Sahara Force 1 Reveals 3D Printed F1 Car
Fans of F1 will be interested to learn that 3D printing is now part of the Sahara Force India Team’s support network following the signing of a multi-year technical partnership agreement with 3D Systems.
The agreement will allow Sahara Force One to minimize the timescales and costs for the manufacture of components for wind tunnel testing models; a key area in F1 racing development. The annual spend on R&D for top F1 teams can amount to hundreds of millions of dollars annually and is crucial for the development of new designs which will ultimately be incorporated into the latest cars on the racetrack.
Recently, F1’s governing body imposed limits on the time that teams were permitted to spend on track testing work each season, along with other restrictions. This places pressure on the teams to make their off-track development and testing as effective as possible in order to maximise valuable track testing time. The majority of this design work is achieved through utilising computer simulation technology and now 3D printing is set to enter the fray as a key development tool.
Sahara Force One Deputy Team Principal, Robert Fernley is excited about the possibilities opened up by 3D printing technology. The team can now use 3D Systems’ rapid prototyping equipment to produce multiple versions of parts to be used during wind tunnel testing as part of their aerodynamic development programme. Fernley explained that although some of the rapid prototyping parts are now used on the race car itself, there are limitations because of machine size and available materials; the most useful product at the moment being titanium composed structures. 3D printed parts are used to construct the full scale mock-up chassis model. The technology is particularly helpful when components with very complex geometry are required as the speed and accuracy of the 3D printing system is excellent. Fernley anticipates future development of the rapid prototyping system to enable larger pieces to be produced together with a greater variety of materials to choose from meaning that more useable car componentry will be available.
Sahara Force India has a whole suite of 3D Systems’ machines at their disposal including; Ipro 9000 and SLA 5000. Ipros are used because they are the fastest SLA machine currently available and also enable large quantities of parts to be produced quickly. 3D Systems also provide the team with 24 hour technological backup in case of machine failure as well as supplying all the SLA resins. Sahara Force India are keen to look into other areas of 3D printing; laser sintering and plastic jet printing for example, as it is felt that these technologies would also bring benefits to their R&D operation.
With developments in 3D printing technology moving almost as fast as the F1 cars themselves, it’s surely only a matter of time before we see the first F1 machine constructed entirely of 3D printed parts winning its first Grand Prix. No doubt the winner’s trophy will also have been made using a 3D printer!
Image source: F1 India
About Alison Page
Alison is a small business owner, freelance writer, author and dressage judge. She has degrees in Equine Science and Business Studies. Read her full story at http://www.theladywriter.co.uk