September 12, 2013

Cutsforth Puts the Wheels on Innovation

Cutsforth has always held to a tradition of doing things better than they have been done before, offering innovative products and out-of-the-box thinking. When the University of Minnesota solar car team needed help manufacturing custom wheels for their entry into the 2013 World Solar Challenge. Cutsforth’s manufacturing team stepped up to assist them.

The wheels for the ultra-light solar vehicle were designed by University of Minnesota engineering students. Each wheel was CNC machined from solid aluminum to a tolerance under 0.003, making it so the wheels did not have to be balanced after the tires were mounted.Cutsforth’s manufacturing team is accustomed to holding tight tolerances on turned pieces as they manufacture custom collector ring assemblies for large power generators.

In an innovative approach to space and weight savings, portions of the electric motors were designed to be housed inside the wheels themselves. Cutsforth produced wheels that allowed for space within the wheel to accommodate the windings of the motors. In collaboration with University of Minnesota engineering students, more than 80 hours of programming and CNC machining time went into the production of the custom wheels. All of the labor and materials needed to produce the four custom aluminum wheels were donated by Cutsforth.

The World Solar Challenge is held every two years in Australia and runs north to south from Darwin to Adelaide, a distance of over 3,000 km. The University of Minnesota team went on to finish the grueling race, placing fourth in their class.

“The electrical power industry is where we work, and this project allowed us to help the students working toward the advancement of alternative forms of energy. We were honored to be approached by the University of Minnesota, and take great pride in our manufacturing team’s ability to hold tight tolerances.  Helping future innovators was a natural fit for Cutsforth.  We congratulate the University of Minnesota’s Solar Car team for their creative work and for finishing the race.”  —Benjamin Waurms, Cutsforth General Manager