When you think of a Formula 1 car, invariably you think of a machine that is made almost entirely of carbon fiber. But that is only part of the story. While the carbon fiber has been properly recognized as the wonderful stuff that has allowed the F1 to build cars more safe, sophisticated and quick, is just one of the many materials used by the teams.
workshop of heavy equipment that each team has in their factory is populated by a select range of machinery that he works primarily with titanium, aluminum, and stainless steel. Why? because sometimes the carbon fiber components do not offer the best solution and a piece of metal properly machined yes.
McLaren used titanium because the relationship between resistance and weight makes it a material extremely versatile. The aluminum is more heavy, but relatively lightweight and very sturdy. The stainless steel is noticeably heavier, but has a wear resistance and a strength incredible.
As always, the purpose of the component dictates the material to use. Even in a sport in which the carbon fiber is so common, the machining workshop is kept particularly busy during the winter months when the entire team focuses on the construction of the cars of each season.
Feel like new
“This winter has been particularly intense”, recognizes the mechanic of McLaren Malcolm Jones. “For the MCL32, each machined piece of the car has been changed for this season. In a normal winter, we expect that around 70 or 80% of the parts are new, but on this occasion it is 100%. This is due to the new regulations of Formula 1 which cause the cars are completely different. Everything is bigger or more long”.
The new regulation has created reverberations seismic in the factory. Suddenly everything that did not require a change has had to be redesigned. Try to imagine how much it costs, for example, re-design and build 150 cars tyre for transport all over the world or ask for 160 thermal blanket new, simply because the dimensions of the tires have changed considerably.
100% of all of the Mazak components will change for 2017. #ChangeYourPart pic.twitter.com/v2uCwQbsIa
— McLaren App (@McLarenApp) 7 February 2017
“it Is a challenge”, supports Malcolm. “For this year, all the main structures and the suspensions are different and that affects the pace of work. The machining workshop made parts for the wind tunnel to 50% of the original size, so that is the first indication that we have faced several challenges this winter. Everything is a little less simple, but we love challenges!”.
When the previous season ends, the program of construction of the car is increased with all the resources of the factory, focusing on the design and construction of the new chassis. In the machining workshop, the demand for parts has never been greater: “In the first week of February, we arrived at our maximum level,”, says Jones. “we Completed more than 560 manufacturing processes, and each process may consist of an order of five or six pieces, so that potentially we manufacture around 3,000 components in a week”.
“In terms of performance, the winter months are always hard”, explains Malcolm. “it Is because we are building key parts such as front and rear struts or anchors of the suspension. These are things that we don’t have to do it again until the following season. It is then when we went into upgrade cycles by working more on the front wings and rear, developments on the ground, or the building and the replacement of parts that have expired due to wear”.
Malcolm and his team can begin to breathe mid-February, but that doesn’t mean that the most complicated thing in the past. “in mid-February we should start to relax a little. Have been weeks of hard work in the face of the presentation of the car and the first test. Then decreases in a definitive manner towards the start of the season. At this point, our focus is on delivering the necessary upgrades for the racing season”.
Everything is correct
But there are always bumps in the road. The complex machining of the components required for a part to be structurally and aerodynamically correct implies that the work is never easy. For Jones and his team, the most complex work of the year is to make the stiles front and rear: the intricate housings that attach the wheel, brake components and suspension. “End of the stiles to the front and rear is definitely one of the highlights of the season”, he says. “Are the main points of articulation of the suspension and there is always a lot of attention on the part of the company in those parts. Are aerodynamic and structural, and need to lessen as much as possible. This year we have paid a lot of attention in the way that we needed to package it, in the necessary material to save weight. Each piece takes us about 30 hours, and requires about eight separate operations”.
The season 2017 is special in every way and the regular program must also change to adapt to the circumstances. “We carry out ten sets of four studs, and we need at least three sets before the presentation. At this time of year, we normally have the three initial games, but this year we have manufactured all. It is a challenge really”.
The intelligent machines not only build better components, but at the same time increase the performance and reduce the wasted material. “We have made real advances in terms of speed and efficiency of our production. The CAM software allows us to drag and drop the sequences into the machines much more easily than before, and that has reduced the time of production. We have also been able to reduce the time and waste material from each process, so it is very useful”.
Spin the wheel
An area in which machinery has been shown to be a decisive player is in the manufacture of the nuts of the wheels. McLaren Racing team uses a machine which is not manned only is dedicated to producing new nuts, whereas previously it required three or four different machines to complete the job. Now, Malcolm and his team can leave the machine running all day, thereby freeing up the workload for other tasks.
in The same way, the new generation of machines (Mazak in the case of McLaren) five-axis imply that the majority of the work can be completed by a single unit, since they have the agility needed to achieve this.
Along with the labor, the ability and agility of the machinery achieved thanks to the experience, make that the workshop of McLaren is fully prepared to prepare the MCL32 for your first attempt at the track.