Scuderia AlphaTauri cuts F1 aerodynamic development reaction time by up to 30% with additive manufacturing
“Somos® PerFORM Reflect is important to developing Scuderia AlphaTauri F1 cars because it gives us great reaction time. After each development loop in the wind tunnel we analyze the results, design and make improved parts. The quicker we make this process, the more performance we can find. The material produces a good-quality model for testing because it’s stiff, reliable and makes production much faster.”
- Ian Prince, Head of Rapid Prototyping, Scuderia AlphaTauri
Aerodynamics is one of the single most important factors in reducing lap time. For F1 teams, testing aerodynamics consumes a large percent of car development time and resources. It helps increase downforce for better handling and reduces drag to increase speed. The aerodynamics are also carefully developed to optimize air to cool the engine and brakes. Fine-tuning aerodynamic surfaces helps the Scuderia AlphaTauri team regularly earn a top ten place in qualifying and races.
The team conducts aerodynamic tests with a wind tunnel model and Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD). To help understand the air flow, particle imaging velocimetry (PIV) is used. With high speed cameras and a laser light sheet, millions of particles carried in the air can be photographed in very short time bursts. These images are analyzed to show what the air flow fields look like. This aids a better understanding of aerodynamics which enables more efficient design to help improve race performance.
Scuderia AlphaTauri uses additive manufacturing to make parts for its wind tunnel models and is challenged to improve production processes. Most 3D printed materials do not absorb laser light well and need extra finishing, like coatings, which increases preparation time. Because PIV testing involves a laser, models must be painted in light-absorbing colors - typically orange since it minimizes light distortion. Scuderia AlphaTauri approached its additive manufacturing materials partner, DSM, for a solution.
Developing a Solution
Scuderia AlphaTauri and DSM jointly investigated the interplay of process, materials and technology. This resulted in DSM developing a new material, Somos® PerFORM Reflect, that is transforming fluid dynamic testing, specifically PIV. Orange in color, the stereolithography material has low viscosity and low settling for producing stiff, high-temperature resistant parts ideal for wind tunnel models and PIV testing.
Ian Prince, Head of Rapid Prototyping at Scuderia AlphaTauri, says, “DSM went the extra mile and put a lot of effort into developing a new resin that we could work with. DSM also teamed up with Scuderia AlphaTauri and wind tunnel equipment manufacturer TSI Inc. to select the best testing equipment. The team at DSM thinks very much ‘out of the box’ and is always willing to push the boundaries to find a solution that works.”
As well as automotive, Somos® PerFORM Reflect can be utilized in other industries including aerospace, marine, healthcare and sports and leisure where fluid dynamic testing is essential.
Saving Time and Cost
Somos® PerFORM Reflect is helping Scuderia AlphaTauri transform the way it tests and develops F1 cars. Use of the new material cuts part production time by up to 30 percent, enhances PIV testing and allows the team to apply aerodynamic improvements quickly. Now Scuderia AlphaTauri uses Somos® PerFORM Reflect for most of its wind tunnel testing.
Prince says, “Somos® PerFORM Reflect helped us to change our development strategy to improve the car throughout the year because we can test and validate in the wind tunnel much faster and more efficiently than before.”
Due to its color and improved formulation, Somos® PerFORM Reflect removes the need to paint parts and requires less post-production finishing. It also prints complex and detailed parts up to ten percent faster than other materials. Substances in the material help to minimize reflection of the laser light sheet which increases the quality of the PIV results.
Although some manufacturers still use light-absorbing paints, the finish quality of Somos® PerFORM Reflect delivers a significant cut in production time compared to many other materials.