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F1 in Schools takes advantage of Plastic AM

winchester-colleges-car-1362061274   winchester-colleges-team-1362061294

The Brief:
“F1 in Schools” is an international competition whereby teams of between 3 and 6 have to design, manufacture, present and race a car of maximum dimensions 210mm x 70mm x 70mm.  Using 3D CAD (Computer Aided Design) software, the teams design a Formula 1 car of the future, and with the final being held in Austen Texas, the cars are raced at more than 60kph side-by-side along 20-metre straights.

The body of the car has to be made from balsa wood, and is powered by a pressurised CO2 canister fitted into the back of the car.  The finished car must weigh a minimum of 55grams without the canister, and have four wheels, a front wing and a rear wing.  Teams are judged on car speed, as well as supporting evidence of their design, verbal presentation and marketing display stand in ‘‘the pits”.  Teams compete regionally, nationally and internationally for the Bernie Ecclestone F1 in Schools World Championship trophy.

Earlier this year, Winchester College approached 3T to help them with turning their design into reality, as the wheels for their car were of crucial importance as they had to fit perfectly with the bearings they had available.  This meant the wheels had to be made accurately and had to be completely circular.  The front and rear wings also had to be accurate as they had to fit precisely into slots on the body of the car, allowing for better airflow over the car.

The Solution:
The team decided that the accuracy of plastic Additive Manufacturing (AM) would meet their requirements perfectly to manufacture the wheels and wings for their car.  Also, Nylon 12 would be a good material to use as it has a small coefficient of friction with steel.  As the parts were quite small, traditional methods of manufacture would have resulted in a lot of trial and error, whereas the ability of AM to replicate the CAD design exactly reduced the leadtime and cost implications.  Using a traditional turning method on a lathe would have resulted in the wheels shattering as Nylon isn’t strong enough to withstand the cutting tool at 1mm thickness.

The Result:
The accuracy of the wheels meant that they were perfectly circular, and were made to exact specifications of the CAD design.  They only required a small amount of sanding prior to being painted.  The wings also fitted perfectly into the receiving slots, which would have been unachievable using any other method other than AM.  Again, they were sanded and painted, before being glued into their relative slots.

Charlie Peat of the Winchester College team says “Having used such accurate and high quality methods, the resulting car was extremely smooth and well built, which did well in the “F1 in Schools” competition”.

Extra bits:
F1 in Schools Ltd is a not-for-profit company established with committed partners to provide an exciting yet challenging educational experience through the magnetic appeal of Formula One.  “F1 in Schools” is rapidly realising its potential of becoming the only truly global educational programme that raises awareness of Formula One among students and school children in every region, in every country, on every continent.  Spanning age ranges of 9 to19, its main objective is to help change perceptions of engineering, science and technology by creating a fun and exciting learning environment for young people to develop an informed view about careers in engineering, Formula One, science, marketing and technology.

FOX-VPS Ltd are specialist manufacturers and design consultants and were the company who manufactured the main body of the car using a 4th axis CNC machine.

Related links:
F1 in Schools Ltd