manufacture & Prep for Release

From here we move to getting the parts made. Sometimes this is a process that only takes a few weeks, other times it takes many months to complete. The manufacturing method, type of part, and order quantity play a big role here. Additionally, some products have a lot of different parts to make up a whole CS product, so each individual part takes time. Sometimes, we even get to see something unexpected, like these Command Wheel Covers before getting anodized black.

While all of this is going on, we are also preparing the product for release. That way, when our manufactured parts show up, we are ready to send them out to all of you. Installation instructions are created, QA checks are set up, laser etch files are set up, product images and video are taken, the web page listing is set up, and so on. Any and all of the content you see on a product is all created in-house. Engineering school definitely did not prepare me for shooting high-quality photos and video!

Check out a “behind the scenes” look at one of our videos:

At this point, we are pretty much ready to bring the new CorkSport Mazda or Mazdaspeed part out to you all. Throughout this process, we are constantly thinking about the experience someone has when they buy the part to ensure it is something that we would be proud to have on our own cars. After all, we build our dream cars using CS parts just like you do!

-Daniel