Formula One Team McLaren to Use 3D Printing During a Race

Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia| Courtesy of Steven Tee/McLaren
Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia| Courtesy of Steven Tee/McLaren
Formula One team McLaren Racing is bringing a secret weapon trackside — a 3D printer.

The team hopes that by using a 3D printer on the side of the track, engineers can make modifications to cars faster. McLaren has a partnership with 3D printing company Stratasys, and has expanded that alliance to print “race-ready” parts for its MCL32 car.

McLaren will use a Stratasys uPrint SE Plus to track testing and races on-site, allowing its team to produce parts and tools on demand.

“We are consistently modifying and improving our Formula One 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,” said Neil Oatley, Design and Development Director, McLaren Racing Limited.

Some 3D printed parts have already been applied to the 2017 race car. These include a hydraulic line bracket, a flexible radio harness location boot, carbon fiber composite brake cooling ducts, and a rear wing flap.

F1 Testing Circuit in Barcelona Courtesy Stratasys

“Formula One is one of the world’s best proving grounds for our additive manufacturing solutions,” said Andy Middleton, President, Stratasys EMEA.

The use of 3D printing in sports is hardly widespread, but there have been cases of the new technology being put forward as a better way to produce sports equipment. In October 2015, Nike was granted a patent for 3D-printed shoe technology. Also in 2015, Adidas unveiled a 3D-printed running show midsole, which can be tailored to the needs of an individual foot. The company aims to have customers walk into an Adidas store, run briefly on a treadmill and then buy a 3D-printed running show designed specifically for their feet.