large format 3d printing for racing parts

Speeding up the prototyping process helps mclaren win more races

Parts for professional racing cars are some of the best that you can get your hands on for the very reason that they are developed to take performance to higher level. We’re talking about some serious efficiency that has made the auto racing arena the significant platform that has pushed auto engineering to its limits, and consequently, has driven the auto parts market to where it is able to go. When it comes down to it, the harmony of systematic function like this is a science that requires precision to obtain the best possible outcome and it is obvious for additive manufacturing to delve into these waters.


What the large part 3D printing world is sure to come to grips with is the simple fact that there already is a large industry and a considerable demand that are already in place, after all there’s a reason why racing teams have sponsors, they need the funding to remain competitive out on the track. There are racing teams that try their hardest to acquire any edge they can and end up purchasing the latest in automotive equipment that they can afford to put to the test the limits of their mechanical prowess.


It’s really hard to imagine that in the future it won’t be the norm for crews to have large format 3D printing services at their disposal, especially when one takes into account the extreme conditions and rigors that all types of expensive equipment are put through. Oftentimes parts are ordered from far and wide and end up being quite costly, especially when taxes and shipping are factored in. With a additive manufacturing machine at one´s disposal there are many costs that wouldn’t´t be considered, however, of course this would as a result mean a major investment in powdered raw materials. When applied properly, in the long run it should pay off.


In formula racing, and all kinds of off-road racing, you’re rarely up against the same exact thing, so being able to make all the important and necessary last minute adjustments is sure to prove invaluable in a number of foreseeable and unforeseeable ways and could very well mean the difference between winning the big race and blowing a huge lead. All because because the car in question doesn’t have the right suspension and can’t hold its own and deal with wet and muddy high speed turns, for example.


And it’s not just cars that ought to be interested finding the best ways to satisfy their unquenchable thirst for the high-performance parts that allow them to outperform when they need them the most. All types of racing vehicles that count on a wide range of interchangeable components can benefit, one of the richest in terms of popularity are motorcycles which in turn can be quite varied as there you have both on and road needs as well. Motocross can include far more varied obstacles than 4 wheel races as they tend to be even more specialized. Some competitions, like the popular marathon races, have all sorts of real physical challenges such as rock walls, all kinds of water obstacles and acceleration and deceleration complexities that all must be contemplated well before hitting the racing terrain.


McLaren Racing Limited´s McLaren-Honda Formula 1 team is one of the first to embrace large part 3D printing and is claiming to save weeks in modifying parts. They recently replaced a rear wing in just under two weeks as opposed to the month and a half that it would take to manufacture the part with the usual equipment that has been used for a number of years. Before relying on large part 3D printing they would have to head into a race or two without the parts that they would like to employ. In this manner, prototyping would be a real slow process as you would have to invest a lot of resources, energy and time to find out if a certain design is fruitful or not.


In the racing world tweaking and making changes is of capital importance and so it offers the perfect opportunity to ¨…gain invaluable feedback and insights from working with ultra-high performance automotive applications, which we can then apply to our mainstream automotive and aerospace customers.¨ according to Stratasys CEO Ilan Levin. Stratasys understands this and President EMEA Andy Middleton asserts that the company’s hope is to develop carbon fiber printers that teams will be able to use in order to make a completed part, or two, right at the site of races. In the case of the wing that the McLaren team replaced, they had to print it out in plastic and afterwards wrap it in carbon fiber. Of course when you’re talking about erecting a part from scratch it makes much more sense to cut out the middle man. And this is the goal of many large format 3D printing companies. As McLaren Racing director Eric Boullier states, ¨to rapidly model build and evaluate new components is an invaluable asset for any fast-moving and dynamic racing organization. But our new partnership with Stratasys will not only increase our output in that area, but also allow us to dynamically explore and utilize the cutting edge…It has become clear that the motorsport´s reliance on rapid prototyping and additive manufacturing, and the ability to radically cut time to market, is increasing, and we look forward to being well-served by our new alliance with Stratasys.


At the McLaren.Technology Centre outside of London in the town of Woking, the McLaren team counts on more than 10 different large part printers that include FDM and Polyjet based 3D printing units to ready them for each race in record time thanks to a 4-year partnership with Stratasys. It´s a big advantage over other racing teams. They even travel with a unit to each competition for rapid manufacturing.


An even greater relationship Stratasys is establishing is in NASCAR, with premier organization Joe Gibbs Racing that oversees a number of teams, and they are keeping busy with the FDM equipment that the manufacturing company has provided them. Technical Sponsor Manager Mark Bringle is making sure that they are pushing their innovation to the limit. The workflow is running quite smoothly as he says that he has lots of wonderfully working parts that include, ¨40 engineers with good ideas and 25 CNC`s operating 20 hours a day, five and six days a week…FDM equipment stays busy 24/7 with research and development projects.¨ A case in point for this team was to design a part that could serve as a reliable enclosure for heater control components, and as Bringle tells, ¨The part itself needed to be strong for racetrack use and accurate so the gauges would fit well in the recesses designed for them.¨


The bottom line is that it large format 3d printing servicesLarge Format 3D Printing are expensive, yes, but that´s why these high-performance motor sports have sponsors to help them out as well as throngs of passionate followers. People want to see the sport at the top of its game and one of the best ways to do that is to embrace new technological innovations to ensure that teams are racing the kind of race they see in their minds eye. 

Keep reading: more articles about 3D scanning

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