Sports Are Incorporating More Additive Manufacturing Processes

The sporting industry is beginning to accept additive manufacturing technology with open arms, especially major manufacturing companies who have money to support the efforts. Check out which sports are incorporating more and more AM into their manufacturing processes. AM is changing sports…

“When NASCAR holds one of its final races of the season at Texas Motor Speedway next weekend, several of the cars will feature components that were made by a 3D printer. The same will be true of next year’s America’s Cup, which will see the debut of the fastest-ever catamaran, the AC75. Printed parts are no longer a hypothetical in sports: they’re making their way onto the fields of play.

Earlier this month, one of the largest 3D printing companies in the U.S., Stratasys, gathered select clients for a meeting at the Dallara IndyCar Factory near Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That lineup included people working on American Magic, the America’s Cup racing boat being built by the New York Yacht Club, and from NASCAR stalwarts Penske and Joe Gibbs Racing. The day’s focus: a discussion about how 3D printing (also called additive manufacturing) can expand beyond a tool for prototyping and into end-products themselves. Companies outside of sports were also in attendance, including Boom Aerospace, which is building a Mach-2.2 supersonic airliner.

While 3D printing is still just a small part of these industries, the technology has evolved to the point where major aerospace and racing companies are incorporating it into their regular manufacturing workflows. Stratasys, for example, offers a package for the certified and standardized production of in-cabin aerospace parts (and recently extended its partnership with Boom for another seven years to print hundreds of parts for the company’s supersonic demonstrator aircraft). One of the benefits, these companies say, is the ability to create custom parts, which enables them to push the boundaries of what’s structurally feasible.

In addition to rapid prototyping and customization, 3D-printed parts are also attractive because they provide industrial strength with potentially lighter materials. A large percentage of the AC75 catamarans, for example, are being built with carbon fiber components, including the two 1,000-pound hydrofoils that lift the boat out of the water, giving the appearance of it skating above the surface, when it reaches high speeds. While the hydrofoils aren’t yet being printed, non-essential parts such as sensor brackets and fixtures are currently being printed with lattice structures for the 2020 America’s Cup, and there’s an opportunity with the continued adoption of 3D-printed nylon carbon fiber to dramatically expand the number of printed parts over time as boats continue to get lighter and faster.

‘We use 3D printing for three things: prototyping, molds for mocking up carbon fiber pieces and fixtures, and then we do have multiple pieces that we take right out of the machine and put directly into the car,” says Mark Bringle, a 24-year veteran of the company who oversees technical marketing and partnerships. “We 3D print the track bar gauge that goes on the dash—the actual housing that holds the electronics. There’s probably about 25 pieces that are put in the car that come off that machine.'”

Grab the full article here to see what other sports are changing because of 3D printing.

Categories: Prototyping