Our work with SailGP – Vastly Improving Time Efficiency whilst Reducing Costs | Graphite Additive Manufacturing

Imagine one of the world’s fastest high-speed race boats, flying through the choppy ocean elements, hitting speeds of nearly 100km/h. Saltwater splashes off almost every visible area on the vessel, all elements being pushed to the maximum limits…

Every single part on SailGP’s F50 has been carefully selected to improve performance and speed. Out of the 640 parts manufactured by us here at Graphite Additive Manufacturing, the Cooling Duct is a vital component.

“The main function of this part on the F50 is to direct external air internally to cool the hydraulic pumps. This is an extremely important aspect to the race boats as, without the ducts, the pumps would overheat and hugely reduce performance,” said Nathan Libby, head of electronics at SailGP.

Cooling Duct part CAD file

The Engineering team has previously manufactured the cooling duct part in their own manufacturing facility using standard desktop machines. However, the parts produced did not stand up to being in such a harsh environment. Part failures are detrimental to the high-speed F50s and can sometimes even be race stoppers.

At Graphite, we regularly build parts that contend with extremely demanding environments; the quality and longevity of parts is key to a successful application. Libby explains, “it is extremely important that the ducts can withstand the rigors of a saltwater environment, alongside maintaining consistent airflow to the pumps.”

3D Printing is quickly becoming a popular manufacturing method for low volume production runs, with the flexibility to change design last minute, and test parts before going on to build in higher volumes. We asked Libby whether 3D printed parts helped to streamline the process of designing and building the Cooling Ducts. Libby expressed that they had helped to do so massively, as 3D Printing enables the team to reduce development time. Specifically, this one component alone saved the team roughly 100-man hours. Saving such crucial time like this allows for more testing of the components on the test rig and on the F50s.

The team needed to make certain that any water entering the system wouldn’t find its way into the F50. To ensure this wouldn’t happen, a unique water trap feature was included in the design to solve this issue and ensure that all the components stay clean and dry.

SailGP Event 1 Season 2 in Hamilton, Bermuda. 23 April 2021. Photo: Bob Martin for SailGP.

Libby explained that the part wouldn’t be possible to manufacture using traditional methods and shared that 3D Printing is a more cost-effective solution. He commented, “significant costs have been saved by printing the part, this is mainly to do with zero machining and tooling costs that would normally be associated with conventional design, machine, and composite parts. Being able to print the Cooling Duct has allowed for a vastly improved efficiency in both time and the implementation of upgrades whilst also reducing cost.”

The Cooling Duct part is made in our in-house developed SinterWorx G4 material which has an excellent dark surface finish and great mechanical properties. Find out more about our work with SailGP, here.

Click here find out more about our work in the Marine sector.

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