Dec 5, 2016 | By Benedict

British engineering company Renishaw has used its metal 3D printing expertise to improve the performance of the Land Rover Ben Ainsley Racing (BAR) yacht. The boat now uses a 3D printed sheave case and other metal 3D printed parts.

3D printed metal parts used by the Land Rover BAR team

Although best known for its four-wheel-drive cars, British automotive company Land Rover has, since 2015, been concerned with making fast vehicles in the water as well as on the road. Land Rover Ben Ainslie Racing (Land Rover BAR) is a British yacht racing team formed in 2012 by America's Cup winner Sir Ben Ainslie. Prior to its 2015 partnership with Land Rover, the team was associated with J.P. Morgan and then Red Bull, and went on to triumph at the 2015–16 America's Cup World Series. To reach the next level of performance and to achieve success on future races, the team has now turned to British 3D printing expert Renishaw, whose metal powder fusion technology is being use to improve the vessel with lightweight, high-strength 3D printed components.

Being at the forefront of yacht racing, the Land Rover BAR Technical Innovation Group (TIG) is no stranger to advanced technologies, and in its short lifespan has already made extensive use of 3D printing technology. Needing to manufacture a large number of custom parts, TIG got into the habit of 3D printing several prototypes of parts during the design stage to ensure that the best design could be reached prior to production—a process that has saved the team time and money.

Until recently, most of Land Rover BAR’s additive manufacturing had been limited to rapid prototyping, but with the newly established partnership with Renishaw, the team has been able to take 3D printing to the next level: production of end-use parts. According to TIG, working with Renishaw has allowed the yachting experts to use AM technologies for even more advanced applications. “The top level of our 3D printing programme is the metal additive manufacturing supplied by Renishaw,” said George Sykes, TIG project manager. “The manufacture of custom parts in metal is the cutting edge of this technology.”

George Sykes, TIG Project Manager

Unlike the 3D printer used for rapid prototyping by the TIG team, Renishaw’s additive manufacturing technology has been used to create high-quality, end-use parts made from metal. The RenAM 500M 3D printer, a metal powder fusion printer with a build volume of 250 x 250 x 350 mm, allows TIG to fabricate metal parts made up of paper thin layers (typically 0.05 mm) of fine metallic powder in an argon inert atmosphere. A laser beam directed software-controlled mirrors is used to heat the powder into precise shapes, layer by layer, until the printed part is complete.

The Renishaw RenAM 500M 3D printer

Team Land Rover BAR in the water

One of the first Land Rover BAR parts to be fabricated using the Renishaw additive manufacturing system was a custom sheave case for the pulley in the daggerboard lift line. The part needed to be wear resistant and bear a high compressive load, but also needed to be mostly hollow to keep its weight down. 3D printing enabled this combination of attributes, and the team was able to create an optimized internal geometry for the part that would not have been feasible using a lathe or other cutting tool.

“The potential of additive manufacturing in terms of saving weight and improving efficiency is tremendous,” said Andy Claughton, Chief Technology Officer at Land Rover BAR. “For example, we took a long hard look at our hydraulics system. Before 3D printing came along all the parts in this system would have been manufactured by taking metal away from a solid block. The shapes that you can create with this method are limited, so the design is limited and so too is the efficiency.”

Andy Claughton, Chief Technology Officer

With Renishaw’s 3D printing equipment and expertise on hand, Claughton and the team were able to create entirely new designs which will vastly improve performance of the hydraulics. “Hydraulic fluid doesn't take kindly to going around hard corners for instance, and there is a loss of power when it has to do so,” Claughton continued. “With traditional techniques this might be the only way you can manufacture the part, but with additive manufacturing you can build it with smooth rounded corners that significantly improves efficiency in the fluid transfers involved.”

According to Land Rover BAR, the weight in a new AM manifold design for a particular part was reduced by 60%, with an increase in performance efficiency of better than 20% after implementing the custom-made 3D printed component. With TIG keen to continue making use of additive manufacturing, the team’s future races should be plain sailing.

Sir Ben Ainslie

Victory at the 2015–16 America's Cup World Series

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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