NASCAR continues to advance its technological advancement, revealing that 3D printed production parts are used in the entire fleet of Next Gen racecars.
This Next-Gen car, introduced on the Cup series this season following many years of development and testing, features modern improvements like automatic transmission with six speeds, independent rear suspension, and an axle transaxle. One of the essential modifications to reduce cost is using common parts that are single-sourced by suppliers. In addition, one of those parts is now being made for the very first time in sports by using 3D printing technology.
NASCAR was granted an additional time to try out their Next-Gen car when the debut was delayed because of Covid. The drivers were complaining about the heat in the cockpit. NASCAR took action by creating an air duct inside the windshield of the front.
NASCAR created a vent and joined forces with Stratasys SSYS, an American-Israeli maker of 3D printers and three-dimensional production equipment. The new windshield vents are 3D-printed using the Stratasys H350 3D printing. The first 3D printed production components are widely used on a NASCAR racecar.
Stratasys is a division of Stratasys that has two: one of which produces 3D printers and other materials and a printing department that manufactures components. NASCAR has used and purchased Printing machines from Stratasys previously however. They aren’t able to create parts at the manufacturing scale required to provide the racecars of Next Gen racecars.
Stratasys Direct, named an NASCAR competitor partner, utilizes the fusion of a plastic powder bed process to create precisely the suitable component to complete the race.
“There is no alternative to it than 3D printing,” explained Pat Carey, vice president of strategic growth at Stratasys. “You could not mold it, and you can’t make it cast and you couldn’t even machine it since it’s a distinctive design.
“3D printing lets you create complex parts that you could not create in another way. This is unique in these components we’re creating and the vents. The way the tubes bend, and the rest, you could not do it in differently.”
Printing 3D-printed parts to race cars of all kinds is a new concept in NASCAR 3D printing technology is used in the race for more than two decades. Joe Gibbs Racing began using the Stratasys 3D printers in the year 1818 to print components and tools used to control the flow of air or for steering. Nowadays, many teams own 3D printers and are doing the same.
“If you’re involved in the sport, you’ll notice quite a few teams that people who follow the leaders,” said Mark Bringle, the marketing and technical director of Joe Gibbs Racing. “So who’s keeping the best quality of performance? All teams are focusing on how they do it.”
It’s parts for cars, tools, anything that helps you get faster at the race track. The more quickly an innovative tool or component can be delivered to the vehicle, the more efficient it is. 3D printing can help teams like JGR accomplish precisely that.
“With us, it’s about manufacturing. We can take the design of our engineering group and then put it onto a vehicle within a matter of days, on behalf of the traditional weeks and months,” Bringle said. “In sports like ours, the faster you get it done, the more quickly you will gain an edge in competition every weekend.”
Printing 3D and having the capacity to deliver parts to the track quickly is one of the reasons of the reason JGR has grown into one of the top teams in the race. In 2019, JGR won 19 races and the NASCAR Cup Series championship.
“That was our best year,” Bringle said. “We discovered some things that took other teams a long time to understand. The 3D printing process, in my opinion, is that you can develop your product faster because we have our engineers, manufacturing, and manufacturing are all under the same unit here.”
The fact that it is house-based has been a massive help in helping JGR maintain its competitive edge.
“So first, the designs you create and your products remain exclusive,” Bringle said. “Second, most importantly, you can walk from our engineering team down to the printers, and you can get an item in hours versus working with an outside supplier. It could take days to enter the queue and move to a quote. It is here has been extremely helpful to have the development time moved ahead much faster than any other traditional outsourcer (company).
“One example is when we were able to go through a piece of equipment of the steering zone. It was comprised of five operations in a traditional mill. We were able to print out each of them daily, which means we could get the job completed in five days, compared to the five-week timeframe.”
However, with the standard components from sole suppliers, the Next-Gen car puts all teams on the same field. The old car teams had a wide range within which they could push. Larger groups with better engineering, resources, and others could locate areas in the car that could gain that speed.
However, now NASCAR is in charge of the components given to teams, including new 3D-printed parts. This is what the NASCAR Research and Development team created and printed with a Stratasys Fortus 3D printer and an underside NACA pipe for cooling the automobiles. The duct was displayed to the world unintentionally during the race last weekend at Charlotte the moment Chris Buescher’s Ford was flipped.
There will be more 3D printed components soon. The teams have an envelope to stretch at the moment, but it’s a bit smaller.
“We’ve been able to go from a 100 manufacturing percentage,” Bringle said. “They’ve reduced it to around 30 percent. Many of the components in the 30percent range are 3D printed parts that are still able to use in the vehicle. Between 25 and 30 parts are made right off the machines and are shipped directly to the car, which we’re still manufacturing here.”
Although technology has evolved and developed, one thing is precisely the same. The speed at the track starts at the shop. Even that expression has become.
“We refer to it as the concept for the car,” Bringle said. “As quick as you can convert that concept into the car, the more efficient you’ll be.”