Bespoke Vanity Panel created for Caterham Formula One Race Car | Graphite Additive Manufacturing

Here at Graphite Additive Manufacturing, we devise functional solutions for motorsport applications that work first time. Whether you need wind tunnel testing components or functional production parts in low volumes, our team of highly experienced engineers can help.

Graphite Additive Manufacturing started with ex-Formula One people who wanted to make a difference in the sector, so it’s always exciting for us to work on applications for classic F1 race cars.

Kevin Thomas, who purchased a 2014 Caterham F1 race car in 2015, first approached us this year when he needed a Vanity Panel (a body panel on the top of the nose section) created for the car to help progress the rebuild. The original Caterham F1 team changed the race car’s nose cone during the 2014 season. However, this meant that they had raised the back of the nose and added a wedge on to the front of the monocoque. Due to this, when Kevin took ownership of the race car and came to rebuild it, he experienced issues sourcing the correct parts.

3D Printing (or Additive Manufacturing) can be an excellent solution for manufacturing completely bespoke, one-off parts. For Kevin, this was the most promising option.

When Kevin first approached us, there were some troubles with the CAD files that had been created for the vanity panel, as they had been designed for a different method of manufacture. As part of our service, our team of engineers worked with him to adapt and modify the available file to create a design that could be manufactured to a high standard of accuracy and fit.

Once the CAD file was of a good standard, the next steps were to choose the most suitable material and finishing combination for the panel. With the help and advice of our team on the choices, Kevin opted for our DSM Watershed XC 11122 material – a general purpose plastic with good elongation at break, water resistance and optical clarity. This liquid epoxy resin material runs in our Stereolithography (SLA) machines and builds parts with an excellent surface finish. Parts can then be sanded and painted to achieve the required look.

A Basic finish was chosen for the panel which consists of a thorough clean of the part and any support material being removed. However, this Watershed material can be finished in a variety of other ways to give an opaque ‘frosted’ surface (our Cosmetic Finish) or Clear Lacquered for a more transparent ’glass-like’ appearance.

We manufactured and shipped the part within a couple of weeks to meet the deadline. Once received, Kevin was very happy with the new panel and it fitted onto the race car perfectly. He commented, “Graphite offer a high standard of work and are reasonably priced. In addition, these guys offered me a couple of options, so I will certainly use again.

Kevin has now gone on to order further parts through us for the car. We look forward to following the progress of the rebuild and seeing this classic Formula One race car back on the track where it belongs. Further updates on the project can be found at www.caterhamf1.co.uk