Lotus F1 Team and Boeing partners on 3D printing carbon

Lotus E223D printing is a process now widespread in Formula 1, for printing prototype parts and models blower. Lotus F1 is no exception to the rule and already has an impressive fleet of high-end 3D printers. Today F1 team proceeds to the next step: print parts to compete in races. Boeing team partner for several years, it brings a new 3D printing technology that will allow Lotus F1 print carbon parts. Will they at Enstone team to fight again for the victory?

3D printing to accelerate the manufacture of composite parts

The mechanical strength of a composite part is a function of the fiber orientation in the material directly. It is a challenge for 3D printing.

The mechanical strength of a composite part is a function of the fiber orientation in the material directly. It is a challenge for 3D printing.

The embodiment of carbon parts is in the stable F1 real science artisans where real position the fibers according to the strength required by the parts. A central positioning in the mechanical strength of the items, the carbon fibers having an anisotropic material, that is, whose resistance varies according to the orientation of the fibers. 
A job that requires a lot of manpower and especially manufacturing delays unacceptable in the world of F1 where you have to test on the track of new parts every weekend of great price. 
The aviation industry also very fond of carbon fiber has different constraints. Production cycles are longer, but automation aspect was much more extensive, including the design of robots to lay the fibers.

Boeing was able to control the orientation of the carbon fibers during 3D printing

Extract from Boeing patent on 3D printing of carbon fiber reinforced materials: fibers are aligned in the desired direction, according to a Gaussian distribution.

Extract from Boeing patent on 3D printing of carbon fiber reinforced materials: fibers are aligned in the desired direction, according to a Gaussian distribution.

As Boeing, Lotus F1 uses Fibersim software from Siemens PLM Software to manufacture its composite parts but the team will also be able to enjoy an advanced powerful partner: 3D printing parts reinforced carbon fiber. The technology has been patented by Boeing. It is based on a 3D laser printing “classic”, the SLS process (Selective Laser System), which prints the part layer by layer. The secret of the method of manufacture that Boeing has developed to produce aircraft parts, is to manage the orientation of the carbon fibers in the polymer. Boeing, by varying the size and diameter of the carbon fibers seem to be able to manage their orientation. Depending on the temperature of the polymer and fiber mixture, its researchers are able to obtain the desired and therefore produce 3D printing pieces that approximate the strength of traditional composite parts orientation.
The Boeing 787 is made of 50% composite materials (against 20% aluminum), but it is not certain that he could benefit from this process, the patent was filed in 2012. The F1 will be a good test bed to see if the items via 3D printing to their promises in terms of performance.

Sources : “Boeing and Lotus Team up to Create Super Strong Carbon Fiber Reinforced 3D Printing Method”, 3DPrint.com, 15 juillet 2014
“Method of reinforcement for addiive manufacturing”, Brevet US 2014/0050921 A1, The Boeing Company, 20 février 2014

[Note : this text is a translation from french made by Google Translate]

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