Mar.2, 2014

Engineers at Caterham, a UK-based Formula One racing team, have been using 3D printing to model designs for the optimal car for race day.

In a recent interview with the Financial Times, Caterham revealed that the company is 3D printing between 800 and 900 parts per month to speed up, and reduce the cost, of its design process.

Caterham bought two 3D printers last year, and according to Ian Prince, rapid prototyping manager at Caterham, 3D printing is saving the company as much as £40,000 each month.

"For an F1 team, because it is constant development all year round, we need these machines to improve the performance of the car," explains Mr Prince.

3D printing allows the company to print parts to exact specifications, and the creation of titanium and aluminum parts via 3d printing is much cheaper and faster than using other methods. Body parts are printed to a 60% scale and tested in Caterham's wind tunnel prior to finalization. Once tested, a part can be quickly improved.

Caterham isn't the only F1 team that is using 3D printing to manufacture parts on racing cars. Other F1 teams, including Lotus, Red Bull, and Force India, have been using 3D printing for years.

Nissan Delta Wing team has used 3D printing and Laser Sintered Windform XT 2.0 materials in prototyping and testing of Delta Wing race cars. With 3D printing, the team is able to shorten the timing of realization of car construction without any losing in quality.

Before partnering with 3D Systems in 1998, the Lotus F1 racing team built its wind tunnel models out of carbon fiber, epoxy board and metal using time-consuming and labor-intensive methods. 3D printing allows the Lotus F1 Team to build some of its parts directly from digital data and produce components in hours rather than weeks. The new technology has also added benefit to Lotus' new ability to manufacture multiple iterations of the same part simultaneously.

Last year, Sahara Force India Formula One Team signed a technical partnership with 3D Systems to fully exploit its existing 3D Systems printers and reduce the manufacturing time of wind tunnel model components.

3D printing technology has become an effective new manufacturing process for F1 teams to reduce both cycle times and cost. "In Formula 1, aerodynamics is an empirical science. We design and compare new ideas and choose directions to follow. The more ideas we can compare and evaluate, the more successful we are on the race track." says Lotus.

Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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