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3D Printing Gets Checkered Flag

Sept. 1, 2020
IndyCar leverages 3D printing to enhance vehicle design

Lately additive manufacturing seems to find new ways to save the day – most recently fixing an unanticipated issue for IndyCar. Specifically, IndyCar made a change to the rules for the 2020 season, adding an aeroscreen wrap-around cockpit windscreen. The intent of the aeroscreen is to help protect the driver by deflecting any flying debris away from the driver's helmet. However, in doing so it restricted the cooling air from flowing into the cockpit and around the driver's head. This understandably created a grueling condition for its drivers.

Simply put, something had to change. And, the IndyCar team quickly realized only 3D printing could produce an alternative ahead of the Iowa 250s race within a tight one-week timeframe.  IndyCar turned to Stratasys 3D printing technology to develop a new “scoop” to move hot air out of the cockpit.

IndyCarEach scoop took Stratasys about nine hours to print, and in roughly 48 hours, IndyCar had enough scoops for all 24 of its cars just in time for The Iowa 250s doubleheader race, proving once again that when traditional supply chains fail additive has the winning formula to fill the gap.  Fans can also see the scoop in action at the upcoming Indy 500.

Stratasys Senior Strategic Applications Engineer Allen Kreemer tells IndustryWeek, part durability was a pleasant surprise for IndyCar. Stratasys used a common grade ASA material often used for general prototyping and mock-ups. However, it also has very good for ductility and flexibility. “For this environment there is a lot of vibration and aerodynamic loading and full sunlight exposure,” he says. “The resulting part will undoubtedly serve as a countermeasure until they can redesign a more permanent molded solution in carbon fiber during the offseason.”

According to Kreemer, the application ultimately cemented the belief that additive is a viable solution. “Obviously, we can't produce every part on the car but for internal parts, wire and hose guides, ducting or electronics enclosures additive is ideal,” he says. “It is all about using the right tool for the job.”