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Scuderia AlphaTauri’s secret to Monza F1 victory? 3D printing

Aerodynamic development reaction time cut by up to 30% with Somos PerFORM Reflect materials from DSM

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A lot of work went into this incredible success for Scuderia AlphaTauri but 3D printing with DSM Somos materials also played a part. Just last month the F1 team reported that it started using Somos PerFORM Reflect AM material to cut production time up to 30 percent, enhancing testing processes and increasing the speed and frequency of aerodynamic improvements. The results are now there for everyone to see after Sunday’s incredible victory by Pierre Gasly. And someone should be taking notes.

“Somos PerFORM Reflect is important to developing Scuderia AlphaTauri F1 cars because it gives us great reaction time,” said Ian Prince, Head of Rapid Prototyping at Scuderia AlphaTauri. “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.”

Aerodynamics is one of the single most important factors in reducing lap time. For F1 teams, testing aerodynamics consumes a large percentage of car development time and resources. It helps increase the 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 help the Scuderia AlphaTauri team regularly earn a top ten place in qualifying and races.

Scuderia AlphaTauri The team conducts aerodynamic tests with a wind tunnel model and Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD). To help understand the airflow, 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 airflow 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.

Joining forces with DSM

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.

“DSM went the extra mile and put a lot of effort into developing a new resin that we could work with,” Prince added. “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.

3D printing in the wind

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.

“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,” Prince said.

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.

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Davide Sher

Since 2002, Davide has built up extensive experience as a technology journalist, market analyst and consultant for the additive manufacturing industry. Born in Milan, Italy, he spent 12 years in the United States, where he completed his studies at SUNY USB. As a journalist covering the tech and videogame industry for over 10 years, he began covering the AM industry in 2013, first as an international journalist and subsequently as a market analyst, focusing on the additive manufacturing industry and relative vertical markets. In 2016 he co-founded London-based VoxelMatters. Today the company publishes the leading news and insights websites and, as well as VoxelMatters Directory, the largest global directory of companies in the additive manufacturing industry.

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