McLaren opens up about 3D printing for the F1 track

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McLaren Honda F1 has already found many beneficial and novel uses for its partnership with 3D printing experts Stratasys

Legendary F1 team McLaren Honda opened its doors to DEVELOP3D to showcase the first developments of its four-year partnership with 3D printing experts Stratasys, and it hasn’t wasted anytime.

A full plethora of Stratasys machines have been installed onsite since the announcement in January, leading to new digital manufacturing workflows for a company that produces over 6,000 components a week onsite.

The team estimates that the design of the current car evolves every 14 minutes throughout the entire season, and with time the crucial factor, new methods of tooling for composites, as well as jigs, fixtures and end-use parts that go straight into the cars are being produced at its Woking HQ.

A selection of what’s been produced in the last few weeks using Stratasys 3D printing technologies


The current MCL32 race car has already been modified directly as a result of the partnership, and is running a selection of parts directly benefitting from both Stratasys’ FDM and Polyjet technologies, including:

Hydraulic Line Bracket

A structural bracket to attach the hydraulic line on the MCL32 race car using a Fortus 450mc 3D Printer with Stratasys’ carbon-fiber reinforced nylon material Nylon 12CF.

The bracket is said to have been produced in just four hours, compared to an estimated two weeks to create using traditional manufacturing processes.

Flexible Radio Harness Location Boot

A new 2-way communication and data system was recently added to the MCL32 race car but the cable proved distracting to the driver.

Taking advantage of the Stratasys J750 3D Printer’s ability to print in flexible materials, McLaren designed and 3D printed a rubber-like boot to join the harness wires for the communication system.

Three different designs were iterated and 3D printed in one day and the final component was 3D printed in just two hours which allowed the comfortable radio harness assembly to be used in the first Grand Prix race of the 2017 season, while also incorporating a tasteful little McLaren logo to the customised part, potentially to stop any of the other teams from nicking it…

Carbon Fiber Composite Brake Cooling Ducts
To efficiently control the brake component temperatures, McLaren Honda 3D printed sacrificial tools to create hollow composite brake cooling ducts.

The wash-out cores, 3D printed using ST-130 soluble material, are clearly one of the standout reasons why McLaren are beaming about the partnership, as it boosts its composites production process massively without the need for time consuming tooling.

Developed specifically for the application, and then wrapped with carbon-fiber reinforced composite material and autoclave-cured at elevated temperatures. The final result is a tubular structure with very smooth internal surface finishes to ensure the required airflow to brakes, whilst maintaining maximum aerodynamic and car performance.

Rear Wing Flap

Flaps, fins and edges are a constantly evolving quirk of the F1 car, with each one changing to suit track and even weather conditions as the teams look to shave off hundredths of a second off their lap times.

A large rear wing flap extension designed to increase rear downforce was manufactured in carbon fiber-reinforced composites using a 3D printed lay-up tool was produced on the FDM-based Fortus 900mc 3D Printer.

The team 3D printed the 900mm wide, high temperature (177°C) mold in ULTEM 1010 for the autoclave-cured composite structure in just three days, saving time in a critical limited testing period.

To further accelerate design and manufacturing cycles, McLaren Honda will be lugging a Stratasys uPrint SE Plus to track testing and races on-site, enabling the team to produce parts and tooling on demand from the pit garage.

Although we immediately called this as a marketing gimmick, our engineer guides happily produced parts that they had been working on – small aero fins and tips – to potentially give the car an edge in changing conditions.

“We are consistently modifying and improving our Formula 1 car designs, so the ability to test new designs quickly is critical to making the car lighter and more importantly increasing the number of tangible iterations in improved car performance,” said Neil Oatley, design and development director, McLaren Racing.

“If we can bring new developments to the car one race earlier – going from new idea to new part in only a few days – this will be a key factor in making the McLaren MCL32 more competitive.”

We’ll be bringing you a full feature from the McLaren race HQ soon in DEVELOP3D Magazine.

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