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Raising the Bar for Land Rover Bar

Rapid prototyping ability allows British yacht racing team to refine custom parts, reduce costs

Published: Monday, March 6, 2017 - 12:01

Land Rover Ben Ainsile Racing (BAR) is no stranger to cutting-edge technologies. The British yacht racing team, formed by four-time Olympic gold medalist and America’s Cup winner Sir Ben Ainsile, uses artificial intelligence, big data analytics, and most recently, additive manufacturing (3D printing) to gain competitive advantages. These technologies have been incorporated into daily use at Land Rover BAR by the team’s technical innovation group (TIG).

Renishaw, a global metrology company that also manufactures metal additive manufacturing machines, is a TIG partner. The partnership has allowed the team’s engineers to design and test precision custom parts quickly and cost effectively in the shop, and give it an edge on the water.

“We use 3D printing at three different levels within the team,” says TIG project manager, George Sykes of PA Consulting. “The simplest level is as a prototyping and visualization tool. We manufacture a large number of custom parts, and 3D printing allows us to make full-size prototypes in-house before we commit to a design.”

The Land Rover BAR British yacht racing team uses Renishaw additive technology to lighten the vessel and produce custom-fitted parts, resulting in better racing performance.

“The prototyping process is really useful when we are trying to develop a new idea,” says Land Rover BAR’s chief technology officer, Andy Claughton. “It allows us to get our hands on it, put it in place on the boat, or link it up with other parts of the system and see potential issues. We can refine the design before we commit to the production of the final piece.”

The team has its own, fully equipped traditional machine shop, as well as an extensive additive shop facility. Between them, these facilities can make almost anything, but if the final part can be 3D-printed, then that is the option used because typically the cost can be significantly reduced.

“An example is the end cap for the boat’s bowsprit,” says Sykes. “This is a complex shape, designed to reduce the aerodynamic drag. It was ideal for 3D printing because there was no load involved, and a single item was required. In years gone by, this would have been built in carbon fiber to the finish specs and standards of a piece of custom furniture, and at great expense due to the time and skill of those involved. Now, once the design has been developed, it can be produced in a handful of hours at a much lower cost.”

This end cap for the boat’s bowsprit reduces aerodynamic drag and, through additive manufacturing, was produced much faster and less expensively than previous techniques.

With Renishaw’s help, the Land Rover BAR team is taking additive manufacturing even further. “The top level of our 3D printing program is the metal additive manufacturing supplied by Renishaw,” continues Sykes. “The manufacture of custom parts in metal is the cutting edge of this technology.”

The components are manufactured from paper-thin layers (typically 0.05 mm) of fine metallic powder with the consistency of corn flour. The system works in an argon-inert atmosphere, which is similar to that inside a light bulb: Heat can be applied to melt the metal powder without it burning or reacting with oxygen or impurities found in air. The heat is applied using a laser beam; this is directed using software-controlled mirrors and focused to accurately weld the areas required to create the part.

One of the earliest components the Land Rover BAR team created using this technology was a custom sheave case for the pulley in the daggerboard lift line. “There was a high compressive load involved, and it needed good resistance to wear, so metal was the ideal choice,” says Sykes. “All high-strength metals have a higher density (i.e., weight per volume) than carbon fiber, so to keep weight down the final design was hollow. It would have been very difficult to make this part any other way than by additive manufacturing.”

“The potential of additive manufacturing in terms of saving weight and improving efficiency is tremendous,” adds Claughton. “For example, we took a long hard look at our hydraulics system. Before 3D printing came along, all the parts in this system would have been manufactured by taking metal away from a solid block. The shapes that you can create with that method are limited, so the design is limited and so, too, is the efficiency.

“Hydraulic fluid doesn’t take kindly to going around hard corners, for instance, and there is a loss of power when it has to do so. With traditional techniques this might be the only way you can manufacture the part, but with additive manufacturing you can build it with smooth, rounded corners that significantly improve efficiency in the fluid transfers involved.

“In addition to the improvements in efficiency, we can now build it much more lightly because we are only adding material specifically where it is needed. In the past, the geometry of manufacture on a lathe or other cutting tool meant that some material couldn’t be removed, and we would have to carry around the excess weight. No longer.”

The LandRover BAR team engineered a number of hydraulics systems parts for additive manufacture.

Renishaw has manufactured several parts for the hydraulics, and while the team are reluctant to reveal too much design detail, it has said that weight in a new AM manifold design was reduced by 60 percent, with an increase in performance efficiency of better than 20 percent.

The additive-produced manifold reduced part weight by 60 percent, and increased performance efficiency by 20 percent. The additive machines use CAD files to produce custom parts, and team engineers are inspired by the flexibility they now have with part design.

David Ewing, product marketing engineer at Renishaw’s Additive Manufacturing Products Division, comments, “Our involvement with Land Rover BAR is also helping to raise the bar in additive manufacturing. It’s a complex manufacturing option, and there are considerations both in component design and process expertise. The best applications are ones that use the minimum amount of material to achieve the design requirements, offer a functional benefit in service, and have been designed with the manufacturing method in mind. Our work on hydraulic parts for the team is a perfect example.”

“Renishaw is at the top of this particular game and they have really helped us out with their facilities,” says Claughton. “This is one technology that’s here to stay, and its role within our build processes will only increase in the future.”

Click here for further information on Renishaw metal additive manufacturing. For more information on Land Rover BAR Technical Innovation Group, click here.


About The Author

Renishaw’s picture


Renishaw is a global company with core skills in measurement, motion control, spectroscopy, and precision machining. Renishaw develops innovative products to advance operational performance—from improving manufacturing efficiencies and raising product quality, to maximizing research capabilities and improving the efficacy of medical procedures. Renishaw products are used in diverse applications including machine tool automation, coordinate measurement, Raman spectroscopy, machine calibration, position feedback, CAD/CAM dentistry, stereotactic neurosurgery, and medical diagnostics. Headquartered in Gloucestershire, United Kingdom, Renishaw’s U.S. subsidiary is in Hoffman Estates, Illinois.