Blog contributed by Formula 1 Team
The world of Formula One is one of dedication, passion and high-octane excitement: the action on the track is the stuff of legends. But Formula One is also considered, and rightly so, the pinnacle of technology: it’s a world in which the most minute changes and innovations can mean the difference between victory and defeat. Whether you are chasing an opponent or the clock, every ounce of performance is vital.
Nowadays, the lion’s share of a car’s performance is given by aerodynamics: balancing the car to ensure the air flows in the intended way. This is the central part of the work of every designer as he or she strives for the ultimate solution that will bring the reward of hundredths, or even tenths, of a second.
3D printing plays a huge role in this aerodynamic push to the extreme, and the partnership that Sahara Force India established with 3D Systems allows us to enter this field alongside the leaders in the sector.
The iPro 9000 and SLA 5000 machines are kept running day and night at our wind tunnel facilities, where the most innovative updates are tested and refined before being produced for the car. This process is particularly intensive in the pre-season: in the frantic weeks between the completion of the base designs and the first test, thousands of variations of different parts are created – a procedure that would never be possible without the aid of 3D Systems.
3D printing is cost effective and, most importantly for Formula One teams, time effective: when you only have a handful of days between the end of a race and the departure for the next round, it is crucial to have an immediate response – something producing pieces with 3D System machines allows.
Before these technologies were created, teams used to rely on carbon modelling – the same process used to create pieces for the full sized car, but applied to the scaled wind tunnel model: to give an idea of the incredible requirements of this, one single carbon fibre brake duct – one of the thousands of different parts that make up a Formula One car – would take up to a week to create. 3D printing allows us to create 50 pairs in three days: this difference means we can create whole ranges of variations of any part and test them on the wind tunnel model almost immediately.
In the run up to the Australian Grand Prix, the first race of the season, countless parts were created and tested this way. This helped the designers perfect their ideas before even a hand was laid on the 2013 car; it allowed us to plan vital corrections once the pre-season tests gave us the first real, on-track feedback; and, eventually, enabled the team to keep pushing on the upgrades that are constantly devised for our racer, the VJM06.
In the next few months, we will explore the way 3D Systems and its machines help us prepare for specific races and how their contribution is crucial to keeping us at the sharp end of the Formula One grid. As we prepare for the European leg of the Championship after these first four races – a moment when most teams bring in their first upgrades of the season – the rewards of this partnership are ready to be taken.