Ford is using the latest 3D-printing technology to give itself an edge in motorsports.
The company has been using numerous 3D-printing laboratories to quickly create prototype parts for its street cars, ranging from buttons to knobs and intakes to engine covers. But it’s not just rapid prototyping with 3D-printed parts that is benefiting the American automaker’s production models, the company is using it on its race cars as well. In fact, Ford won the 2015 24 Hours of Daytona with a 3D-printed intake manifold with carbon-fiber plenums on its race car.
This weekend, a Ford EcoBoost-powered race car will hit the track at the Belle Isle Grand Prix and it’ll be using 3D-printed parts, much like the intake manifold used on the Daytona Prototype. According to Ford, computer-aided design mockups are sent to the company’s rapid prototype lab, where they are analyzed and input into one of many 3D printers. In around one week’s time, Ford has a finished product that is ready to be cleaned, painted and used.
Victor Martinez, 3.5-liter EcoBoost race engine engineer, shared that Ford began testing a number of revisions to its intake manifold toward the end of the 2014 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season. During the offseason, the company 3D-printed several intake manifolds and tested them on the dyno and verified performance on the track.
“The prototype manifold exceeded our expectations in testing, so in the essence of time we decided to use it for the race,” said Martinez. “We modified our intake with carbon fiber components, painted it, and then it was ready to go to the track.”
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