BWT Alpine F1 Team Advances with Titanium Printed Hydraulic Accumulator
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BWT Alpine F1 Team Advances with Titanium Printed Hydraulic Accumulator

Jan 03, 2024

BWT Alpine F1 Team turned to metal additive manufacturing to push the performance of its car by producing a titanium hydraulic accumulator with complete functionality in a minimized footprint. With years of collaborative supply and development with 3D Systems, BWT Alpine F1 Team selected 3D Systems’ direct metal printing (DMP) technology to produce the complex part, and relied on 3D Systems’ expertise and proprietary cleaning processes to ensure optimal quality.

BWT Alpine F1 Team is continually improving its car, working in very short iteration cycles to advance and refine performance. Constant challenges include working within the limited space available, keeping part weights as low as possible and adhering to evolving regulation constraints.

Experts within 3D Systems’ Application Innovation Group (AIG) provided BWT Alpine F1 Team with the know-how to make a complex coiled component from titanium with a challenging, function-driven internal geometry.

Additive manufacturing offers a unique opportunity to overcome the challenges of fast-paced innovation by supplying highly complex parts with short lead times. For parts like BWT Alpine F1 Team's hydraulic accumulator, additional AM expertise was required for a successful part due to the level of design complexity and strict requirements for cleanliness.

For the accumulator, specifically a rear heave fluid inerter coil, the race team designed a hard-line damper, which is part of a rear heave damper in the rear suspension system inside the gearbox main case. A long, rigid piece of tubing, the accumulator stores and releases energy to average out pressure fluctuations. As such, the performance of the line damper is correlated to its internal volume, and thus the length of the component.

Additive manufacturing enabled BWT Alpine F1 Team to maximize the length of the dampening coil while packaging complete functionality within a restricted space. "We designed this part to be as volumetrically efficient as possible, and to share wall thickness between adjacent tubes," explained Pat Warner, advanced digital manufacturing manager at BWT Alpine F1 Team. "Achieving this volume is only possible with AM."

The final titanium dampening coil was produced using 3D Systems’ DMP Flex 350, a high-performance metal AM system featuring best-in-class oxygen levels (<25 ppm) and an inert printing atmosphere. The unique system architecture of 3D Systems’ DMP machines ensures exceptionally strong and accurate parts with high chemical purity, and the repeatability needed for production parts.

During operation the dampening coil is filled with fluid and averages out pressure fluctuations within the system by absorbing and releasing energy. In order to function properly, the fluid has a specification for cleanliness to avoid contamination. Using metal AM to design and produce this component offered considerable benefits in terms of functionality, integration into the larger system, and weight reduction, yet the team faced a challenge when it came to complete powder removal from the internal channels.

To achieve thorough material evacuation on these complex metal prints, 3D Systems’ AIG contributed its vast process knowledge to apply a proprietary cleaning protocol that has been successfully used on tens of thousands of parts and ensures particle-free titanium components. For customers who plan to adopt metal AM and require the highest degree of part cleanliness for internal channels, 3D Systems has an established protocol to transfer this know-how to new facilities.

3D Systems’ complete metal AM solution goes beyond its leading expertise and metal printing platform to include carefully developed and optimized materials and 3DXpert software. 3DXpert is an all-in-one software for preparing, optimizing and managing the metal printing workflow. 

BWT Alpine F1 Team selected LaserForm Ti Gr23 (A) material for its accumulator, citing high strength and the ability to accurately produce thin-wall sections as the reasons for its choice. All LaserForm materials have specific, extensively developed print parameters within 3DXpert that package the expertise of 3D Systems’ engineers within the workflow for the highest quality results.

The team also leveraged 3D Systems’ design for additive manufacturing expertise to advance its design with guidance on optimum build orientation, achievable wall thicknesses, and how to share walls between adjacent wall sections, as well as its post-processing expertise. As a consistent co-developer of innovative and industry-first solutions, 3D Systems’ Application Innovation Group has a breadth and depth of experience in transitioning applications from concepts to scaled manufacturing.

3D Systems is partner to hundreds of critical applications across industries where quality and performance are paramount. 3D Systems’ systematized approach to scaling from prototyping to production ensures a streamlined path to qualified AM parts, and the AM leader also offers technology transfer to help customers successfully adopt additive manufacturing within their own facilities.

Following the success of BWT Alpine F1 Team's titanium printed accumulator, Warner says the team was encouraged to pursue more complex suspension components the following year.

NOTE: The current Formula 1 regulations no longer allow inerter coils in the car. However, the basic principle of needing to meet constant challenges such as within the limited space available, keeping part weights as low as possible, and adhering to evolving regulation constraints while improving functionality can be perfectly illustrated with this component and transferred to several components in Formula 1 cars as well as road and rail vehicles.

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