The Future of 3D Printing in Drag Racing
The sport of drag racing has seen great growth in commercial revenue over the last couple of years. By taking advantage of the technological advances in both digital and social avenues, the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) has successfully found an audience. Now, there’s a new tech innovation on the horizon and it could prove to be a huge victory for the NHRA in both savings and safety.
Drag racing takes its toll on the automobile. From Dragsters to Stock Cars to Funny Cars, a certain level of damage is almost always sustained while motoring down the track at top speeds. The parts and outer features of a drag racing car are put under extreme conditions from high heat to frigid cold, plus hundreds of thousands of heat cycles that they have to go through for their entire life span. The frequency with which parts need to be replaced could end up being very expensive. Fortunately, racing teams are now realizing an efficient means of creating their own replacement parts that match industry standards: 3D printing.
Changing the Replacement Parts Game
The majority of race-related damages occurs either up front in the car’s strut area or at the wishbone, rear end housing, and axle flanges in the back. It is critical to have these areas in top working shape for the car to drive properly and safely. Normally, the race team would have to order replacements for these parts or any others and end up being at the mercy of a marked-up price. Plus, many times the exact part needed is no longer available. In a high octane sport as fast as drag racing, specifications need to be exact to ensure peak performance.
3D printing can ease the burden of costly or imprecise parts. Through the implementation of innovative software, 3D printers are capable of manufacturing accurate replicas of a wide range of pieces to fit each unique car. From rear spoilers to brake line clips, plastic or metal, it can all be created effectively and typically at a fraction of the cost to order from someplace else. Plus, 3D printers give teams the option of upgrading parts with Polyphenylene sulfide (PPS), the highest quality 3D printing material. PPS offers an excellent balance of properties, including high temperature resistance, chemical resistance, flowability, dimensional stability and electrical characteristics.
Getting The Job Done
Most dragsters have a tube chassis-style, which makes performing repairs much easier because damaged bars can be cut out and replaced with fresh pipe as needed. Having a 3D printer on hand simplifies the attainment of aluminum, extruded aluminum and carbon fiber components necessary to form the chassis. It also streamlines the amount of time it would take to have a car repaired. Replacing a rear wing with a 3D printer takes just a week and a half as opposed to the five weeks it would have taken with traditional methods.
Teams are now starting to travel to races with 3D printers in the event of an emergency. If a dragster loses a part, the opportunity still exits for it to compete. Most 3D printers are readily portable and surprisingly inexpensive, especially when compared to manufacturer/mechanic costs. Racing teams can now have a newly tangible form of insurance that is fast, safe, and best of all, affordable.
– Dexter Alcedo, Customer Segment Executive for NHRA and Live Media