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Utilizing 3D printing in Formula 1 parts production
How Dash CAE slashed lead times by 83% with Stratasys additive manufacturing
When faced with the challenge of producing vehicle components that could endure functional tests in harsh environments, Dash CAE turned to Stratasys 3D printing in a bid to cut lead time and utilize the tough FDM 3D printing materials; cutting prototyping, tooling and end-use part lead times by 83%. Dash CAE is also 3D printing parts that can be used directly on vehicles, including a 3D printed diffuser floor in Black ABSplus for Tesla.
When it comes to automotive manufacturing in the UK, Dash CAE has quickly established itself as a leading supplier of parts for high-end vehicles to leading OEMs. Established in 2006, the Oxford-based manufacturer built its trade by outsourcing its requirements to a service bureau. However, with clients demanding shorter lead times and the costs of outsourcing growing, Dash CAE decided to invest in its own additive manufacturing technology.
Today, the company’s 3D printers are working round the clock to deliver fully functional parts for its Formula 1 customers, as well as support the direct manufacturing of tools for its ever-growing OEM client-base – including household names such as Jaguar and Renault. Applications include the 3D printing of molds for carbon prepregs, as well as the production of drill and bonding jigs.
The company’s decision on which additive manufacturing technology to invest in was very much dependent on the technology’s capability to produce vehicle components that could be functionally tested in harsh environments.
After initially experimenting with SLS technology, the company turned to Stratasys UK reseller, Laser Lines, to sample a number of parts using FDM 3D printing technology for a range of prototyping applications, including composite panels, turbo induction systems and wind tunnel models for Formula 1. With a wide spectrum of tough FDM 3D printing materials at their disposal, the design team spent several years producing real engineering plastic parts that could endure a number of safety and functional tests. Subsequently, Dash CAE invested in a Fortus 400mc 3D Production System from Stratasys.
“We have used FDM 3D printing technology for almost as long as the company has been established,” explains Tim Robathan, design director at Dash CAE. “With the superior strength characteristics from the PC materials and ULTEM 9085s, we’re able to produce large motorsport parts for our customers, including the chassis, suspension and bodywork panels, which are used for complete functional aerodynamic testing.”
“Our primary interest for the Fortus System was to develop processes for molding carbon fiber parts and I believe, as a result, we have pioneered tooling for composite parts – both for direct and lost tooling,” says Robathan.
With its tooling business growing rapidly and an increasing requirement for high performance end-use parts, Dash CAE decided to invest in an additional FDM Production System from Stratasys, the Fortus 250mc.
Robathan explains: “The manufacturing capabilities enabled by both of our Fortus 3D Production systems allow us to produce tools for low volume parts significantly quicker than any other manufacturing process, at a fraction of the cost. This enables us to produce parts for our customers in the final material and test them rigorously on the track.
“We’re also 3D printing parts that can be used directly on vehicles. We recently 3D printed a diffuser floor in Black ABSplus for Tesla – the same diffuser floor is practically brand-new even after a year’s use.”
Robathan concludes: “Since bringing 3D printing in-house, we have seen a huge reduction in our lead times of around 83% for the production of parts and tools. As you can imagine in industries such as Formula 1, being able to deliver parts at the drop of a hat is what makes or breaks us.
“In fact, since installing both systems, I estimate that they have been off for no more than 5% of the day – this clearly demonstrates how instrumental the technology is to our workflow and compliments our design office by offering one-stop solutions for our customers.”
Andy Middleton, Stratasys senior vice president and general manager EMEA adds: “We are seeing the likes of Dash CAE and many more of our automotive customers benefit from the real engineering materials produced using FDM. In particular, the PC material’s high tensile strength and the ULTEM 9085’s well-vetted high-performance thermoplastic, are becoming the household choice for the direct manufacturing of production tools and fully-functional end-use parts.”