A different dimension to pit lane engineering

10th April 2017
Joe Bush

This Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix will see McLaren adopt a slightly different approach to providing parts to its Formula 1 cars. The Woking-based racing team are planning to 3D print parts at trackside, which it believes will give the team an advantage if they need to make last minute changes.

The Stratasys printer can output high grade plastic and carbon fibre parts using designs sent from the UK. Andy Middleton, Stratasys, commented: “They can make a design change relevant for that particular race, whether it be in Shanghai or Bahrain on a Friday, print it overnight, test it on the Saturday and maybe race that on the car on the Saturday.”

3D printing is still a relatively slow process. However, McLaren will have time to adjust the car’s trims, wings and brake cooling ducts to suit local temperatures and other track conditions.

“The important thing for us is the speed that we can react from engineers’ ideas to getting them on the race track,” said Neil Oatley, Design Director, McLaren Racing. “Any facility or capability improvements that we can make allows that to happen quicker. We can bring a part to the race car one or two races earlier, which makes a tremendous difference when you add up all those differences and all those marginal gains through the course of a racing season.”

The partnership between McLaren and Stratasys was forged in January when the two companies signed a four year partnership which saw Stratasys become the official supplier of 3D printing solutions to the McLaren-Honda Formula 1 team.

Speaking at the time, John Cooper, commercial and finance director of McLaren Racing, said: “We’ve already established an extremely close and fruitful relationship with the team at Stratasys, and I’m personally looking forward to expanding that relationship in the future. Stratasys’ expertise in the rapid tooling and manufacturing arena is second to none, and we firmly believe that we can forge a partnership that will prove extremely valuable to both of us.”

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