In motorsport, 3D printing is driving advancement faster than in any other industry. Technologies such as direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) offer innovative solutions for creating strong, lightweight components that can withstand incredible mechanical stress.
With steel, aluminium 3D printing and titanium 3D printing, engineers can improve a vehicle’s weight, aerodynamics and overall performance. Additive manufacturing also results in less material waste, faster prototyping and reduced manufacturing costs.
Read on to discover five key ways in which metal 3D printing has impacted the motorsport industries.
1. Custom Engine Parts
Metal 3D printing techniques such as DMLS have revolutionised engine design in motorsport. They allow for the rapid and cost-effective production of complex parts produced to custom specifications.
Additive manufacturing offers excellent accuracy and precision, enabling production of components that fit seamlessly into tight spaces within a vehicle’s engine. For example, 3D metal printing can be used to create bespoke air and fluid handling components, such as inlet manifolds.
3D printed F1 car parts offer great durability, strength and performance under stress. This contributes to better resistance against wear and tear. Additionally, metal 3D printing can be used to consolidate multiple components into a single piece. This simplifies the assembly process and reduces the risk of part failure, such as leaks.
Auto racing teams often take advantage of the weight-reductive capabilities of 3D metal printing. Lightweighting can significantly improve a vehicle’s handling, acceleration and fuel efficiency.
Using computer-aided design (CAD) software, engineers can create a topologically optimised 3D model. This involves analysing and enhancing a component’s geometry to remove unnecessary material while maintaining its structural integrity.
The design is then brought to life using a computer-controlled 3D printer. This enables the creation of intricate and thin-walled structures, with no risk of human error during the manufacturing process. Engineers can choose from a range of functional, lightweight metal 3D printing materials such as titanium and aluminium.
3. Rapid Prototyping
Rapid prototyping allows motorsport engineers to continually refine and optimise their designs in the pursuit of enhanced performance on the track. The ability to 3D print metal parts means that new components can be manufactured, tested and perfected faster than ever before.
Additive manufacturing technologies build parts layer-by-layer, producing accurate metal prototypes without the need for expensive tooling. The quick turnaround time allows for multiple design iterations to be tested and refined in a shorter time frame. Engineers can therefore optimise designs quickly and efficiently, ultimately leading to better-performing final products.
Metal 3D printed prototypes have excellent mechanical properties. Functional prototypes can be made which replicate perfectly the properties of the final part. Testing can therefore be carried out to simulate performance, e.g. with wind tunnel testing. Furthermore, heat treatment can be used to improve/tailor the properties of both prototypes and end-use printed parts.
4. Improved Aerodynamics
Aerodynamics is a key aspect of vehicle design in motorsport. Responsible for up to 80% of lap time performance, it has an incredible impact on speed, cornering and braking. All exterior surfaces must be precisely streamlined to reduce drag and lift.
Metal 3D printing can be used to create bespoke aerodynamic components, such as air vents and fins, with incredible detail and accuracy. Parts produced with advanced technologies such as high-definition DMLS also boast a high surface quality that ensures minimal air resistance.
Additive manufacturing also dramatically reduces lead times in the production of full-size components and scale-model top-bodies. This allows for accelerated wind tunnel testing, enabling more design iterations to be developed within a strict time frame.
5. Fast, Cost-Effective Tooling
Many vehicle parts are still produced using conventional manufacturing methods, such as casting, moulding and machining. As these components must be custom-built, this requires the creation of specialised tools.
Tooling is rapidly becoming a popular use for metal 3D printing in motorsport. Additive manufacturing technologies make it quick and easy to produce custom jigs, fixtures, dies, moulds and templates. Traditionally, these tools would be machined from metal billets – a time-consuming and expensive process.
Faster tooling means that custom vehicle parts can be produced, tested and modified in record time. 3D printed metal tools are also cheaper to produce, improving the cost-effectiveness of prototyping and low-volume production.
Why Choose LPE for Custom Metal 3D Printing?
At LPE, we have over 30 years of experience producing 3D printed parts for the automotive and motorsport industries. We provide custom direct metal laser sintering in a range of high-performance materials, such as steel, titanium and aluminium. With fast lead times of 5-10 days, our metal 3D printing service is ideal for rapid prototyping and low-volume production.
We pride ourselves on producing high-quality 3D printed parts with excellent accuracy and consistency, and our complete contract manufacturing service and qualification route that we have developed in conjunction with the standards ASTM/ISO F3301 and FF3302. We also offer a range of in-house post-processing services including heat treatment, assembly and advanced surface finishing.
To discuss your next project with our experts, contact LPE today. Alternatively, request a quote here.