Ferrari, the most successful F1 team in the history of the sport, is hoping 3D printing technology will be able to provide a major boost for its 2017 engine, specifically the piston.
After boldly stating Ferrari would kick off the 2016 season by winning the first race in Australia, a goal which they failed to achieve, the team has been coy in the build-up to the 2017 campaign. So coy, that Ferrari has codenamed its 2017 car, currently in development, ‘project 668’. The car is set to be unveiled on February 24th, with a filming day and online launch scheduled.
Having not won a Constructors’ Championship since 2008, Ferrari is looking to challenge Mercedes at the top of the Constructors’ Championship standings, after the German company dominated last term. The engine department are currently working on a number of ‘breakthrough’ changes, with combustion tipped to be the main focus. With the revamped Turbulent Jet Ignition System, the chamber is set for a significant increase in pressure. Magneti Marelli’s new micro-injector design will deliver a flame for the ignition that is expected to increase performance and reduce fuel consumption.
Since these changes are likely to put the engine under much more pressure, thus increasing the threat to reliability, Ferrari is having to make alterations to its engine design. Though, the Federation Internationale De L’Automobile (FIA) has placed restrictions on the materials manufacturers can use, Ferrari is set to replace aluminium alloys with heavier steel alloys. The thought behind this move being, the heavier alloys will be able to resist deformation and not break in extreme temperatures.
The production of these new alloys is where Ferrari is expected to utilise 3D printing technology. Building layers one material at a time, 3D printing will allow the engine developers to create more complex shapes. With this greater freedom, the use of steel allows, which in normal casting processes would be unsuitable for the production of an F1 piston, can now be considered because it no longer needs to manufacture full surfaces.