At the Bahrain Grand Prix last month, McLaren added a new piece of kit to their trackside team. Needless to say, they were disappointed with the result. Fernando Alonso being their highest finishing driver in 14th place, this was the first time a team brought along a portable 3D printer to an event. The printer helped to produce modified small plastic parts that were used in McLaren’s qualifying rounds.
This isn’t the first time McLaren have been involved with 3D printers. Stratasys has been supplying them with machines for roughly 6 years which has been evident from the printed parts on the McLaren MCL32 including a hydraulic line bracket and a harness location boot. The use of 3D printing in Formula One could be significantly beneficial to those who use it. Although the parts may not be as strong as certain metals they are more lightweight potential taking seconds off the driver’s time.
Neil Oately (director of design and development at McLaren Racing) knows there are benefits to using 3D printing saying “The time from idea to race racetrack is so important to us, as all the F1 teams are trying to do things as quickly as possible,”. However, he does realise it’s limits acknowledging that “for now it was not suitable for the pieces to be exposed to high aerodynamic forces”.
Formula One isn’t the only sport that has introduced the wonders of 3D printing to their products. Brands like Nike who produced a 3D printed sports bag for players at the 2014 World Cup with a printed mesh covering and Adidas who has launched the Futurecraft 4D footwear project which consists of a 3D printed sole for a running shoe designed to give the ultimate running experience.
However, sport isn’t the only place where 3D printing is being used. Recently medicine has been 3D printed to treat people who suffer from seizures caused by epilepsy. The process has also been used elsewhere with NASA looking at printing food for astronauts. With 3D printing being used in an increasing number of industries it’s no surprise it will be worth 30.19 Billion USD by 2022. In the next decade, it would be interesting to see how far 3D printing will go and whether we will be using it on a day-to-day basis.