PTG was able to offer support to University of Nevada Las Vegas’s Baja team – Rebel Racing – by way of of a titanium donation. We provided the team with 6AL-4V titanium bar and plate, Grade 2 titanium sheet and plate, and 6AL-4V Eli bar. Tian Chen, the team’s Project Manager, gives us a detailed report on why the team chose titanium and their experience using it. We’re so proud of the accomplishments this fairly young team has made and can’t wait to see how their car does in the fall!
UNLV Baja SAE – Rebel Racing is a relatively new and small, but highly competitive, team when compared to other Baja SAE teams. Our team was founded in 2007 and attended its first competition in 2012. We work extremely hard to obtain the most out of all resources available to us and the results are starting to show it. In 2016, our team went from competing in one to two events per year to competing in all three North American Baja SAE competitions. We have obtained multiple top 5 finishes in endurance, sales presentation, suspension and traction and maneuverability. Last year for the first time in UNLV school history we finished 10th overall in the Mike Schmidt Memorial Iron Team Championship. There were over 300 schools that competed that year as well.
Coming off our best finish yet, we were excited for the build of our new vehicle Rebel Racer 6 (RR6). We set a lot of big goals for this vehicle, the most important goal in our eyes being a 25% overall vehicle weight reduction goal. Our previous vehicle RR5 weighed in at 415 pounds. Our goal was to obtain a vehicle that weighed in at 315-320 pounds. In order to do so, we weighed every single component and went to work in finding materials that would offer us the greatest strength to weight ratios. Naturally we looked at titanium in which we found we could use on various rotating shafts, spindle pins, suspension spacers and various washers.
In 2020, RR6 would be the first vehicle we ever used titanium on. To remove as much weight as possible and shape the material to final specifications, we used all kinds of methods; water jetting, gun drilling, conventional machining and CNC machining. All these machines we have in house at UNLV. When it came to water jetting the titanium material, nothing much changed when comparing to water jetting other materials. The only noticeable difference was the white-hot sparks created from the granite mixture. To obtain a smoother edge on the material we slightly tweaked and adjusted the piercing pressure as well as the head speed in order to reduce the defects on the edges. The real challenge for us came in machining the titanium (particularly drilling and tapping). Whether that be on a conventional mill/lathe or CNC machine. We noticed if the feeds and speeds were not correct and the tools were not sharpened or made of the right material (carbide), the material would build up heat and work harden quickly. Proper end mills and tools with thorough coolant passages also helped quite a bit in maintaining temperatures in an acceptable region.
For future research and development, we experimented with using titanium on rotating shafts and shafts that pass-through seal assemblies. To seal correctly on these surfaces we had to pre-grind, hard chrome and post grind the shafts all of which we had done at companies located across the United States. These methods saved massive amounts of lead time.
Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, SAE canceled all the dynamic competitions for the 2020 competition year. However, we are still competing in the static events (Sales, Cost and Design Presentations). We hope that the titanium provided and engineering methods we used while working with this material will give us a competitive edge during these static competitions. Since we have access to our vehicle and just completed the build roughly one week ago (5-22-2020), we plan to summer test all vehicle systems before the fall semester starts. Then during the fall semester, we plan to attend Midnight Mayhem, Johnson Valley and Winter Baja unsanctioned events. This would give all our hard-working members a chance to see their hard work payoff.
Overall working with the Performance Titanium Group and the material itself has been a wonderful experience. We learned a lot from this material and already have more plans to replace anything steel we can with Titanium. We can not thank PTG enough for their generosity and donations towards UNLV BSAE – Rebel Racing. We can not wait to show off the performance we have gained!
Tian Chen (UNLV BSAE – Rebel Racing Project Manager)
To learn more about Rebel Racing and SAE, visit: