up to 9,000 3D printed parts/year by McLaren


McLaren Formula 1 car

Image by Guy from Pixabay

Ever more popular in the automotive sector, 3D printing is progressing discreetly but surely among Formula 1 manufacturers. -this. Because as great as the dexterity of its pilots, it is not everything. Whether it’s speed or time spent on the track, teams must redouble their ingenuity to improve the performance of their vehicle. To do this, their teams of engineers play on an incalculable number of variables: aerodynamics, fuel loads, tire wear, engine performance, or even refueling speed.

In this frantic quest for performance, 3D printing has become a tool almost like any other for Formula 1. After Alpha Romeo communicated earlier this year on its additively optimized fins, its counterpart McLaren Racing gives us a more precise idea as to the extent taken by this technology in this sport. According to the British team, more than 9,000 parts per year are now printed by its engineers. A use which we learn that it relates more exactly to programs of front and rear wings, as well as large parts of the side bodywork and the top of the body.

If McLaren has made additive manufacturing a strong ally, it is because it derives many benefits from it. On this point, the manufacturer reveals that it has made significant progress in optimizing the aerodynamics of its vehicles during wind tunnel tests thanks to the precision of the parts produced in 3D. Part production time has also been significantly reduced. Large parts, such as model car tops, can be produced in just three days.

Savings which, in a context of a significant reduction in the budget decided by the FIA ​​(International Automobile Federation), are particularly welcome for the British team. As the sector is in the throes of uncertainty and no revenue has been received during the Covid-19 pandemic, the body has decided to reduce the budget cap from 175 to 145 million dollars for its first year operating in 2021, then to $140 and $135 million for 2022 and 2023, respectively.

“I cannot stress enough how important these advantages are in Formula 1, where the deadlines to deliver the cars to the next race are extremely tight”

3D printed wind tunnel parts using the NEO800 system

Wind tunnel parts 3D printed using the NEO800 system (photo credits: Stratasys)

To achieve such results, the British team reveals that it relied on SLA resin 3D printers. More exactly the Stratasys Neo800 system. A large format 3D printing technology that ended up falling into the hands of the American giant following the acquisition of the British manufacturer RPS. According to McLareen, the Neo 800 would be particularly effective for wind tunnel testing. The team uses 60% scale models to optimize the aerodynamic package and increase downforce (and therefore grip), and balance the front and rear aerodynamic loads of the car.

 » Wind tunnel testing remains essential to assess the behavior of each surface, whether it is an assembly or a complete car. “, explains Tim Chapman.  » Our 3D printers from the Neo range have allowed us to significantly reduce production times for our aerodynamic components and projects in the wind tunnel. »

On the materials side, we learn that the engineers rely on Somos® PerFORM Reflect, a resin that has been specially designed for wind tunnel models. The other important feature of this one is that it allows the printing of solid and rigid parts which reduce post-processing time by 30%.

Tim Chapman explains: We find that high-definition components from our Neo machines require minimal hand finishing, allowing for a much faster wind tunnel run. In addition to speed, we can now produce wind tunnel parts with remarkable precision, detail and surface finish, which has allowed us to optimize testing and come up with innovative ideas to improve performance.  » Before concluding :  » I cannot stress enough how important these advantages are in Formula 1, where the deadlines to deliver the cars to the next race are extremely tight and the slightest design iteration can make all the difference between winning, losing or moving up places. on the grid. »

Alexandre Moussion
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