Additive Manufacturing at Alfa Romeo Sauber
How the Swiss Formula One team is using additive manufacturing (AM) to meet the engineering challenges required by the sport.
Success in Formula One racing demands engineering and manufacturing prowess as much as it requires driving skill. F1 teams produce just a few cars per season (two that can race plus a third disassembled in spare parts), but these vehicles need to be manufactured to the technical regulations put in place by the FIA, the governing body of motorsports.
In addition to general shape and size restrictions, the FIA also places limitations on wind tunnel usage, allowing teams no more than 25 hours of wind-on time per week and the use of only 60 percent scale models. Teams need to produce scale models of their cars and prototype parts for wind tunnel testing, as well as the full-sized final car parts.
Alfa Romeo Sauber, an F1 team based in Switzerland, is using additive manufacturing (AM) to help meet manufacturing requirements and boost the performance of its race cars. When European Correspondent Barbara Schulz visited Sauber headquarters, she discovered that the team 3D prints about 5,000 parts per month for third-party customers as well as its own racing needs. 3D-printing applications include prototypes and fixtures, as well as wind tunnel models and even end-use car parts.
Many of these parts are printed in polymer, but about 1,000 per month are printed in metal. Sauber recently invested in two MetalFab1 systems from Additive Industries powder-bed fusion systems designed for production use. In addition to the core 3D-printing process, each system also integrates heat treatment, build-plate handling and storage. The systems offer the build volume, repeatability and process control that the team needs to manufacture its car parts in house.
3D printing enables Sauber to rapidly iterate part designs, and even to manufacture variations on the same part simultaneously, reducing the lead time that it takes to get parts into the wind tunnel. The technology also allows the team to manufacture racecar parts with designs and features not possible through conventional manufacturing methods, such as a Scalmalloy roll hoop with a lightweight design that keeps the car’s center of gravity low to the ground.
Learn how Sauber has been able to reduce production lead time by more than 20 percent with additive manufacturing in this report.
An engineering modification that would have been impractical or cost-prohibitive in the past is realized on a machine tool performing metal 3D printing and machining in the same cycle.
The widespread outsourcing of large machine castings led a collaborative team at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to tackle the machine tool supply chain. The first step? 3D print the largest cast component.
Is additive manufacturing (AM) ready for production scale? The latest issue of Additive Manufacturing magazine highlights manufacturers who are succeeding with 3D printing for production right now.