Mar 5, 2017 | By Julia

Prized UK Formula One team Williams Martini Racing F1 has released the details of their 2016 racing car, which incorporated 3D printing into the exterior components of the front wing assembly.

the Williams F1 2016 car

The decision may come as a surprise to F1 fans, since the time-honoured racing championships have always featured cars exclusive reliance on carbon fiber composites. Generally speaking, these materials are favoured by F1 racing teams for their extreme stability and low weight.

There are considerable downsides to carbon fiber composites, however: they are extremely costly to manufacture, requiring complex construction of molds and tooling. The work is also very time-consuming, which can present a problem when paired with the strict deadlines of Formula 1 racing teams.

Yet due to the traditional approach of most F1 teams, developers and engineers have simply had to comply with these difficulties.

But not so anymore. This year the Williams F1 development crew, which is based in Oxfordshire, UK, decided to tackle those challenges head on.

“In the construction of Formula racing cars, teams must stay true to a complex set of rules while finding the best-possible solution to the golden ratio of 'high speed, high reliability, low weight,' say Williams F1 representatives in a statement.

Additive manufacturing proved to be an effective solution in this regard, as a faster, less expensive alternative to carbon fibre composites, but without losing any of the strength, durability, and lightness.

The Williams F1 technical department set to work integrating 3D printing into the prototyping process for the multi-component front spoiler, the car’s aerodynamic centrepiece.

the 3D printed front cascade prototypes

Here, the team began with several designs of front wing cascades using CAD software, each containing intricate geometries that correspond to high down-thrust and optimum tire grip. Once satisfied with these early designs, the team transferred the files to the EOS system for prototype production using laser sintering technology. After the design received the green light, the team began building the complex molds molds for the actual carbon fibre components, leading to the parts that will ultimately be tested on the racetrack.

"We were able to continually reduce the production times because we were able to design the complete manufacturing process in a way that was much simpler and more efficient," says Richard Brady, Advanced Digital Manufacturing Leader at Williams F1.

"For the first time, it is now possible to test the components without the need to carry out complex, time consuming and expensive mould construction for designs that are ultimately rejected."

The result was a streamlined design process that has garnered Williams F1 considerable innovation points. Moreover, the UK racing team may have set a new benchmark in the world of F1 prototyping. We may be seeing lots more of this 3D printing innovation in future F1 preparations.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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