Products and Design

ORB Racing FF210: The Return of Front-Wheel Drive

If you’ve been to a RC car off-road racetrack, most likely you will have seen only rear-wheel-drive (RWD) cars and four-wheel-drive (4WD) buggies. Since the late 1980s, off-road RC car designs have not changed that much. Materials have gotten better, and the cars lighter, stronger, and more fine-tuned, but the chassis layouts have remained the same.

Now, Paul Dijkstra of ORB Racing, a longtime Shapeways community member, has created the FF210 buggy, a front-motor, front-wheel-drive RC car. Professional RC racing banned this layout in the ’80s for its unfair advantage in low-grip situations, and it’s been forgotten by the world’s biggest RC car manufacturers ever since. But, for the past five years, Paul has been developing his own FF210, relying on Shapeways for many of the components.

After seeing old magazine scans of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s featuring a couple of legendary, custom-build FWD buggies, Paul was intrigued by their unconventional designs. With very few FWD buggies available to buy, it was hard to get an idea of how it would be to race one. Left with no other option than to build a car himself, Dijkstra first tried to mash-up a 4WD buggy suspension and a FWD on-road touring car. It was fun to drive, but did not perform well off-road, so he decided to develop his own 1/10 scale ORB Racing FF210 buggy.

RC Cars

The second prototype chassis, built in 2013

Paul’s first prototypes were based on a Tamiya TRF201, but the finished FF210 conversion kit, the product of five years of research and development, uses Team Durango DEX210 parts for its gearbox and driveline. The rest of the car is made up of 3D printed Strong & Flexible nylon plastic and custom-CNC’d carbon-fiber parts.

Compared with regular FWD buggies, the FF210 is especially competitive on surfaces such as dirt, outdoor clay, grass, and wet astroturf. FWD cars have lower rates of acceleration since they are pulling the car along the track, but the FF210 has a higher cornering speed than a RWD when the racetrack surface grip is low, and it can better handle bumps and changing surface conditions. The result is a consistent, predictable, and quick ride.

RC Cars RC Car parts

Victory at the The MAC Vlijmen Winter Championship is Paul’s most recent race result

So far, Paul and his FWD buggy have won the MAC Vlijmen Winter Championship three years in a row. This race is a local event, but it boasts some well-known, highly-skilled drivers. He also has multiple A-final results at the Belgian-Dutch national championship and is a regular podium candidate at his local club.

For the 2017 season, Paul has made some changes to his FF210 conversion kit, updating a couple of parts to improve handling and durability, and enabling drivers to use parts from the latest version of the Team Durango DEX210.

Metallic plastic chassis side pod option parts

He also added Metallic Plastic side pods, now offered by ORB Racing. Most 3D printed RC car parts are made from Strong & Flexible plastic because of its durability and strength. In certain applications, a more rigid material could improve the handling and accuracy of the chassis. Paul says that the new Metallic Plastic parts noticeably reduced the chassis flex and improved handling.

A body-off view of Paul’s 2017 chassis.

Paul’s FF210, an extraordinary individual feat of engineering, is a perfect example of what 3D printing can achieve.The ORB Racing FF210 conversion kit, as well as many other replacement and option parts for both modern and vintage cars are available by emailing Paul at Select spare parts can also be found on the ORB Racing Shapeways shop.

Have you experimented with customizing your RC car? Please share your experience in the comments.

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