A Formula 1 Team is 3D Printing Race Car Parts

The partnership between the legendary Formula One motorsport brand’s partnership with 3D printing companies has been known about by industry insiders but rarely reported on until the last few months.

The ability to quickly and easily create lightweight one-off designs has been one of the major reasons for the rising number of Formula One teams looking to develop their own parts for both testing and race weekends; two of the best known and respected racing teams in the world, Ferrari and McLaren have now released a large amount of information about their own use of 3D printing technology.

Developing New Tech

McLaren has always been a racing team known for developing new technologies and ways of going about their business to assist them in remaining at the top end of the races the team takes part in. CNN reports McLaren have now looked to release a large amount of detail about its relationship with 3D printing company Stratasys, who supplied McLaren Racing with three printers for the team’s English offices. A further printer travels with the team as they move around the world to race weekends from Australia to Malaysia and Texas.

Over the course of the partnership between the two companies, McLaren reports creating more than 50 parts for their cars that require the lowest weight possible with a large amount of strength to withstand the high levels of G-force each car and driver is struck by over the course of a race. 3D printing has been identified as a key for the McLaren team as the parts created are developed using an extra strong form of plastic wrapped in carbon fiber that used to require a prolonged development and manufacturing period costing a large amount of money; with budgets for Formula One running into the hundreds of millions, any saving in one area of development can mean a few extra seconds can be found in race pace.

Ferrari’s Approach

The legendary Ferrari Formula One team is perhaps the best known in the world and guards its research and development facilities fiercely, which is why it was a shocking moment when the Maranello based team and Magnetti Marelli released a statement detailing the development of a new form of piston design. 3D printing was one of the major developments for Ferrari as they sought to create a new piston design featuring a honeycomb center for the steel part, according to The Ferrari designed piston is not the first to be developed using a honeycomb center, particularly as the development of airplanes has often used this design feature for its much larger engine parts where low weight and high strength are needed for safety and performance. A range of software packages has already been used to show how a honeycomb center for a range of parts can be used to lower weight and produce a stronger material capable of withstanding the high speeds and great forces cars are subjected to during testing and races.

McLaren’s Approach

McLaren has developed its own unique approach to 3D printing parts where the plastic mold created during the printing process is melted after being wrapped in carbon fiber during the production phase to create a lightweight part adding seconds to the lap times during a race. In an article published by The Verge, McLaren’s head of design, Rob Melville explained just how the parts and work completed on a Formula One car can make all the difference in developing the range of sports cars the race team also makes and sells to the super rich around the world.

For a race team, such as McLaren the ability to print parts and install them on a car in a reduced amount of time is key to gaining even the smallest advantage over their rivals. The printing of parts has become one of the major uses of the team’s range of 3D printers, which have lowered the construction of a new wing from an estimated five weeks after construction began on around ten days.

Overall Goal

The overall goal of the McLaren team and their rivals at Ferrari is to increase their use of 3D printers to allow the creation of parts made solely from carbon fiber without the need for plastics in any area of production. If parts can be created without the need for a plastic mold the time taken to create a part will be reduced by a large amount of time and could see a 3D printer become an integral part of the pit crew for motorsports teams who could realistically create new parts for their cars while a race is being run.

Prototype cars are already being created for use in wind tunnels to lower research and development periods and allow teams to draw conclusions about their vehicles over a much shorter time as they move towards the next important race on the calendar.

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