Saleen Automotive makes some of the most droolworthy, ultra-high-performance vehicles in America, and they do their magic by cutting loose their staff of designers, R & D engineers and production team members in a race to push the envelope of development, manufacturing, and certification of high-performance specialty vehicles.
Saleen was the last American small car manufacturer bearing OEM status, and most of Saleen's vehicles were highly modified versions of existing mass-produced muscle cars like the iconic Ford Mustang. From 1983 to 2009, Saleen produced more than 8,000 of their modified Mustangs, and Saleen now makes modified versions of the Mustang (S302), Camaro (S620) and the Challenger (S570 & S640).
The company's flagship car – the coveted Saleen S7 – was introduced in 2000. A mid-engine, high-performance sports car you could roll into your garage for around $400,000, the S7 took no less than four different GT championships in 2001 and established records at the world-renowned 24 Hours of Le Mans race. Displacement cu in (cc): 427 (7004), Power bhp (kW) at RPM: 750 (560) / 6300, Max Torque Speed Nm: 950, Redline at RPM: 6500, Top Speed mph (km/h): 220 (360), 0 - 62.1 mph: 2.8''.
Part of the company's quest for speed, both on the highway and in the marketplace, is getting the ideas of their team to market as quickly and efficiently as possible. To make it happen, Saleen is now producing plastic prototypes of parts for their cars with an Airwolf 3D printer.
"It used to take six weeks to build prototype parts for our cars," said Sven Etzelsberger, vice president of engineering for Saleen. "It was a complicated process that included CAD designs, sending designs to a tool maker, having the prototype injection molded and returned to us."
For a company built around speed, that design process cycle was just too slow.
"If the prototype wasn't perfect, we repeated the process until we were satisfied," Etzelsberger said. "With our Airwolf AW3D XL 3D printer, we accomplish the same thing in three days. Not only do we get parts into production faster, we can also modify and refine our designs faster."
Saleen used the AW3D XL, featuring an enormous build envelope of 1,150 cubic inches at 12" x 8" x 7", and that makes it ideal for large part prototyping.
"We built our AW3D XL to print faster and more accurately than any printer in its price range," said Erick Wolf, Airwolf 3D president. "It allows a company like Saleen to print parts that are strong enough to place inside their muscle cars."
If you want to see more, check out this month's edition of Motor Trend for a full-color, multi-photo spread on the new Saleen Supercar being built to compete with supercars like the Ferrari 458, McLaren 12c and Lamborghini Gallardo.