Rapid prototyping is making Formula 1 (F1) and NASCAR more competitive and, as a result, even more exciting. The advances in this technology is creating a more even playing field on a number of levels such as reducing the need for multi-million dollar budgets on parts and shipping and being able to focus more on talent and strategy. And the industries are some of the most lucrative sports in the world.
Cost of Racing Cars
Formula 1 and NASCAR are big business. The teams are worth several billion dollars and some of the biggest sponsors earn even more. While sponsors spend billions on endorsements, they also see results in profits with companies such as Red Bull, Rolex, 3M, CVC, Lowe’s, and Nissan all having shown staggering increases in sales, as much as 50 percent, during their sponsorship periods. And, governments and cities also invest heavily to host races due to the influx of tourism due to such events.
While investments typically experience highly profitable returns, these industries have some of the highest operating costs of any sports industry worldwide. Just one F1 vehicle is estimated to cost around $9.4 million dollars and the cost of just one race car in NASCAR is estimated to cost between $300,000 and $1 million depending on the team. For decades, the cost of buying, developing, and shipping parts and vehicles have been some of the greatest expenses for teams. Today, with the help of rapid prototyping, these costs are being significantly reduced, thus creating a new dynamic throughout these racing industries.
One of the greatest challenges for smaller teams with budgets a fraction of the biggest teams is the costs of operating at the level required to be competitive. Rapid prototyping is helping to create a more even playing field in many regards. One of the biggest cost reductions is by printing test vehicles that cost a fraction of the price tag on a race-day car. Teams are also reducing manufacturing lead times to build custom parts from weeks to hours by using 3D printing in-house or through contracts with companies specializing in rapid prototyping.
Another way the competition is increasing is by reducing shipping costs. Shipping costs, particularly during urgent situations, can cost a team millions of dollars each year. By using rapid prototyping, shipping costs have the potential to significantly reduce the shipping budgets of each team in the future. All teams will then be able to allocate more money to talent, innovation, support, the best technological advances in parts, and racing strategies. And, while costs are being reduced, quality, customization, innovation, and enhanced designs are all skyrocketing simultaneously.
As with all 3D printing applications, each industry faces challenges. While numerous aspects of rapid prototyping in racing are proving highly advantageous, the challenges are also limiting innovation and speed of vehicles. The materials and existing designs, in part, are some of the reasons they are not being used on race-day vehicles by all teams; however, some teams do use printed parts on race day. The limited options prevent the teams from being able to truly trust the part will be ideal for racing and qualifying conditions rather than simply wind tunnels and test tracks. Another is being able to hire in-house experts to create designs for customized and mass-produced parts. While some teams have been using 3D printers for a decade, others are just beginning to use these technologies to their benefit. It is becoming highly competitive to hire the most qualified and in-demand talent to take their cars to the next level.
Positive Results and Pole Position
These savings have the potential to make races far more competitive and far more exciting. Rather than to have one team dominating races on a regular basis, smaller teams will be able to spend more money on research and development and drivers. They might be able to afford to have more cars and spend more time on test tracks. They might then become more appealing to sponsors and increase their annual budgets as a result. The overall savings could be transformative to these races and contribute directly to increased popularity worldwide and the potential for long-term sustainable growth in the next few decades. And, with increased competition, the fight for pole position is likely to become one of the most exciting aspects of the races.
Car racing is one of the most popular sports in the world. Competition is intense for sponsorship, drivers, team support, and every other aspect of these events; however, sometimes the races themselves are not as competitive as they could be. With the help of rapid prototyping, NASCAR and Formula 1 could attract a new generation of interest to keep their respective sports alive and even more exciting for decades to come.
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