Automotive is one of the industries that has been adopting additive manufacturing (AM) wholeheartedly. At BMW, for example, what began as a tool for prototyping over 25 years ago is now used regularly to mass manufacture car components. The transition from prototyping to mass manufacturing auto parts could be intimidating, yet in-between the two there are steps that can facilitate the process – such as low-volume production for specific use cases. Within the automotive industry, there is one sector that has been that middle step – sports cars. As products, sports cars require the highest standards in terms of performance and safety and at the same time don’t necessarily need to comply with existing production lines. These aspects make it fruitful ground for developing AM parts, proving and facilitating AM adoption throughout the automotive industry.
Koenigsegg – the Horsepower to Weight Ratio
Koenigsegg, the Swedish car manufacturer, was born with the mission of creating the perfect supercar. The development process of each model includes numerous details, parts, and components that are designed specifically and exclusively with the intention of creating the perfect vehicle. Back in 2014, the company began implementing the use of AM, understanding the part it can play in such a unique development process. Koenigsegg’s One:1 megacar was developed with the objective of becoming the “fastest car in the world”. The company set to achieve that goal by balancing the horsepower to weight ratio, in other words – weight reduction. And what technology is more suited than AM? Some of the car’s components at the time were additively manufactured allowing the company to create light-weight yet high functionality parts such as the turbocharger’s variable turbine housing and the titanium exhaust tip (below).
F1 – Fast Cars Fast Production
Another company that has been using additively manufactured parts for sports cars is Sauber. From working with external AM suppliers in 1995 to currently operating 13 SLS and SLA printers producing AM parts for the Alfa Romeo Formula One (F1). Sauber additively manufactures parts ranging from cooling channels for electronics, Benzing front wings, brake cooling ducts, and more (above). In a production process that encourages innovation, for a car that can cost between 10 to 20 million dollars, AM enables freedom of design in a fast iterative process. Beyond the costs of the car itself, according to Forbes, the leading teams in the Formula One championship spend an average of $285 million a year which include the cost of running the team and developing the car but not the design and production of the engine itself. In this regard, for racing cars, downtime is also a factor to take into consideration, while an F1 car is in maintenance, waiting for replacement parts, it isn’t competing which means money lost. Here the fast pace of AM production has a great advantage. The McLaren Racing team also emphasizes the importance of reacting fast, within the development process and during a race weekend. Design and Development Director Neil Oatley says, “We are consistently modifying and improving our Formula 1 car designs, so the ability to test new designs quickly is critical to making the car lighter and more importantly increasing the number of tangible iterations in improved car performance, if we can bring new developments to the car one race earlier—going from new idea to new part in only a few days—this will be a key factor in making the McLaren MCL32 more competitive.” Following this notion, even the toolkit for the McLaren Speedtail is additively manufactured (by Snap-on), making it 45% lighter than standard titanium (below).
HRE – Reinventing the Wheel
Every component is an opportunity for redesign and weight reduction, even the wheel. The expression “reinventing the wheel” implies redundancy but that doesn’t seem to be the case with HRE’s additively manufactured titanium and carbon fiber wheel. Perhaps the company didn’t entirely reinvent the wheel but they did reinvent its manufacturing process. The company teamed up with GE Additive, using both Direct Metal Laser Melting (DMLM) and Electron Beam Melting (EBM), creating a wheel that consists of a central area and 5 parts (6 in the first version). AM allowed for creating complex and interlaced shapes that would be impossible to create with CNC machining (part above and assembled wheel below). The AM production method resulted in reducing material waste from 80% to 5%. Instead of taking a big block of material and heavily subtracting from it to reach the wheel shape, the additive process uses only the material necessary, with the exception of support structures and post-processing.
Bugatti – Extreme Conditions
With super cars and speed come extreme conditions, the Bugatti additively manufactured brake caliper is, as Frank Götzke, Head of New Technologies at Bugatti said “Proof that additively produced metal components can cope with extreme strength, stiffness and temperature requirements at speeds of over 375 km/h with a braking force of 1.35g and brake disc temperatures up to 1,100°C.” Just watch this video, it says it all (below part assembled, and up top during testing).
These are just a few examples of AM in sports cars, trailblazing a whole industry. We are sure there are many more unpublished sleek and impressive AM applications in sports cars. We’d love to hear of any others you know of. You are also welcome to share your comments, thoughts, impressions, and suggestions below. For more inspiration and information follow us on Pinterest or subscribe to our newsletter for weekly updates.