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Full speed ahead

Fast, faster, TUM Hyperloop

The Hyperloop is the brainchild of Elon Musk, the founder of well-known companies like Tesla and SpaceX. The concept, which the inventor unveiled in 2013, envisions a high-speed train gliding through a vacuum tube and transporting people to their destination in pods travelling at roughly the speed of sound (1,200 km/h). In 2015, Musk launched an international competition, in which teams of students design their own pods to race against each other. The TUM Hyperloop team, which comprises students from the Technical University of Munich (TUM), has won all four previous rounds of the competition by developing the fastest prototype. toolcraft has already supported the project several times by supplying the young inventers with parts used to construct the pods.

Used technologies:


TU Munich

The Starting Point:
Racing ahead with innovation and technical excellence

TUM Hyperloop was founded to enable students to participate in the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition with the aim of helping to further develop the idea behind the Hyperloop transport system. The team do this by constructing small-scale prototypes, which allow them to gain valuable insights at an early stage. Each year, they have needed to optimise their design and devise brand new ideas for the vehicle’s subsystems so they can always stay one step ahead of the competition. Over time, they have developed a new drive concept and a unique braking system for the pod. toolcraft has provided considerable support to the team in the past by precisely and quickly manufacturing several types of drive wheels, drive shafts, brake blocks and brake cylinders. This allowed the team to test prototypes and design options in good time.

The Challenge:
Speed is of the essence

The maximum speed of TUM’s pod has increased with every competition. At such high speeds, the pod needs to be able to come to a complete stop in just under two seconds to avoid it breaking through the end of the tube. To achieve this, the students have continuously reworked their Hyperloop pod with the support of toolcraft, which is involved as a sponsor and supplies parts for the specially developed brakes. The “normally closed design” used during the 2019 competition makes the system much more fail-safe. It is made up of eight double-acting cylinders, with one chamber serving as a pneumatic spring and the others releasing and opening the brake. The total braking power amounts to 8,250 N. To save on weight and make the system safer and more reliable, the geometry had a more complex design each time around, meaning that the brake components were also more complicated to produce.  

The Approach:
Full speed ahead

  • Formation of a project team in the area of turning and milling
  • Optimisation of existing design data
  • For the 2019 competition: manufacture of the parts (brake cylinders and brake blocks) from titanium
  • Brake cylinders: deep threaded holes and outer fitting diameters (roundness of the diameter)
  • Brake blocks: deep contour pockets with narrow machining radii as well as various recessed fits and internal grooves with toleranced dimensions

The Results:
Ready for action

The titanium components lower the overall weight by 800 g. The brakes meanwhile enable a braking acceleration of over 8 g, reducing the braking distance to 200 m. In July 2018, TUM’s pod notched up a top speed of 467 km/h, which is the highest to ever be achieved by a Hyperloop. In 2019, the students attempted to reach half the speed of sound. Unfortunately, the pod ran into difficulties due to unexpectedly large misalignments in the final third of the track. The pod could have been completely destroyed by the incident, but the “normally closed design” of the brakes saved the prototype and brought it to a safe stop. Although its speed of 482 km/h was significantly lower than planned, the pod was still the fastest overall and the TUM Hyperloop team won the competition for the fourth time in a row.

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