Q&A With Formula One's Patrick Hawtin of Sahara Force India

Rapid Manufacturing Leader at Sahara Force India, Patrick Hawtin, plays a crucial part in the process that delivers upgrades to Formula One cars. With the help of 3D Systems’ stereolithography machines, he helps by turning ideas into parts that are then tested in the team’s wind tunnel.

In essence, what does your position entail?

My position has its challenges, as our department is responsible for scheduling and manufacturing hundreds of components for aerodynamic testing each week. We also manufacture components for the race car and various Research and Development projects - so there is usually a lot going on!

What we do is use 3D Systems' stereolithography machines, which effectively are very big and very accurate 3D printers, to create the parts for the wind tunnel models. This allows our aerodynamicists to test in real life what their calculations predicted.

What are the main challenges of your work?

The production deadlines are always tight, and in order to meet them the department operates around the clock, except on summer shutdown. We respond to demands from other areas of the team, so the day doesn't follow a structured schedule: I have to work to the job, and this means also regular evenings and weekends. They say you can never sleep in Formula One and sometimes that's exactly the case! The good thing is that we've got a good team with two other Rapid Prototyping Engineers on hand to help. With our fleet of rapid prototyping machines from 3D Systems everything gets taken care of quickly and easily.

How long have you been a member of the Sahara Force India Family?

I joined Force India in December 2007 and I have to say that time has flown by! This team is very much a family and whilst we are steadily growing, we are still relatively small compared to the teams around us. You get to know everybody by name which is nice and I think it enables us to be more dynamic - I hope that never changes.

Have you always been passionate about Formula One? How did you end up working in the sport?

Like so many of my colleagues, I grew up watching F1 with my Dad. I also have an uncle that works for one of our rivals, so it is fair to say the sport has always been in the family!

I started life as a Mechanical Engineering Apprentice and during that time I completed my HNC (Higher National Certificate) in Mechanical Engineering and specialized in Stress Analysis and Dynamics. Soon after that, I joined 3D Systems as a Field Service Engineer. I worked on additive manufacturing machines in every industry you can imagine and did a lot of travelling - UK, Europe and America.

Once my children started coming along, my wife told me I needed to knock the travelling on the head and it was at this point I was lucky enough to arrive here at Force India as an SLA Technician. Here has been home since!

What is your favorite Sahara Force India moment?

My favorite single moment has to be our team’s Belgian Grand Prix pole position and subsequent podium finish in 2009. That weekend really got people's attention and put the team on the map. It was the start of the progress that we have been continuing ever since.

And the most challenging part of your work?

The most challenging part of my work is reacting to any last-minute request that may come when the department is already running at full capacity. Deadlines are very tight and every minute is essential, and sometimes this requires a review of the whole production schedule. By liaising with the aerodynamicists, designers and the model shop, we look at where we can fit additional projects and what elements can be rescheduled. Once this is done, we still have to wait for the components to be issued, program them, prepare the build files and then start the builds on the 3D Systems' machines.

And what about the Paddy away from work?

I am always busy at home, I have 3 children under 8-years-old and they find the best ways to keep you busy! I do make a little time for myself though as I do karate once a week. My wife has an addiction to holidays too; to give you an idea, we currently have Croatia, France (skiing), camping in Wales and New York all booked for before the end of 2014. I will get her some counseling!