McLaren Racing 3D prints parts for 2017 Formula 1 race car

Hydraulic line bracket for the McLaren MCL32 race car, 3D printed on a Fortus 450 mc FDM-based production 3D printer in the Nylon 12CF material

British Formula 1 (F1) team McLaren Racing is using Stratasys’s 3D printers and printing materials to create final parts for its 2017 F1 MCL32 race car. The objective, as always in the motorsport sector, is to accelerate design modifications and make the car lighter to achieve improved performance.

The companies signed a partnership agreement naming USA-based Stratasys as McLaren Racing’s ‘official supplier of 3D printing solutions’ in January. Under the terms of the agreement, McLaren Racing is supplied with all of Stratasys’s latest fused deposition modeling (FDM) and PolyJet technology-based 3D printers and printing materials.

Amongst the parts that have so far been 3D printed for the MCL32 race car are a hydraulic line bracket, a flexible radio harness location boot, carbon fiber brake composite cooling ducts and a rear wing flap extension.

Hydraulic line bracket
A hydraulic line is responsible for carrying hydraulic fluid to and from hydraulic components, and the hydraulic line bracket is the structural support bracket that attaches to it. Leveraging Stratasys’s FDM technology, McLaren Racing used the Fortus 450 mc production 3D printer to produce a hydraulic line bracket in the carbon fiber reinforced nylon material Nylon 12CF.

The bracket was produced in four hours as oppose to the estimated fortnight it would have taken using traditional technologies.

Flexible radio harness location boot
The cable of a two-way communication and data system recently added to the race car had proved distracting for the driver. Taking advantage of the PolyJet-based Stratasys J750 production 3D printer’s ability to print flexible materials, McLaren Racing crafted a rubber-like boot to join the harness wires of the communication system.

Three designs were iterated and 3D printed in one day and the final part was printed in two hours, allowing for its use in the first Grand Prix race of the 2017 season.

Carbon fiber brake composite cooling ducts
To control break component temperatures efficiently, McLaren Racing 3D printed sacrificial tools for the creation of hollow carbon fiber brake composite cooling ducts. The wash-out cores were 3D printed in an ST-130 soluble sacrificial tooling material developed specifically for the application, then wrapped in carbon-fiber reinforced composite material and autoclave-cured at elevated temperatures.

The final result was a tubular structure with very smooth internal surface finishes to ensure the required airflow to brakes, whilst maintaining excellent aerodynamic and car performance.

Rear wing flap extension
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 produced on the FDM-based Fortus 900mc production 3D printer. McLaren Racing 3D printed the 900 millimeters wide, high-temperature (>177°C/350°F) mold for the autoclave-cured composite structure in the ULTEM 1010 material.

This was achieved in just three days, saving time in a critical limited testing period.

Neil Oatley, design and development director at McLaren Racing, said: ‘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. By expanding the use of Stratasys 3D printing in our manufacturing processes, including producing final car components, composite lay-up and sacrificial tools, cutting jigs and more, we are decreasing our lead times while increasing part complexity.’

Andy Middleton, president of Stratasys EMEA, further commented: ‘We are working closely [with McLaren Racing] to solve their engineering challenges in the workshop, in the wind-tunnel and on the track. We believe that this, in turn, will enable us to develop new materials and applications that bring new efficiencies and capabilities to [them] and other automotive designers and manufacturers.’

To further accelerate design and manufacturing cycles, McLaren Racing plans to bring a Stratasys uPrint SE Plus—a desktop 3D printer that uses FDM technology to produce models and functional prototypes in ABSplus—to track testing and races on-site, enabling the team to produce parts and tooling on demand.

Websites: www.mclaren.com and www.stratasys.com