The Force India Formula 1 team will almost certainly race in 2010 using safety-critical components made using an EADS-developed lightweight manufacturing technology that on 3 November passed critical safety tests with motorsport governing body the Federation Internationale d'Automobile.
The technology, Additive Layer Manufacturing, dramatically cuts the weight of structural parts. Developed from rapid prototyping technology, ALM is a process that replaces forged or cast parts with components built from metallic powder that is melted into layers by either laser or electron beam.
ALM parts are lighter because their final shape is dictated by structural requirements rather than the limits of machining techniques.
Jean Botti, head of technology at Airbus parent EADS, says ALM has great weight-saving potential in aircraft and will also cut manufacturing costs by reducing material waste. As much as 90% of the material needed to make a forged component is machined away to reach the final shape, compared with as little as 5% with ALM.
Botti says the EADS-Airbus connection with F1 via Force India is fruitful because it allows for much more rapid deployment of new technology than is possible in aerospace, where regulations are far more restrictive.
Force India has already benefited from its association with EADS, whose expertise in computational fluid dynamics has improve aerodynamics enough to help take the team from 2008 backmarker to 2009 points winner.
But, adds Botti, EADS engineers have much to learn from their counterparts in racing: "Those young Force India engineers are fast under pressure."