With just over three weeks to go before the official launch of the 2017 Ferrari car, rumors regarding the Scuderia’s efforts to produce a highly competitive car continue to pile up. As reported by Eurosport, Ferrari is counting on 3D printing technology for an innovative piston design. This solution could produce a major boost for the 2017 Formula 1 engine, as each detail could make a difference.
To meet its targets for the 2017 F1 season, Ferrari is having to revolutionise its approach to engine design, which unfortunately was not the case in recent years. The Maranello team is now testing a novel piston design concept that uses a new steel alloy. Despite the fact that FIA limits the materials manufacturers can use, Ferrari is trying to change the common practice of aluminium, considering that aluminium alloys have less ability to resist deformation and not break in extreme temperatures. To help Ferrari’s quest for the right alloy, Maranello engineers are evaluating the latest 3D printing technologies – known in the industry as Additive Manufacturing.
By using this technique, the staff has the possibility of building up thin layers on material one at a time, so they can create complex shapes that have not been possible before using traditional casting and machining methods. The level of freedom which comes from 3D printing, allied to the speed of production, has opened up a new frontier of design development for something that was once limited to prototyping plastic parts for windtunnel models.
The use of materials such as steel alloys – which in normal casting processes would be unsuitable for the production of a Formula One piston – can now be considered because it is no longer necessary to manufacture full surfaces. Honeycomb designs are possible and offer the important advantage of strength without the downside of weight.
Although other F1 teams will probably use the same solution, chief technical officer Mattia Binotto is hoping to get the performance improvements for the 2017 Ferrari car on track as soon as possible – potentially the start of the new season.