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Off to the Races: Stratasys and Team Penske Renew 3D Printing Motorsports Partnership

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Back in 2017, 3D printing leader Stratasys and Team Penske—a top INDYCAR, NASCAR , and IMSA SportsCar racing team—formed a multi-year technical partnership in order to give all of the customized, technologically advanced cars a competitive edge on the racetrack. Team Penske has been around for over 50 years, and has netted more than 500 victories, 37 of which were national championships, so it’s obviously been doing something right. Over 70 of those wins, and five of the championships, came during its partnership with Stratasys, which is why the two have just announced that they are extending their relationship, and have signed a new multi-year technical agreement.

“All of our Performance Partners represent the highest levels of development in their industry, from auto racing to aerospace to America’s Cup yacht racing, and Team Penske is truly elite. You win trophies with an every-day commitment to excellence, and we’re here every day for Team Penske to help them rack up another 500 wins,” stated Stratasys Americas President Rich Garrity in a press release.

Stratasys President, Americas, Rich Garrity, with Tim Cindric, Team Penske President, in 2017 (Image courtesy of Stratasys)

These are elite cars, which means they need the very best high-performance technology to keep them going. By using Stratasys FDM and PolyJet 3D printing, Team Penske is not only fast on the track, but also fast in creating end-use parts, tooling, fixtures, and prototypes for its cars and pit equipment. When the partnership began three years ago, Team Penske was using two Stratasys systems, and that number has now gone up to four, which includes a J750 PolyJet for prototyping purposes, and three FDM systems that can support more advanced materials, such as Nylon12 carbon fiber:

  • Stratasys F900
  • Fortus 450mc
  • Stratasys F370

All of these Stratasys 3D printers are installed at Team Penske’s North Carolina facility near Charlotte. The company also supports Team Penske with technical support and advisory services through its cloud-based GrabCAD Print software.

“The Stratasys partnership has allowed us to not only increase our output, but also produce parts in new materials that are immediately installed on race cars. As a result, we have more design freedom and manufacturing speed to iterate faster to reach the optimum design. Ultimately we get better parts to the racetrack faster,” said Matt Gimbel, Team Penske’s production manager.

A Carbon Fiber Polyamide Jig made by Stratasys

3D printing can majorly increase efficiency for Team Penske, whether they need “developmental bandwidth” or parts turned around rapidly. Back when it was only relying on CNC machining, it look more time to fabricate composite layup tooling for the racecars, but by switching to FDM 3D printing by Stratasys, a member of the team can have an idea early in the week and see it come to life by the weekend, just in time to hit the racetrack. This applies not only to 3D printed parts for pit crew equipment, but also for parts inside the racecars, such as brackets, mounts, and side mirrors.

A specific example is a new safety enhancement called the Aeroscreen, which is a shield-like barrier that goes around the cockpit to protect the driver but unfortunately lowers air circulation inside the vehicle. The Aeroscreen isn’t 3D printed, but the air ducts that route cooling air to the driver’s helmet are. Team Penske has 3D printed ducts for all its INDYCAR vehicles, but realized more work was required after dealing with high temperatures at the recent GMR Grand Prix. Arrow McLaren SP, Andretti Autosport, and INDYCAR collaborated with Team Penske and Stratasys to design a “scoop” that would give the drivers even more cool air at the wheel.

Driver Andretti Gainbridge

But they were up against a time crunch, as scoops had to be made and installed for all 24 racecars ahead of the impending Iowa 250s race, and the job was more than Team Penske’s North Carolina facility could handle by itself. So Stratasys got right to work, 3D printing the scoops out of ASA thermoplastic material on ten FDM printers. Each one took nine hours to print, so within two days, all 24 scoops were completed, along with a few extras.

“Without additive manufacturing, it would have taken us a minimum of two full weeks to produce 24 of these ducts. Stratasys got the CAD Sunday morning, and by Wednesday, 24 cars were equipped with the ducts and on the way to the Iowa race. It was miraculous,” said Tino Belli, director of aerodynamic development at INDYCAR.

Team Penske won both of its races at the Iowa 250s doubleheader, and the drivers stayed cool as a cucumber, thanks to the 3D printed air ducts and scoops.

“Stratasys has consistently contributed to our ability to reach new solutions for improving our race performance ahead of the competition. Our 3D printing strategy has always been to produce high-quality parts for our racing operations in the shortest amount of time, and the ever-evolving additive technology from Stratasys gives us confidence in our approach,” said Team Penske President Tim Cindric.

Team Penske’s expansive facility in Mooresville, N.C., home to several production-grade Stratasys 3D printers.

(Images courtesy of Stratasys)

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