It’s common knowledge that you can make almost anything you want using a 3D printer. The biggest advantage 3D printers provide is they enable designers or engineers to quickly create a scale model or mockup for cheap, allowing them to go back to the drawing board numerous times before setting a final design. This process helped Ford easily redesign the intake manifold on its Ford EcoBoost race engine, and considering the same powerplant won the 24 Hours of Daytona earlier this year, it seems to be working.
Chip Ganassi Racing, the team which runs the Ford EcoBoost Riley Daytona Prototype in TUDOR United Sportscar competition, will head to Belle Isle this weekend with their Ford DP, and it will be complete with a 3D printed intake manifold. The new manifold was created after Ford decided to redesign the part at the end of the 2014 TUDOR season. Engineers designed the part, and thanks to 3D printing, had a working piece in their hands one week later. This process means teams and engineers can spend more time putting new parts to the test and less time waiting around for them to be built.
“In order to rapidly prototype and prove them out, we 3D-printed several intakes and tested them on our dyno and verified performance on the track,” said Ford raceing engine enginer Victor Martinez. “The iterations we created based on the 2014 intake manifold accelerated the development on our 2015 manifold – which is both lighter and brings improved airflow.”
The prototype manifold exceeded Ford’s expectations, so they threw it on the EcoBoost Riley prototype in time for the start of the 24 Hours of Daytona. With an all-star driver lineup consisting of Scott Dixon, Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray and Tony Kanaan, the team won the race, taking away any doubt engineers had in their new 3D printed intake manifold.
Ford isn’t new to the 3D printing game. The automaker purchased the world’s first-ever 3D printer in 1988 and used it to print prototype buttons, switches and knobs for its cars. It says 3D printing has become more precise and refined over the years to the where they can now use the parts on actual cars like the EcoBoost DP, for example.