Apr 7, 2017 | By Benedict

After partnering with 3D Printing giant Stratasys in January, Formula 1 car manufacturer McLaren Racing has announced that its 2017 MCL32 race car features 3D printed components, including a hydraulic line bracket, brake cooling ducts, and a rear wing flap made with a 3D printed mold.

Back in January, Stratasys announced a four-year partnership with McLaren Racing. As part of the deal, the 3D printing company said it would supply McLaren with around £1 million worth of additive manufacturing equipment, maintaining close contact with the racing team as it increases its use of 3D printing at the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking, UK.

Fast-forward a couple of months, and McLaren says it has already integrated 3D printed end-use parts into its 2017 McLaren-Honda MCL32 F1 car. With zero wins over the course of the 2016 racing season, the British racing team is clearly willing to try anything new to turn its fortunes around.

Far from using additive manufacturing as a glitzy PR move, McLaren has implemented the technology into four important areas of its new vehicle, which is being driven in the 2017 FIA Formula One World Championship by Fernando Alonso and team newcomer Stoffel Vandoorne. The 3D printed parts include a hydraulic line bracket, a flexible radio harness location boot, carbon fiber composite brake cooling ducts, and a rear wing flap (made from a 3D printed mold, not itself 3D printed).

3D printed hydraulic line bracket

The 3D printed hydraulic line bracket, printed on a Stratasys Fortus 450mc FDM 3D printer, will attach the hydraulic line on the MCL32. It was 3D printed in carbon-fiber reinforced nylon material (FDM® Nylon 12CF), and took just four hours to produce, compared to the estimated two weeks that would be needed to create the part using traditional manufacturing processes.

Stratasys turned to its J750 3D printer for the flexible radio harness location boot, a rubber-like boot that joins the harness wires for the communication system. Stratasys says that three different designs were iterated and 3D printed in one day, with the final component 3D printed in just two hours. This speed of production allowed the radio harness assembly to be used in the first Grand Prix race of the 2017 season, where Vandoorne was the slowest driver to complete the race. (Alonso retired after his vehicle received bodywork damage.)

3D printed harness location boot

McLaren has also introduced 3D printed composite brake cooling ducts to control brake component temperatures. 3D printed using ST-130 soluble material, these brake cooling ducts were then wrapped with carbon-fiber reinforced composite material and autoclave-cured at elevated temperatures. They have a tubular structure with very smooth internal surface finishes to provide the required airflow to brakes.

The final part of the McLaren MCL32 F1 car that makes use of additive manufacturing technologies is its rear wing flap, designed to increase rear downforce. Fabricated in carbon fiber-reinforced composites using an ULTEM 1010 mold printed on the Fortus 900mc 3D printer, this component was produced in a much shorter timeframe than would have been possible without 3D printing.

3D printed tool for rear wing flap

“By expanding the use of Stratasys 3D printing in our manufacturing processes, including producing final car components, composite lay-up and sacrificial tools, cutting jigs, and more, we are decreasing our lead times while increasing part complexity,” said Neil Oatley, Design and Development Director at McLaren Racing Limited.

Excitingly, McLaren’s use of 3D printing goes beyond these new parts: the company is also planning to introduce a kind of “pit stop 3D printer” that could be used to produce parts and tooling in the shortest possible time during critical periods. The Stratasys uPrint SE Plus will be brought to track testing and races on-site, starting at the Bahrain Grand Prix on April 16.

Prototype 3D printed steering wheel

“Formula 1 is one of the world’s best proving grounds for our additive manufacturing solutions,” said Andy Middleton, President of Stratasys EMEA. “As the Official Supplier of 3D Printing Solutions to the McLaren-Honda Formula 1 team, we are working closely together to solve their engineering challenges in the workshop, in the wind-tunnel, and on the track. We believe that this, in turn, will enable us to develop new materials and applications that bring new efficiencies and capabilities to McLaren Racing and other automotive designers and manufacturers.”

Despite its poor standings at the 2017 Australian Grand Prix and the loss of driver Jenson Button, McLaren-Honda believes it is on track for a much better season than last year. We’ll be keeping a close eye on the F1 team and its 3D printed car parts over its next few races.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Chris wrote at 4/8/2017 8:12:47 PM:

I imagine this would also be very useful in endurance racing like the 24 hours of LeMans, etc.

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