McLaren Racing aim for pole with Stratasys’ 3D printing technologies

Ahead of Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix, McLaren Racing has revealed how it is expanding the use of 3D printing as the team bids for glory on the track.

The Surrey-based team, which counts 12 drivers’ championships and eight constructors’ championships among its list of F1 honours, is using 3D printing technologies from Stratasys to accelerate design iterations and to reduce weight in McLaren Honda’s MCL32 race car.

Some of the 3D printed parts designed to improve performance which have been applied to the 2017 race car include a hydraulic line bracket, a flexible radio harness location boot, carbon fibre composite brake cooling ducts, and rear wing flap.

The bracket for the MCL32 race car was produced in four hours compared to an estimated two weeks using traditional manufacturing processes. McLaren Honda 3D printed the structural bracket to attach the hydraulic line using Stratasys Fortus 450mc Production 3D Printer with carbon-fibre reinforced nylon material (FDM Nylon 12CF).

Hydraulic line bracket for the McLaren MCL32 race car
Hydraulic line bracket for the McLaren MCL32 race car

Similarly, a new 2-way communication and data system was recently added to the MCL32 race car but the cable distracted the driver. To overcome this, McLaren used the Stratasys J750 3D printer’s ability to print in flexible materials to produce a rubber-like boot to join the harness wires for the communication system. Three designs were iterated and 3D printed in one day. The final component was printed in two hours and was on March 26, 2017 at the Australian Grad Prix.

Radio harness for the McLaren MCL32 race car
Radio harness for the McLaren MCL32 race car

At the back of the car a large rear wing flap extension designed to increase rear downforce was manufactured in carbon fibre-reinforced composites using a 3D printed lay-up tool produced on the FDM-based Fortus 900mc Production 3D Printer. The team 3D printed the 900mm wide, high temperature (>350°F/177°C) mould in ULTEM 1010 for the autoclave-cured composite structure in three days, which saved the team time in a critical limited testing period.

Neil Oatley, design and development director, McLaren Racing said: “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.

“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.

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

Case study: Carbon Fibre 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 were 3D printed using ST-130 soluble material, developed specifically for the application, and then wrapped with carbon-fibre 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.