Unexploited Potential in Formula One Composite Manufacturing | World of Composites

The Formula One midfield team is working hard to close the gap and keep it in line with its more resourceful leading opponents. Can Industry 4.0 composite material manufacturing automation play a role in fair competition? #Composites4_0 #weaving #outofautoclave
Formula One (F1) is generally considered to be the pinnacle of racing. The world’s best racers will drive the most advanced single-seater, open-cockpit racing cars ever. But in recent years, this final fusion of man and machine has not provided a similar ultimate racing scene. If anything, F1 has become a two-tiered race. Only six cars made by Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes (known as the “Big Three”) are fighting in the forefront. Their huge performance advantages make the remaining seven cars. The team has little hope of winning. A game, let alone a world championship.
This advantage makes chasers endless. Is it the management of the Big Three? Recruitment? driver? Their design philosophy? Although all these factors are undoubtedly influential, what distinguishes Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull is that they are able to continuously improve and upgrade the aerodynamic performance of their cars throughout the season, which is faster than others. Anyone wants to be fast.
The performance of F1 cars is determined by grip, quality, power/energy and aerodynamics. Among them, the improvement in aerodynamics provides the smallest performance improvement: a 10% improvement in aerodynamics is equivalent to an average lap speed increase of only 0.9 seconds, and an equivalent improvement in grip, for example, provides a 3 second lap speed advantage. Since Lotus introduced its first original rear wing in 1968, aerodynamics has always been the difference between success and failure. Frankly speaking, the faster the team can iterate the aerodynamics package, the faster the car will travel. Given that 80% of the F1 car’s volume is made of composite materials, rapid iteration depends on extremely short composite material manufacturing lead times.
In the entire F1 paddock, the processes involved from the composite concept to the assembly of the concept to the car have been optimized to maximize one parameter: performance. Maintainability, cost and durability are secondary considerations. “Many of our designs stem from our unremitting pursuit of improving aerodynamic performance,” explained a member of the British-based McLaren Racing Team. “We must work closely with aerodynamics experts in the concept phase to ensure that we meet weight budgets, reliability targets and very short manufacturing lead times while providing them with as much design freedom as possible.”
A set of advanced software can assist aerodynamicists in stress analysis (including linear and non-linear finite element analysis), structural optimization and collision analysis, as well as a complete 3D CAD software for modeling aerodynamic surfaces and parts .
After that, if time and regulations permit, 60% of the scaled parts can be manufactured for wind tunnel testing. In terms of cost and delivery time, high-volume manufacturing technologies such as resin transfer molding (RTM) are simply not feasible, so most F1 composite components are manufactured using the latest technology in prepreg carbon fiber materials of.
McLaren stocks a variety of prepregs, which are made of different fibers, fabric patterns and resins, and can be stored in the freezer for 12 months or more. The McLaren team pointed out: “We usually solidify carbon fiber mold prepregs into mold block patterns, rapid prototyping materials or machined and polished aluminum to make molds.” “The choice depends on the size of the component, whether it’s an open mold or Closing the mold, the required precision and the time available to us.” The placement of parts is still done manually, supplemented by layer nesting and template software that guides the laser layer placement system. The parts are then cured in one of several autoclaves at the McLaren Technology Center in Woking, UK. If the performance of 60% of the parts meets expectations, the same process will be used to manufacture full-size parts for field testing on real cars.
Mark Preston (Mark Preston), previously played for Arrows F1, McLaren Racing and Super Aguri F1, is now the current team leader of the winning Techeetah Formula E racing team. He revealed that since his first entry into F1, the manufacturing process has not changed significantly, although some of them are more efficient. “Over the years, processes have accelerated and cycle times have been shortened a lot, mainly due to improvements in capacity and software.”
One element that has changed is the use of 3D printing. In 2017, the McLaren team used Stratasys (Eden Prairie, Minnesota, U.S.)’s uPrint SE Plus 3D printer to use track-side 3D printing technology in F1. Make minor changes to the area. Body.
Since then, the team has extensively used 3D printing for manufacturing, prototyping and composite tools along the track and in the factory. The McLaren Technology Center has a suite dedicated to Stratasys 3D printing solutions, the solution has filament deposition modeling (FDM) and PolyJet functions, including Stratasys production series of 3D printers and other 3D design series printer.
It is no surprise that all competitors have followed suit since then. McLaren engineer said: “3D printing greatly reduces the lead time of manufactured parts and speeds up the development cycle-much faster than producing all the related processing tools to the same point.” “In one example, we were able to A full-size, FDM-printed rear flap mold was produced in record time, thus forming a test rear flap. This was done to find the right direction to balance the air load and reduce drag.”
It seems that 3D printing provides an ideal solution for Formula One. Parts can be produced on demand, but the time required is only a fraction of the time required to manufacture composite materials. Unfortunately, the materials are limited to laser-sintered nylon and high-performance polymers, such as polyether ether ketone (PEEK) and polyether ketone ketone (PEKK), which are not suitable for components that must withstand large loads. Moreover, not all tools used for composite parts can be 3D printed quickly, because the final material and dimensional characteristics of the final part are usually different.
As a result, most F1 components still follow the same manual manufacturing process. “Most F1 parts are still handmade,” Preston confirmed. “I can think of only a few things that are done in an automated way.” However, the new Industry 4.0 composite manufacturing automation technology not only has the potential to accelerate the production of F1 parts, but it can also make the playing field fair.
For example, Cevotec GmbH (Munich, Germany) has developed a fiber patch placement (FPP) solution for the automated production of complex composite parts. Additive technology won the 2019 “Future Process” award in the “Future Industry Challenge” and the JEC Innovation Award in 2018.
The laminate designed by Patch Artist, the robot programming on Motion Artist, the use of Artist Studio CAD/CAM suite to complete virtual product development. Source | Cevotec
FPP technology uses a software called ARTIST Studio, which automates the production process from the lamination design stage to simulation and programming. In ARTIST Studio, a module called “Patch Artist” allows engineers to precisely define where to place composite patches so that they can adjust the patch direction according to the requirements of each part. Then, the internal algorithm will optimize the placement position to maximize the mechanical performance of the part. Next, a second module called Motion Artist simulates the manufacturing process and creates machine programs to optimize the patch sequence and the movement of the robot that puts the patch in place.
The repair is done through one of Cevotec’s SAMBA series production systems. After the composite tape is used for feeding, SAMBA will automatically cut the tape into patches and check the quality of the patches. Its pick and place robot (using the flexible patch holder to produce up to six axes to avoid overlapping effects), then picks up the patch, checks its position, and finally places the patch on the 3D pre-forming tool.
Currently, the company mainly serves the aerospace industry. However, Christian Fleischfresser, Cevotec business development manager, stated that motorsport has a range of potential applications, including the manufacture of carbon fiber hoods, roofs, spoilers, front wings, front and rear wings, air intakes and tailor-made reinforcements. .
Fleischfresser outlined why he thinks FPP can become a democratizing technology in motorsports, especially F1. He said: “The current situation is manual small-batch production of small-batch products involving highly skilled labor.” “These highly skilled workers migrate between teams and where they go to make money. This is a problem for many teams.” Cancel The manual handling of many types of parts will greatly help increase the level of competition in F1. “Let’s see if this technology can be used in the racing industry.”
The goal of Plyable Ltd. (Oxford, UK) is also to establish a level playing field, but from another perspective. Cevotec focuses on the composite manufacturing process, while Plyable solves the problem of inefficiency in parts procurement and supply chain.
The top team has employees and resources to manufacture almost all composite components in-house. For example, the McLaren team (McLaren) ranked fourth in the 2019 F1 Team Championship, and its outsourced composite production is very small. The McLaren engineer explained: “We have approximately 130 people working on composite parts at any time, including in clean rooms, decoration and assembly, prototype workshops and mechanical workshops.” “We try to make as much manufacturing as possible internally. , But when the work flow is busy, especially in autumn and winter, when we design and manufacture new cars and run and develop “old” cars, some work needs to be outsourced.”
Laminator technicians use tools when working in narrow areas with small aluminum molds. Source | Haas
In the wild, the situation is quite different. The team cuts internal costs by designing components internally, but should outsource as many products as possible to suppliers. The Haas Ferrari F1 team (Kannapolis, North Carolina, USA) finished 9th in the 2019 Constructors Championship, taking this cost-saving measure to the extreme and outsourcing all products. “We don’t actually produce composite parts in-house; most of them are outsourced to Fibreworks Composites (Mooresville, North Carolina, USA) and Dallara Compositi (Stradella, Italy),” team leader Guenther Steiner said. “I’m pretty sure that at peak times, we have 200 people around the world working on our components.”
The result of this resource difference is that the “owner” can efficiently and quickly iterate component design by managing their 24/7 internal facilities and labor to efficiently produce parts, while the “owner” needs to traverse all stages. Communicate with multiple suppliers before designing, manufacturing and delivering molds and finally producing parts.
Plyable’s solution is the mold design automation technology and the online mold manufacturing market. Essentially, this is the first time that mold design and manufacturing have been brought to a roof, so that pricing and ordering can be done immediately, and delivery can be fast. “The time between the engineer completing the design and the time the manufactured part falls on the car is an inefficient Plyable address,” explained Adam England, Plyable’s chief operating officer, a former compound technician for the Formula 1 Renault Sport Racing Team. “If this can be optimized, the time from the drawing board to the car and the time required to make the car go faster can be shortened.”
Tech’s screenshot-computer vision combined with stochastic gradient descent to optimize the pulling direction. Source | Flexible
The customer uploads the design to Plyable’s secure online platform, selects the required material and mold surface treatment, and then obtains an instant price based on the complexity and material of the mold. Plyable then designs the mold and sends it to one of hundreds of manufacturing suppliers around the world, and then sends it directly to the customer. The solution sounds simple, but in fact, machine learning algorithms can automate many time-consuming manual mold design tasks. These include draft analysis, dividing line creation, and determining the direction of unundercut pulling of complex components.
By maximizing the utilization of the machine and minimizing unnecessary human-human interaction, the final Plyable process can not only save up to 20% of the upfront cost, but also reduce the mold design and manufacturing process time from several weeks Shortened to an average of three days. England said: “For a team, we provided the tools in less than 24 hours.” “Twenty hours after uploading the files, they have a portion.”
What Cevotec and Plyable have shown is that if Formula One is willing to accept Industry 4.0 automation technology, the benefits found in the way of manufacturing composite components will far exceed the marginal benefits. However, the most important thing is that these technologies do not require large investments in infrastructure or labor. Therefore, designers with scarce funds can iterate at the same speed as the Big Three, and it is possible to restore Formula One to The ultimate racing glasses with a long history.
In a previous life, Ben Skuse was an academic and received a PhD in Applied Mathematics and a Master of Science in Science Communication. He is now a professional freelance science and technology writer. His works have appeared in “New Scientist”, “Sky and Telescope”, “Night Magazine”, BBC Sky Magazine, “Physical World” and other magazines.
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Post time: Feb-21-2021
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