JANUARY 25, 2006
The next big thing?
Formula 1 teams are always looking for a way to do things faster and more efficiently as this gives them an advantage over the opposition. And it is not just on the race track that this makes a difference. Production is increasingly important now that the F1 rules are so restrictive because as research and development moves inexorably onward, it is the speed at which parts can be produced which turns the R&D improvements into performance and ultimately World Championship points. Thus better production means more points.
It is an odd thing that in the high technology world that is Formula 1 that one still finds highly-skilled composite laminators, moulding the F1 chassis from sheets of composite material. This is a necessary part of the process but, in the overall scheme of things, is slow and expensive. The automotive industry has been driven away from composites because of this and experiments in mass production techniques with composite materials have not always been successful.
It is worth noting however that technology is gradually moving in that direction and the finalists in this year's JEC Composites Innovation Awards include two projects which are breaking new ground in the industry. The robotized F3P Ford Programmable Preforming Process, which is used in the production of the Aston Martin DB9, is mass-producing composite parts while Toyota has recently completed a carbonfibre bus which includes parts made in a mould with integrated heating system.
Applying new production processes to F1 cars will not be easy because of the complex nature of many parts but there is little doubt that eventually we will see robotic production arriving in F1.
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