Race car enthusiasts ought to get a kick out of the latest news from 3D Systems and the Lotus F1 team. They have partnered up to use 3D printing to create parts for Formula 1 cars, in an effort to streamline aerodynamics and improve production efficiency.
Everything they do is an effort to improve vehicle performance. This is why the Lotus F1 team sought out 3D Systems tech. According to their Head of Aerodynamics, Dirk de Beer, the machine allowed them to create prototypes on the spot that fit the vehicles. While they started out with rapid prototyping, they quickly moved on to wind tunnel model manufacturing. This created new jobs as well, expanding the Aero Department’s team from 11 to 80 employees. By creating prototypes and testing them, the team can make changes and develop new ideas to further progression. The more ideas they can actively test, the better their chances are of succeeding come race time.
The 3D printing tech is actually used in some pretty novel ways. After applying pressure sensors to the car model in the wind tunnel manually, researchers can now place sensors within complex, intricate, and tiny structures that they couldn’t have otherwise gained access to. Everyone in the field of aerodynamics has reason to celebrate because it revolutionizes just what is possible.
Currently, the Lotus F1 team has nine different aerodynamics centers with five different SLA iPro 8000 Systems, one SLA 7000, two Sinterstation HiQ SLS Systems, and one Sinterstation Pro 140 SLS System. These devices made it possible to produce parts that can be used directly in race cars, which saves both time and money for the team.
According to the COO of the Lotus Team, Thomas Mayer, that addition of 3D printing technology to their manufacturing processes has improved efficiency and raised the bar on what’s possible in terms of aerodynamics. After installing the first part they made with an SLA System back in 2001, the team found materials and technology invaluable to the process. They can now test over 600 different parts in the Wind Tunnel a week, which is impressive by itself. But they can also use CAD models to build real race car parts on site. Designs can be more creative and innovative than ever thanks to the use of 3D printing technology. As always, it will be exciting to see what they come up with next as a result.
Picture credit: LotusF1Team.com