If you are interested in automotive and 3D printing, the names of McLaren Racing and Stratasys are certainly familiar to you. These two companies have decided to join forces to create state-of-the-art equipment together. In Formula 1, one thing matters above all else: speed. This is not only important on the race track, but also off it, especially for parts production times. This is where additive manufacturing can help win the “race” against time off the circuit.
Thus, McLaren Racing meets the requirements of the International Automobile Federation (FIA) in terms of time and budget for the production of vehicles in 2022. This, by concluding a cooperation with Stratasys. The latter will make it possible to manufacture tens of thousands of parts by additive manufacturing using its Neo800 3D printer. This will reduce production times for certain model parts and also speed up vehicle development.
Areas of application of parts manufactured by additive manufacturing
The sport is facing uncertain times and the Covid 19 pandemic has failed to generate revenue for a long time. This is why the FIA had decided to reduce the budget cap from $175 million to $145 million for the first year of operation in 2021, then to $140 million for 2022 and $135 million for 2023.
McLaren is therefore banking on 3D printing and producing up to 9,000 car parts per year for the front and rear wings, as well as large parts of the side and upper bodywork in just three days. According to the racing team, these parts would make great strides in optimizing the car’s aerodynamics during wind tunnel testing. The parts are more precise thanks to 3D printing and, in addition to the qualitative aspect, the production time of the parts has been considerably reduced. This allows McLaren to produce quickly and at a more advantageous price.
The use of 3D printing technology not only has benefits for McLaren Racing, but also for the environment. Indeed, thanks to the use of its own printers, McLaren can produce all aerodynamic parts at its Woking site in Great Britain. This reduces long delivery and transport times, as well as costs and environmental impact. Additive manufacturing can not only be used for the production of automotive parts, but the team can also 3D print fixtures and jigs as well as small molds that previously had to be milled from blocks of metal. Thus, the stereolithography process used in the Neo800 not only saves a lot of time, but also saves materials, and therefore money. Tim Champman, Head of Additive Manufacturing at McLaren Racing explains:
“Stereolithography technology and materials have evolved, and so has the way we use them. We no longer just make prototypes, but now produce many full-size components and tools.”
3D printing to improve performance at McLaren
In Formula 1 races, we know that every second of advance counts. To measure this performance, wind tunnel tests are used. According to Tim Chapman, these tests are still the gold standard when it comes to evaluating how all surfaces interact. This is why Somos® PerFORM Reflect resin, specially developed for wind tunnel models, is used for printing. This results in robust and rigid parts, whose finishing time is reduced by 30%. “Our Neo series 3D printers have allowed us to significantly reduce the manufacturing time of our components and aerodynamic projects in the wind tunnel”, explains Chapman. The team uses 60% of the full-scale models to optimize the aerodynamic package and achieve more downforce, which provides better aerodynamic grip. This balances the loads in the front and rear of the car.
High-precision components from Neo printers would also require minimal manual rework, allowing for much faster throughput in the wind tunnel. In addition to the speed advantage, they can now produce wind tunnel parts with very high precision and level of detail, as well as the best possible surface finish. This allowed the team to improve testing and come up with new, innovative ideas to improve performance.
Car delivery times for the next race are always extremely tight and the slightest design tweak can mean the difference between victory and defeat or help secure better starting grid positions.
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*Cover photo credit: Stratasys