The creation of Green Spirit
During the last months, our team has been working day and night in order to produce the body of our solar car. If you’ve read our last newsletters or follow us on social media, you already know that producing a solar car is easier said than done. After all, laminating the body requires a lot of different steps that our technical team needs to follow meticulously so that our solar car ends up looking identical to its blueprint. A big difference in comparison to the building of Green Lightning is that team members from almost all sub-groups helped the technical team out with laminating. We want to take this blog as an opportunity to provide you with a more in-depth and personal account of the production of our solar car.
“All the cuts and bruises are worth it!”
As with most tasks in life, preparation is key. Our moulds were produced in Germany, but we couldn’t just start laminating right away after having picked them up. Before the actual laminating could begin, all moulds needed to be sanded, cleaned, sealed and released. While the sanding and cleaning make the moulds as smooth as possible, the sealer makes sure that we can apply the release without it being absorbed by the mould. Finally, the release makes it easier to remove the finished part from the mould after it has been in the oven. According to Caroline from our Communication Team, the preparation phase “was quite tiring and not the most exciting part, but it had to be done. After preparing the moulds, we made a laminating plan in which we mapped out and divided the moulds in sections that are based on strength calculations. That’s how we figured out how many layers of carbon had to go where.”
Eventually, we could move on to the actual laminating. Maurice from the Travel Logistics Team explains that “the laminating process is done with pre-impregnated carbon fibre which is a polymer with epoxy combined. When the carbon fibre sheet is ice cold, it is stiff and not malleable at all. The moment you take it out of the freezer the carbon begins to heat up. The ideal working temperature is around room temperature. This is when the carbon is malleable and not too sticky; it's almost like a thick piece of A4 paper. The carbon is laid down into the mould which has the inverse form of the desired part. Once you have put down multiple layers into the mould, a vacuum bag is made. This is needed in order to make sure no air is left between the layers of carbon. Eventually, the mould is put into the oven to bake and strengthen the material.” Needless to say, laminating the carbon parts was intense physical labour and it left the team with a lot of cuts from the carbon and bruises from occasionally bumping into the moulds. But it was very much worth it!
“Lamineren kun je leren!” (“Everyone can learn to laminate!”)
You might wonder how we managed to produce the body although most of us aren’t mechanics. The answer is that it doesn’t take a lot of theoretical knowledge in order to laminate. After all, the car design and strength calculations were already finished. The members of the laminating crew all agree that the most important thing is willingness to learn and to put effort into the production. Besides that, Caroline adds that “a steady hand, patience and perseverance during long days” are convenient traits as well. Sander from the Electronics and Software Team summarizes our experience of the last months perfectly: “Lamineren kun je leren!”.
“The team bonded a lot during the laminating process.”
Training team members from other sub-groups to laminate had both advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, we got the opportunity to learn new skills and broaden our horizons. “I personally did not have a lot of technical skills before laminating so I learned quite some handy things, even though it was frustrating sometimes when things didn’t go as planned.” Maurice states. On the other hand, it also meant that there was less time for other tasks.
For Caroline, combining laminating and communication tasks wasn’t always easy: “The building process has been pretty hectic. We had a lot of work in a short period of time and a tight planning. We worked long days in the workshop and often stayed late as well, so doing communication tasks had to be somehow squeezed in between. That sometimes led to working weeks of 70 to 80 hours.” This kind of stress is hard to hide from your team, but of course we are always there for each other to help out when needed.
Sander says that “I could see others struggling with time management as well and noticed that they were experiencing a lot of stress. That is why I included myself in the laminating planning a bit more often than others so that they could focus on other things or take some rest.” This is only one example of how we bonded as a team during the production process. It also gave us the opportunity to work with people from sub-groups we wouldn’t be in a lot of contact with otherwise.
“The first time you see the finished parts is magical.”
After having worked hundreds of hours in the workshop, the carbon body is now fully laminated and hardened. The moment the first parts were brought back to our office from the oven was a really special one for the whole team, as Caroline explains. “I felt excited to see that the parts that we built with our own hands, came out of the oven and were released from the mould perfectly.
It was a great team moment when the Oldenburger Fritom truck brought the moulds and carbon parts to the office, the curtain was pushed to the side and the car parts were revealed. I'm glad we caught it on camera to capture all the happy faces and that we were able to celebrate with a nice and well-deserved glass of champagne.”
While the rest of the team is happy that we are one step closer towards racing in Morocco this year, Sander feels especially proud of the hard work that was put into the body: “It felt great seeing the car for the first time. Seeing these ideas come to life really makes it feel more real. Of course we already knew we were going to build a solar car but now we have actually built one! That’s just amazing. Especially knowing my own blood, sweat and tears went into it. After the carbon body arrived, we gathered all the other parts we had laminated over the past weeks and roughly assembled the whole car. I think that was one of the coolest experiences I made so far during the project.”
After having laminated all the carbon parts, our solar car was assembled and painted. On July 7th, we could show ‘Green Spirit’ in all its glory and share it with everyone who helped us get this far in the first place. One thing is clear: our car presentation was the perfect opportunity to celebrate our work and show what we as a team are capable of!