These days, there’s a news item about the new McLaren-Honda and Fernando Alonso (who will join the team next year) in sports and general newspapers. Stratasys (an industrial 3D printer manufacturer) has signed a 4 years partnership with Mc Laren Racing as official supplier of 3D printing solutions.
It may seem like a novelty, but for many years the car industry has been using 3D printing as a method of manufacturing and prototyping for car racing.
3D printing reduces costs of production in the development and manufacture, due to the fact that production times are shorter and the material is optimized, allowing at the same time manufacturing with lighter weight, matching the functionality of other manufacturing technologies.
Another advantage is the reduction of manufacturing time, since the development of moulds or dies wouldn’t be necessary. It reaches great profitability and efficiency for highly customized small runs or unique pieces that need to be changed quickly to fit in a vehicle, for example, for an aerodynamics test. In Formula 1, the weight reduction, resistance and speed of reaction at the time of producing a car is of vital importance.
The F1 Ferrari team is working on some new 3D printed pistons in alloy steel. The aluminium alloy pistons are being replaced by steel pistons that can be 3D printed. Of course, such material exchange compromises the reliability and the steel alloy pistons are intended to minimize this weak point, since aluminium pistons could probably not. Thanks to the combination of steel and 3D printing, the reliability increases, but not necessarily the weight, because this type of 3D printing allows you to work with thinner sections, more customized designs better fitted to your needs, without the disadvantages of moulds and die casting. It also allows testing different versions quickly and cost-effectively.
All of these teams have been using 3D printing for years, from prototypes to parts with the help of additive manufacturing technology, participating in car racing and winning championships. Even some trophies of Formula 1 Grand Prix are made with 3D printing.
Apart from competition, all auto manufacturers in the world, such as GM, Ford, Renault, BMW, Mercedes, VAG or Toyota have used 3D printing in their factories and development departments for the creation of prototypes and parts for the assembly line. Some of them have already introduced printed pieces in vehicles that ride daily through our streets.
In 2016, BMW, owner of Rolls Royce, printed more than 10,000 parts for the production and personalization of the Phantom models of this luxury brand.
Koenigsegg manufacturer performed a full 3D printed turbocharger for their model One: 1, allowing lower thicknesses, better acceleration and an optimized gas flow, which otherwise would be prohibitive. 3D printing breaks the stiffness of designs, and risk with shapes and materials, unaffordable with traditional technologies.
Audi developed in 2015 a 3D printing project to avoid having to manufacture and ship to all over the world the parts to their factories. 3D printing has enabled the manufacturer to interrupt its own internal supply chain. You cannot deploy 3D printing in all the parts, it’s impossible yet, but that moment will likely arrive. With the strategic distribution of industrial 3D printers around the world, however, Audi has succeeded in eliminating the production of certain parts and now they can print on demand. This saves a huge amount of money in stock parts that may take weeks, months or years to rotate in their inventories.
Of course, all Formula 1 teams have 3D printers in their factories, but not everyone will speak of it. The secret is a big business in F1. But F1 Williams Team has revealed some crucial details after the agreement with the German 3D printing company EOS in the late 2015, when the team acquired a printer for their factory.
Williams has printed small parts in CarbonMide and Alumide all over the years, which allowed him to print all kind of parts, including complete gearbox for functional tests and aerodynamic parts for production.
They make parts ready for the race, which could take days and large amounts of money to manufacture with traditional systems, and are ready by 3D printing in a matter of hours, allowing the team to constantly improve their concepts and print spare parts easily.
BMW was one of the first automaker to adopt 3D printing in its assembly line (fittings, positioners and aids to the assembly workers). It has its own "Rapid Manufacturing Facility” at its headquarters in Munich.
All of this is the spearhead of a technology that has been settled in the industry of large automobile manufacturers, with high investments in R+D+i, and it will be slowly coming to all manufacturing processes in any sector of the market.
Welcome to the limitless revolution!
Sources: 3dprintingindustry.com and on-line newspapers.
Translation of articles: 3D LimitLess