Speed is something that fascinates most people and when that speed collaborates with racing the amalgamation is just mesmerizing. Watching these high speed cars run on race tracks at speed which is somewhere around 200 mph can leave its spectators awestruck. At such a high speed problems are bound to take place and in order to fix these problems the team should have the latest technology available so that the problems can be solved at a faster pace. The problems can be wide stretched right from mechanical issues to issues that arise due to minor accidents. At this point 3D printing could play a crucial role in the repair of these high speed vehicles during a typical Formula1 race. Many companies are coming forward with ideas so that the influence of 3D printing can be seen in this industry as well.
Lotus F1 racing team, before partnering with 3D Systems way back in 1998, were stuck with the traditional system of manufacturing i.e. they made tunnel models out of carbon fiber, epoxy board and metal. After the introduction of SLA 5000 System printer the company had done away with its long and tedious methods of manufacturing which were both time consuming and labor intensive. The company installed its first 3D printer inside a race car way back in 2001 and it was such a hit that Lotus opened their first Advanced Digital Manufacturing centre in 2002. At present Lotus have five such centres that produce car parts for the F1 race.
Following the footsteps of Lotus, in the recent times very first company that pops in our head when we speak of F1 and 3D printing is Red Bull. The Red Bull factory which is located at Milton Keynes is churning out many proto- types so that they can get the extra edge from the other cars that run in the F1 races. The official Red Bull Racing spokesperson said, “3D Printing is definitely the future of F1, we could get to a point where we can print out a new front wing at the track if we’ve damaged one.”
Another car company that plans on incorporating 3D printers in their race machines is Caterham, a UK based F1 racing team which has been using 3D printing to model designs for the optimal car for race day. The company has recently disclosed that it has printed around 800- 900 parts every month. The manager of Rapid Prototyping in Caterham, Ian Prince says, “For the F1 team, because it is constant development all year round, we need these machines to improve the performance of the car.”
There are many other companies that have dipped their feet into this new technological field of 3D printing. Companies such as Lotus, Red Bull, Nissan and Sahara Force India are among the few that understand the actual influence of 3D printers on the F1 racing industry.
Among the most recent team that has accepted to involve 3D printing with the F1 industry would be Sahara Force India Formula One team which signed a technical partnership with 3D Systems in order to fully exploit the existing 3D Systems printers and reduce the manufacturing time and labor that is usually required to build the various parts for these speedy cars.
Image Credit: Sam Badeo (flickr handle: Sambadeo)