Ferrari looks to piston innovation and 3D printing for F1 2017

Ferrari looks to implement 3D printing technology for an innovative piston design that could deliver a major boost for its 2017 Formula 1 engine.

Failing to match its bold pre-season expectations in 2016, this year Ferrari’s efforts are taking place under a strict code of silence as of orders from president Sergio Marchionne. A lot of work has been progressing in Maranello to make a much-needed step forward.

The development of the 668 project is well developed and should make its public debut at Fiorano for a filming day later this week (February 24) – with the Formula 1 car set to be revealed as has been the case in previous years.

Engine department chief designer Sassi Lorenzo and Enrico Gualteri, responsible for assembly, hope to complete these crucial changes that technical director Mattia Binotto anticipates to be a major breakthrough.

It is tipped that the main focus of change will be in combustion, with the chamber set for a considerable increase in pressure thanks to the latest work on the Turbulent Jet Ignition System that has been used in recent years.

It’s proposed that a new micro-injector design from Magneti Marelli will help create the perfect flame for the ignition chamber to increase performance, and reduce fuel use.

The changes will put the engine under intense forces, with the possibility of 400 bar pressure – plus a big increase in temperature that can be a threat to reliability.

Focusing on innovation, Ferrari is revolutionising its approach to engine design in order to meet its targets. Tests are now ongoing about a new piston design concept that uses a new steel alloy.

Although the FIA rules limit the materials manufacturers can use, Ferrari is looking to move away from aluminium that is commonly used. Aluminium alloys are lighter than steel and also have less ability to resist deformation and not break in extreme temperatures.

The extra weight in moving car parts such as the pistons is a major issue – thus the focus on finding a solution that performs better and has more reliability. In the hopes of finding the right alloy, Maranello engineers are evaluating the latest 3D printing technologies (known in the industry as Additive Manufacturing).

By using this technique, engineers can build up thin layers on material one at a time, making it possible to create complex shapes that would have been impossible to create using traditional casting and machining methods.

3D printing allows a degree of freedom, allied to the speed of production – this has opened up a new frontier of design development that for something that was once restricted to prototyping plastic parts for wind tunnel models.

Materials such as steel alloys can now be considered because you no longer have to manufacture full surfaces. Honeycomb designs are possible, and bring the advantage of strength without the disadvantage of weight.

It’s unlikely that Ferrari is alone in looking at this new technology, and Binotto is hoping to get the performance improvements on track sooner rather than later. This could be as early as the start of the season.



Image Credit: XPB Images

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