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Iowa State Cyclone Racing’s Formula Team

"I knew I needed complete design freedom to achieve meaningful performance gains from an air intake, and given the short timeline and tight budget, 3D printing was the solution."

Increasing Performance with no Additional Moving Parts.

Formula SAE is an engineering design competition for undergraduate and graduate students. It provides students with the chance to apply classroom engineering theory to a real-world project. The participants develop a single-seat race car that is judged on the overall design, construction, performance, cost, and presentations on a working knowledge of engineering and marketing.

This competition provides the students with real-world, hands-on professional experience beyond the classroom. All of this while having fun, making lifelong friends, and networking.

Midwest Prototyping a Prototek Company is a proud sponsor of the Cyclone Racing’s Formula Team and the ongoing support of future engineers and industry professionals. From steering wheels to air intakes additive manufacturing has helped make overall improvements with design freedom, light weight, and optimizing parts.

Iowa State Cyclone's Air Intake


Develop a Formula-style car using creative engineering skills to improve performance and compete with other teams around the world.


  • Inexpensive
  • Durable
  • Functional
  • Production Quality Finish


PA 2200


Laser Sintering

Production Turnaround:

3 Days


Create a new intake manifold that follows the competition’s regulations to maximize performance. We utilized the design flexibility of 3D printing to leverage resonance supercharging, increasing the volumetric efficiency to 112%.  We were able to achieve this substantial increase while keeping costs manageable.

Increasing Performance with no Additional Moving Parts.

Bruce Ciccotosto, Design Engineer for Cyclone Racing, Iowa Stat University’s Formula Student Team

Formula SAE is a yearly international collegiate competition where university teams design, build and race Formula-style cars. The Iowa State University team, Cyclone Racing Formula SAE, designed and developed their 25th Formula SAE car in the 2019-2020 academic year. The race car, dubbed ‘The Silver Bullet,’ is powered by a Yamaha YFZ450R with a high compression piston and runs on E85 fuel. Due to regulations within the competition, an intake restriction must be in place with a maximum internal diameter of 19 mm for engines of this type. We developed a new intake manifold design utilizing resonance supercharging to increase the volumetric efficiency and overcome engine power losses from the restriction. The design is similar in function to a Helmholtz resonator.

Iowa State Cyclone Racing Intake Manifold

2022 Intake Manifold

Credit  |  Cyclone Racing Linkedin

“The device was 3D printed using laser sintering (LS) with nylon powder. This manufacturing method allowed for almost complete design freedom removed from all tooling costs and enabled the designer to focus on product performance and functionality.”

We achieved simulated performance gains by tuning the internal plenum volume and the intake port runner length. The internal plenum volume acts as a reservoir and increases volumetric e ciency (VE) across all engine frequencies. The resonance frequency of the manifold corresponds to the peak increase in VE, making it possible to choose where in the powerband to add torque. VE is above 100% when the air mass entering the combustion chamber is greater than the mass occupying the engine displacement volume at sea level. Most naturally aspirated engines have VE below 100% due to total pressure losses through the engine bay and intake manifold. These losses are increased dramatically in engines with an intake restriction. Engines with forced induction (superchargers, turbochargers) can have VE above 100%, as intake systems utilize resonators.

Based on 1D engine simulations, the final design of the intake resonator increased peak torque by 11%, and at 11,000 rpm, increased torque by 24%. VE was raised to above 100% for the entire rpm range with a maximum increase to 112% at 9,500 rpm. We achieved this significant performance increase without additional moving parts.

This project was developed and completed under a timeline of 10 weeks. With many preliminary design tools, we made simplifications and assumptions to limit the project’s scope to allow for an accelerated design process and implementation of a final product. The device was 3D printed using laser sintering (LS) with nylon powder. This manufacturing method allowed for almost complete design freedom removed all tooling costs and enabled the designer to focus on product performance and functionality. Midwest Prototyping generously sponsored and provided support to Cyclone Racing Formula SAE to complete this project.

Download a PDF version of the Case Study

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