Getting a Grip with a 3D Printed Steering Wheel

Continuing on our journey of re-imagining our go kart with 3D printed carbon fiber parts, I recently replaced the stock steering wheel with one designed from scratch to be lighter, more comfortable, and infinitely modifiable.

A go kart steering wheels needs to be three things: strong, stiff, and comfortable. The stock go kart steering wheel meets these requirements by being primarily constructed from stamped sheet steel for strength and stiffness and encased with a rubber overmold for comfort. This pound of steel should be undeniably able to withstand the bumps and jostles of the road, but it leaves much to be desired in the comfort department.

By designing a steering wheel from scratch, I could model the geometry around the shape and size of my own hands and produce a steering wheel that would fit my personal grip. I decided to take inspiration from a number of Formula 1 steering wheels, dropping the circular shape of the original wheel for a more oblong profile.

With my first pass modeled in OnShape, it was off the Mark Two! A couple hours later, I learned that I had dramatically misjudged the shape of my own hands. With my new steering wheel in in front of me, I found it was cramped and awkward to hold. The flutes I had given the handles for my fingers to rest in did not line up with where my fingers naturally wanted to rest.

Though my first print was not a great steering wheel, it was great tool for identifying where I needed to change my design. Among many small tweaks, I thickened the handles and removed protrusions that had cramped my fingers. And as with the go kart air restrictor, I took the opportunity to emboss the steering wheel with our new MarkForged logo.

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