The University of Michigan Solar Car Team and 3M share a close partnership. 3M provides Michigan with a vast array of products that aid the team with everything from team safety to structural support and aerodynamics.
3M keeps our team members safe while working on the car with such products as respirators, which prevents them from inhaling substances that can hurt the lungs, such as carbon dust or tooling board dust. 3M provides Personal Protection Equipment, as well; while working on the car or on the team’s semi, team members sport 3M full-body suits. The team extensively uses other safety fundamentals, like 3M electrical tape and heat shrink, which insulate wires, adding protection. All of these contributions by 3M were vital for team well-being during solar car Aurum’s build cycle.
Aurum won the University of Michigan its ninth overall American Solar Challenge title, and 3M products keep it structurally sound. Aurum is held together by 3M adhesives. DP 100, DP 105, DP 420, DP 460, VHB—these are all very strong adhesives that play key roles in Aurum’s make-up. For example, the glue DP 460 bonds the car’s chassis, its basic frame, to the lower portion of its body. VHB (Very High Bond) tape holds Aurum’s solar array to the upper. The team also uses 3M’s 471 vinyl tape to tape the car’s seams together, to tape the fairings to the body of the car, and to tape the upper to the lower. During every charging period of the 2016 ASC—every morning, every night, at every checkpoint, and at every Stage stop—Michigan’s race crew un-taped and re-taped the car. The team uses 471 vinyl for this because it is effective, lightweight and easy to both remove and replace. This facilitates the charging process, which involves detaching the upper from the lower and angling it so that the array points towards the sun.
471 vinyl tape also has aerodynamic merit; by covering the car’s seams, it helps with minimizing drag, thus maximizing aerodynamics. 3M helps Michigan create the most aerodynamic vehicle possible with sanding materials as well, like sandpaper and orbital sanders. Michigan uses these tools to make the car’s surface smoother. This makes the car more aerodynamic, which, in turn, means it consumes less power. Aurum’s aerodynamic body was a huge reason it won the 2016 ASC as the only car to finish solely on solar power—3M had a hand in reaching that aerodynamic standard.
After the race, 3M hosted the UM Solar Car Team at its headquarters in St. Paul, Minnesota. While visiting, the team gave a presentation on how the ASC had gone and how we used 3M products to build Aurum.
Members of 3M’s team gave UM Solar a tour of the 3M Innovation Center and showed us many exciting products they had invented like reflective films. 3M also presented the team with more 3M products that the team could use in the upcoming build cycle for the 2017 World Solar Challenge. We look forward to working with 3M on incorporating some of these technologies into our 2017 car and on furthering our partnership.
In 2014, Aurum was built with 3M. In 2016, Aurum crossed the ASC finish line held together—quite literally—by 3M. Now, in 2017, we look forward to working with 3M on our new car. Thank you, 3M.