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pkz

Carbon Fiber Center Console

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Hey everyone,

 

I decided to replace my center console for my 73 240z. The old one has some cracks and chips and the previous owner went at it with a drill and some wiring to install some custom switches that apparently he never got around to connecting. Anyway, I decided that since I have some carbon fiber manufacturing experience that this was as good an opportunity as any to try my hand at some design work and try making a custom carbon fiber part for my Z. 

 

I started with a scan of the old console- a couple buddies of mine have a free 3D scanning software that we used to get a really rough scan of the part- Converted to an STL and imported to solidworks:

Scan.png

 

Next up I went about roughly reconstructing the old console. I had to do this all visually in solidworks since STL doesn't allow you to modify or "work on" the existing geometry. They were great for reference though! I spent a while using a measuring tape and the old console and the inside of the car and making absolutely sure that what I had in CAD was going to fit in the car. Next up I started making some modifications. First off was the shifter cutout: I decided to imitate the gauge "lenses" from the dashboard:

Shifter%20Cutout.png

 

Next up I modeled in some indents for my push button start, in addition to changing the shape of the rear section of the console:

switch%20holes%20added.png

 

And of course, another shot with everything cleaned up, shifter, switches and push button added (those were modeled in somewhat loosely):

Render.png

 

I'm still at a loss for what to do with the back section- cup holder maybe? We'll see. I'll be 3D printing the mold Wednesday afternoon. I'm also open to suggestions on better ways to incorporate the push button start- although I've decided that I won't place them directly behind the shifter (wouldn't want to accidentally bump the ignition switch and shut the car off while shifting).

 

PKZ

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You either have a big printing bed or some skill at bonding multiple pieces together for your mold.  As for your push button starter switch I'm going to assume the safety covered toggle is to arm the ignition and the sexy looking bulgin type illuminated push button in the center is the actual igniton switch? Why not mold the toggle with a rectangular indent to match the switch profile? Just a quick and dirty concept, I know the shapes/compound angles might be a little harder but if your printing the mold it might be a little easier? Or you could put the switches on a raised bed/platform above the main surface and use another bulgin illumnated latching type switch on the far right?  However you do it I'm sure it will come out looking pretty nice if you've got experience with CF and access to other equipment like your 3D scanning software.  I'm definitely subscribed to see how things turn out. 

 

console_mock_zpsbnwuacqb.jpg

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The 3D printers I have access to aren't huge, but I did a test to connect a couple pieces together. My buddy printed out the pieces and said he had to pry them apart with a knife in order to separate them, even though we didn't use any adhesive to hold them together. Since the surface quality of the 3D prints isn't phenomenal, I'll be giving the mold a heavy surface coat to cover up the little tiny ridges before doing final surface prep. I'll probably use duratec to seal/surface the mold, although I'm going to investigate epoxy hot coating before making any final decisions.

 

1969honda, thanks for the input! I like the idea of matching the molding to the switch profile. Yesterday I added another switch and moved things around to make it look a little more organized. Switch%20Holes%20Circular.png

 

Today I tried a few different things with the ignition switch molding. First off was the rectangular matched molding:

Rectangle%20Switch%20Hole.png

 

I also tried creating a lofted feature between the existing circular hole size and the rectangular profile of the switch. I was (and still am somewhat) set on maintaining the 3 circle pattern for the top row of switches... I really liked the aesthetic of having the slightly larger inset to the left of the other two (as seen in the first picture). It had a great asymmetrical look

Lofted%20Switch%20Hole.png

 

I'm not very pleased with how the "lofted" inset looks. I tried changing around the size of the circle relative to the rectangular molding to see if that would change anything. I think at this point I'm going to go with the rectangular molding, as it looks much cleaner than the other two. It shouldn't be any harder to mold IMO. I'll have to add some soft fillets to the corners but given how small the insets are I think the carbon (2x2 twill) will drape just fine.

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I recommend looking at OEM switch panels and trim, how they are mounted and design the console with matching provisions.

 

Nissan produces a nice pushbutton for the GTR, Altima and 370Z models with a few different bezels. If you used one of these bezels (I'd recommend the 370's), you could use either switch (red or orange).

 

Switch panels out of something relatively easy to find in a junkyard would offer quality hardware, consistent replacements and easy sourcing.

 

Plenty of armrest donors could apply to this concept as well. The armrest in my STI is available in a variety of materials and styles depending on trim level, but is consistent across the board in regards to mounting... I even have a spare I could send you.

 

Nothing comes to mind in regards to a cup holder, aside from pre-formed RV/Marine mount anywhere plastic cup holders. These have shallow options sized to hold a standard 12oz can securely.

 

Any plans to sell these, or is this a one time project?

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LanceVance- I'm actually not really into the Nissan push start switches. I really like the look and feel of the push button start I currently have. I'm sure the Nissan one works nice but I actually prefer the custom look of mine. I modeled in some cupholders in the back. I appreciate the offer for the armrest, but the mold has already been printing for a couple hours. Here's the final model I'm printing up.

 

Final%20Model%209.9.15.png

 

Currently no plans to sell these, as I'm not sure how my fabrication quality stacks up to what people here would want. I'd like to think I'm alright at carbon fiber manufacturing, but certainly not a professional- once the first one comes off the mold I can show some pictures and if I get some interest then I can make some to sell.

 

Molds are going to take almost a week to print to get good print quality. But they're under way!

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Cup holder placement looks nice, might consider taking some rubber sheet and cutting a few small flaps to bond in. If you do it so that they protrude into the cup area from the back side they hold cups and bottles like a vise, but are really easy to reach in and pull out change and other small items. Take a look at a Toyota mini van center console and you'll know what I mean if it doesn't quite make sense.

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On the rubber insert i would suggest getting some off of a known vehicle and molding the console to fit. My 03 Frontier has them. Its nice to be able to pull them out and wash them out in the sink when they get nasty.  Having a OEM molded piece fit into the console will make it look more finished also. 

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Hey guys- I really like the suggestion to use rubber lining on the cupholders. Unfortunately it's too late to mold it for anything OEM (molds have been printing since Wednesday). However, I've got an exciting update! 

IMG_2261%201.jpg

I've printed the first two pieces of the mold! The next 2 are in progress. I'm really happy with the print quality. I'll still have to do a generous surface coating of epoxy, which I'll test out this evening. It's hard to tell from the picture but the pieces connect very flush as well.

 

More updates to come in the next couple days!

 

PKZ

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That's looking amazing! As for the cup hloders just look at how some oem flaps are shaped and order the appropriate rubber from McMaster, cut a small slot for it to push through from behind and bond them in. I don't think removing then to clean would be an absolute necessity.

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I'll go with the square tabs (assuming I get a good part off the mold). Could you explain the trim ring? I think a picture will go a long way here. Also- I've got an update: The mold is halfway done printing. The second set of pieces came out a bit rougher than the first (the surface had some ripples in it) but nothing that can't be knocked down with some sandpaper or a small file. 

 

Here's a picture of the mockup of the first 4 pieces of the mold. I'm bonding them together with some composite envisions epoxy (they're curing right now). I'm really pleased with the quality of the composite envisions top coat epoxy. I coated a test piece of 3d printed PLA and the surface came out glassy smooth. I haven't decided whether to use the epoxy coat or the polyester gel-coat for mold surfacing but I will almost certainly coat the final part with the top clear coat from composite envisions.

IMG_2264.jpg

IMG_2266.jpg

IMG_2265.jpg

 

I'm still really happy with the quality of the 3D printed mold. Hopefully next time I post pictures the mold will be complete and ready to coat!

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I'll try to sketch something up in the next day or so. Basically thinking you could do a ring with a tension tab to lock everything down vertical from the top of the center console and sandwich your rubber flap in-between the ring and the console, paint it what ever color you want and it would look like an accent piece but actually serve a purpose as well.

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Couple of pictures of what I am thinking about, this one is listed for a Mini Cooper rear cup holder trim from ECS tuning as a Drink Ring Holder

800600001g2nmi1052-01.jpg

 

They appear to sell the inserts seperate for their Mini Cooper cup holder trim or as a kit with the trim.

492394_x600.jpg

 

350260001g2nmi1052-01a.jpg

I'm sure you could print up something similar that would fit your center console and make it look pretty trick with an accent color or even wrap over it with a layer of carbon, if you google mini cup holder trim or rubber there are a few different designs of the rubber insert that I saw.

Edited by 1969honda

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69 Honda- I really like the rubber inserts. I'll shop around once I have the final part off the mold.

 

I've bonded all the mold pieces together and sanded and epoxy coated the surface. It will still need some more sanding before it's ready to be prepped with wax and mold release. I'm hoping to have the sanding done by next week and hopefully be ready to lay up a part soon thereafter.

 

Some pictures of the mold before bonding, and one in the 3D printer. As you can see we really pushed the size limits of the 3D printers.

IMG_2270.jpg

IMG_2273.jpg

 

And here are a few of the mold prep in action: Sanding, epoxy coating, sanding again, and so on. The 3D printed PLA was pretty easy to sand, and more surprisingly was thick enough on the surface where we didn't have to worry about sanding through the shell.

IMG_2280.jpg

 

IMG_2279.jpg

 

And a close up of one section of the mold after the 1st epoxy coat (it went on a little too thin, thus the areas where the print lines are still visible)

IMG_2283.jpg

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Making progress! Some advice, if you would allow.

If you could, I'd recommend making/printing a plug first.

Typically, you don't want to have to sand the mold's finished surface. Youll never get the result you want, compared to if you had a perfect plug to splash a mold from.

Regardless, Cool project! Carbon consoles are not common. I approve.

 

Excited to see your result.

 


I start back up in the composites shop this week. I'm excited to make my dash. Oh yes.

Edited by OldAndyAndTheSea

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OldAndy- What's the benefit of pulling a splash off a plug in terms of surface finish quality? I understand that once the plug is prepped and a splash is pulled the splash requires no preparation other than release film, however wouldn't the plug still need to be sanded to the same quality that I need for the normal mold?

 

To my understanding, the master/layup tool process is used to make cost effective production tools and to overcome temperature requirements. For example: a foam or plastic plug could be used as a master cure a tooling prepreg layup tool, which can then be post cured freestanding to withstand significantly higher temperatures and more heat cycles than the original foam mold. I've also heard this as a way to overcome costs associated with manufacturing the mold. Ie depending on size/shape (and other production factors) of the part the plug/layup tool process can be significantly cheaper than machining from a huge piece of metal. Is there a benefit from a purely surface finish standpoint from using the plug/splash method however? It's possible I'm overlooking something. Very excited to see your dash! Also, I figure it's worth a mention that my part is going to be room temperature cure.

 

PKZ

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The surface finish with the method I mentioned can be Class A out of the mold; No post processes need to happen, aside from trimming. You wouldn't have to sand, and probably clear, your final results..

 

Also, the logic being that your finished mold will not truly be an identical copy of your original drawing. It shouldn't really matter for your situation, but if you were held to strict size constraints, you'd start running into problems.

 

By adding resin, and then sanding it, regardless of to what finish, you are degrading the molds surface. Again, probably won't matter, since you don't intend on making a bunch of parts.

 

The difference being that when you start with a plug and fair it to make it perfect, once you splash the mold, yeah you are done. Add your release, and make your part.

 

The plug then gives you a perfect representation of what you are making. Every flaw, every wave or imperfection that the plug has will be transferred to the mold. Visually, it is easy to see and eliminate the flaws. It is much more difficult to fair a mold to yield a perfect product as it is difficult to see, and not to mention sand, a female shape such as yours.

 

 

I would have cut a male plug, then faired the plug until I had my desired finish. Coat with release. Surface coat --> Lay up the mold --> Pop/Trim --> Release on mold --> Layup your part.

 

 

I've done it both ways. Modelling/building/fairing a plug first has always yielded the best results, for me.

 

My .02.  Obviously there are many ways to do it.

 

 

I'd love to discuss this further, if you are at all unfamiliar with composites fabrication/manufacturing I would be glad to offer any knowledge, to the best of my abilities.

 

At least tell you my mistakes, before you make similar, expensive, ones :)

Edited by OldAndyAndTheSea

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