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How Hexagon gives Red Bull Formula One its cutting-edge

Collaborating for the past 18 years to save thousandths of a second on the track

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In high-speed, high-performance industries like Formula One racing, the adoption of cutting-edge digital manufacturing technologies, such as 3D scanning and printing, is rapidly transforming the landscape. The appeal of 3D printing in Formula One largely mirrors that within the aerospace industry, focusing on lightweighting, part consolidation, and overall performance enhancement.

The Oracle Red Bull Racing team, in collaboration with Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence, is at the forefront of utilizing these advanced technologies. VoxelMatters recently had the privilege of visiting Red Bull’s Innovation Center in Milton Keynes, UK, to witness firsthand how these two companies collaborate to stay ahead in the fiercely competitive world of motorsports.

Credit: Oracle Red Bull Racing.

The center is a hive of activity, driven by a relentless pursuit of innovation. The partnership between Red Bull and Hexagon is centered on accelerating engineering and manufacturing processes – in an attempt to save fractions of a second of lap time. Every Formula One team uses technology from Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence, in one way or another. However, Red Bull is the company’s only innovation partner.

Hexagon is truly an enormous company. It is involved in more than 350,000 construction sites worldwide, and its solutions contribute to 3.5 million agriculture vehicles, 90% of all airplanes, 95% of all commercial vehicles, and 75% of all smartphones. Having invested $800 million in R&D at a group level, it has seen a fivefold return on this investment to date. With 27,000 active customers in EMEA, Hexagon leverages digital technologies to understand and improve real-world applications – encompassing design, production, and quality inspection.

How Hexagon gives Red Bull Formula One its cutting-edge - collaborating for the past 18 years to save thousandths of a second on the track.
Credit: Oracle Red Bull Racing.

Red Bull X Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence

Red Bull’s 18-year partnership with Hexagon has seen the team adopt and test new technologies, with Red Bull often serving as a beta testing partner for unreleased technology – giving them a significant edge by allowing them to integrate the latest advancements into their development process well ahead of the competition. One of the standout achievements of this partnership is the 50% reduction in manufacturing faults over the past two years. For Red Bull, maintaining a balance between speed and quality is an absolute necessity – made possible thanks to these innovations.

The ultimate goal for Red Bull is to maximize performance – a mission that aligns perfectly with Hexagon’s expertise in optimizing manufacturing productivity and reducing R&D time and costs. This synergy has contributed significantly to Red Bull’s recent success, with the team winning the last three F1 championships. The relationship has also spurred Hexagon to develop niche technologies tailored to the team’s needs – fostering a dynamic feedback loop that benefits both parties.

How Hexagon gives Red Bull Formula One its cutting-edge - collaborating for the past 18 years to save thousandths of a second on the track.
Credit: Oracle Red Bull Racing.

Digital twins and simulations

One particularly interesting aspect of Red Bull’s approach is the team’s use of digital twins and simulations. These technologies allow the team to create virtual models of their cars and test them under various conditions before physical prototypes are built. The entire car is designed in CAD and undergoes computational fluid dynamics analysis, which acts as a virtual wind tunnel. This is followed by simulator testing, where the car’s performance is accurately mimicked on specific tracks around the world – incorporating feedback to iterate and refine designs continuously.

After evaluating the digital twins, physical prototypes for wind tunnel testing are 3D printed using stereolithography, at 60% scale – an approach that is both cost-effective and expedites the development process significantly. The part properties are then assessed at the company’s Bedford facility – a site with historical significance as the former testing ground for the Concorde supersonic airliner.

Earlier this year, Red Bull also utilized a 3D printed drone from Dutch Drone Gods, a drone manufacturer in the Netherlands, that is capable of reaching speeds up to 350km/h, to follow Max Verstappen’s then-brand-new Red Bull Racing RB20 F1 car for a full lap of Silverstone’s Grand Prix Circuit.

How Hexagon gives Red Bull Formula One its cutting-edge - collaborating for the past 18 years to save thousandths of a second on the track.
Credit: Oracle Red Bull Racing.

Adapting to change

The Red Bull team’s ability to adapt to different environmental conditions, such as varying air densities in Mexico versus Spain, exemplifies their commitment to optimizing every aspect of performance. This adaptability extends to their meticulous approach to component lifecycle management, with a two-week cycle for every component they manufacture.

The integration of AI into the team’s development and design processes is another exciting development, with AI acting as a co-pilot in manufacturing – aiding collaborative workflows and enhancing decision-making efficiency. This has profound implications for the future of automotive design and production. As Formula One continues to serve as a laboratory for innovation, the insights gained through partnerships such as these are poised to influence the broader automotive industry – translating race-track advancements into real-world applications.

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