3D Printing

3D printed and tested: the 2024 NASCAR Ford Mustang Dark Horse

21st May 2024
Paige West

Stewart-Haas Racing partnered with 3D Systems to determine the best-performing aerodynamic shape for the new 2024 NASCAR Ford Mustang Dark Horse through an innovative approach to testing hundreds of different body panel shapes in a highly efficient way.

3D Systems’  SLA machines and 3D Sprint software in combination with the development process used by the two companies, yield a race car body for the Ford Mustang Dark Horse race car that combines the aesthetics of a 2024 production car with the aerodynamic performance for the Ford team’s race cars to win races and a NASCAR Cup Series championship.

To submit a new race car body shape, the Ford race teams needed to meet specific aerodynamic coefficient specifications as determined by NASCAR. This is ideally achieved during a full-scale, wind tunnel test of the car body being submitted, which can be extremely costly and time-consuming. Stewart-Haas Racing found a more efficient solution that allows them to test dozens of different body panel shapes during each test session by partnering with leading global additive manufacturing firm 3D Systems.

Stewart-Haas Racing CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) analysts designed multiple body panel shape concepts using CAD software to find which shapes will potentially improve the aerodynamics of the car. They created a virtual wind tunnel to test the coefficients of the surface models, leaving the most favourable concepts to be created for testing.

The 3D printing technician orients the CAD models in 3D Systems’ 3D Sprint software to position them the way they need to be printed. The orientation can be adjusted to minimise the printing time, maximise the printing quality and maximise part quantity per build platform. The 3D Systems’ 3D Sprint software is intuitive to use and enables the technician to quickly set up the CAD models to be printed.

The resulting file can then be sent to 3D Systems' ProX 800for fast, accurate printing of the parts in the desired material and the 3D-printed parts can be fastened to the sub-structure of the full-scale car. In this way, the entire car body shape can be defined by these 3D-printed tiles.

As the car is being tested in the wind tunnel, additional 3D-printed tiles may be added or removed from the car to test the various concepts. Each ‘run’ represents a concept being tested, and the resulting aerodynamic coefficients are recorded and analysed – allowing the aerodynamic engineers to optimise the shape of the car’s body, and ultimately achieving the best possible aerodynamic performance.


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