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

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

Oil Filter Changes Made easy for your 2007-2009 Mazdaspeed 3 and 2006-2007 Mazdaspeed 6

The GEN2 Mazdaspeed 3 has a lot in common with the Mazdaspeed 6 and the GEN1 Mazdaspeed 3 when referencing the engine and transmission.  However, there were a few things that Mazda did change and improve when they gave the Mazdaspeed 3 a facelift in 2010.

Some of these changes include the valve cover, the gear ratios in the transmission, the power steering system, and the oil filter assembly.  This last one is the one I want to talk about today.

Perhaps you just ran across this blog while googling how to change the oil in your Mazdaspeed for the first time or maybe you’ve already done a handful of oil changes.  Either way, you can benefit from this info, unless you already have a 2010-2013 Mazdaspeed 3 you lucky bas****. All you Mazdaspeed6 and GEN1 Mazdaspeed3 owners listen up.

This is what you’ll find on your pre-2010 Mazdaspeed 3 and all Mazdaspeed 6; it sucks.  This design uses an internal filter element only which is fine, but the OE housing cap is a real PITA to remove from the car which makes a simple oil change a much more frustrating process than it should be.  

Along with the difficult disassembly, there is a limited number of filter options compared to the modern canister design.   Luckily, the oil filter housing found on the 2010-2013 MS3 utilizes a modern canister oil filter and is a simple bolt-on affair.  

Mazda part # L311-14-311A is the part you’re looking for and can be found online or at your local Mazda dealership.  It’s also wise to get a new gasket for the installation; nobody wants to do a job twice. This is Mazda part # LF02-14-342.

Once you get your parts and all your oil and new modern oil filter, you’re ready for the big install.  It’s actually really simple, only adding about 30 minutes to your oil filter change. Remove the fluid-to-fluid heat exchanger (the black thing on top with the coolant ports), then pull the housing off the engine and swap over the sensor.  Back on the car with the new gasket and you’re good to go.

Another great benefit of the modern oil filter canister is the ability to use an oil filter plate to provide sensor ports for gauges such as oil pressure and oil temperature.

This sums up the oil filter housing swap; it’s really just that simple.  So if you have an oil change coming up and aren’t one of the lucky ones with the GEN2 Mazdaspeed 3, then consider this before you get started.  I promise you won’t regret it.

-Barett @ CorkSport

Transmission Motor Mount for Mazda 3, 6, & CX-5

TMM for Gen3 Mazda3, Mazda6, and CX-5

CorkSport is proud to introduce the first and only performance transmission motor mount for GEN3 Mazdas. It’s a simple upgrade that can really change how shifting feels in your 2014-2018 Mazda 3, 2014-2017 Mazda 6, or 2013-2018 Mazda CX-5. We saw how an upgraded mount can drastically affect the characteristics of your car with our Mazda 3/6/CX-5 RMM and wanted to take the next step in getting the best driver feel you can out of your car.

We followed a design similar to the OE mount to ensure proper fitment and function for all engine and transmission options. Whether you have a 2.0L Mazda 3 Auto, a 2.5L Mazda 6 Manual, or anything in between, the CorkSport TMM will bolt right in with no issues. We even retained the OE battery tray mounting location to ensure the battery stays stationary. Don’t be mistaken though, the CorkSport Mazda Transmission Motor Mount is a completely different mount than OE.

The OE mount uses relatively soft rubber to ensure the least amount of noise and vibration makes its way into the cabin. It also allows the engine and transaxle to move around a surprising amount while accelerating, decelerating, or changing gears. By using 70A durometer polyurethane, the CorkSport TMM helps to lock down the engine and transaxle for better throttle response, less wheel hop, and much-improved gear changes. When we first installed a prototype TMM in the CorkSport Mazda 3 racecar, we immediately noticed the lack of delay and slop coming from the transmission when setting off from a stop and changing gears.

Don’t think we forgot about vibration and noise though. The size and stiffness of the polyurethane pucks were chosen to help minimize the adverse effects of stiffer mounts. That being said, there is still some added vibration and noise, most noticeable in automatic cars, when lugging the engine, and/or when using the A/C system. Once you are up and cruising on the highway, however, the added NVH is virtually eliminated solely by road noise.

Much like the CorkSport RMM, the TMM uses billet aluminum for the main body of the mount. After machining, it is anodized black for durability and finished off with a laser etched CS logo. A zinc-coated steel sleeve is used through the center of the bushings so you can be sure that your mount is tightened to spec. Finally, stainless steel is used for the hardware, angled mounting plate, and side washers. All of these materials were selected for their strength and corrosion resistance so that your CorkSport Mazda TMM will stand the test of time.

The CorkSport Mazda 3, Mazda6, and CX-5 Transmission Motor Mount will liven up you GEN3 whether you use it as a daily driver or racecar. The TMM is even better when combined with our RMM however, it works standalone perfectly fine. While not for everyone, those who are willing the sacrifice a little comfort for a boost in driver feel will love this mount.