Alfa Romeo and AM Solutions partner for automated post-processing of 3D printed race car parts

The Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN Formula One team has partnered with AM Solutions, the Italian 3D printing subsidiary of the Rösler Group, to bolster the post-processing of its 3D printed race car components.

The racing team will acquire three S1 systems from AM Solutions in a bid to bring greater automation, economic efficiency, and repeatability to its post-processing capabilities. As a result, Alfa Romeo will be able to deploy partial and fully automated post-processing of polymer and metal 3D printed parts for “all 3D printing technologies”.

“Additive manufacturing is playing an ever-increasing role in Formula One and every new iteration of our race cars feature more 3D printed parts – in addition to those used in other operations of the company, from the wind tunnel models to experimental parts,” said Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal at Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN and CEO of Sauber Motorsport.

Christoph Hansen, Director of Technology & Innovation of Sauber Engineering, with Stephan Rösler, President & CEO of the Rösler Oberflächentechnik GmbH. Photo via Rösler Group.
Christoph Hansen, Director of Technology & Innovation of Sauber Engineering, with Stephan Rösler, President & CEO of the Rösler Oberflächentechnik GmbH. Photo via Rösler Group.

Alfa Romeo’s F1 3D printing credentials

For both its road cars and race vehicles, Alfa Romeo has integrated 3D printed parts into its production process for some time. In terms of road cars, Alfa Romeo’s parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has adopted additive manufacturing for various projects over the last six years, most recently partnering with Fraunhofer IAPT to produce a 3D printed suspension part for one of its sports cars.

Regarding Formula One, Alfa Romeo is part of the Sauber Group, an established race outfit that’s been on the grid since 1993. Sauber has partnered with Alfa Romeo since 2019 in an attempt to improve its fortunes and finish higher in the sport’s standings. 

Last season’s car, the C39, was equipped with a total of 143 3D printed parts, and for this year’s C41 the team has more than doubled that number to 304. To rapidly produce the lightweight components, the team used Additive Industries’ MetalFAB1 3D printer with the parts reportedly costing some 90 percent less than those produced via conventional manufacturing. 

By teaming up with AM Solutions, Alfa Romeo will look to achieve further efficiency and cost benefits with its post-processing capabilities.

“The innovations brought by AM Solutions help us create parts quickly, more efficiently and with less waste, meaning we gain on time and money, two resources available in very finite amounts in our sport, while at the same time improving the sustainability of our operations,” continued Vasseur. “It’s all part of the marginal gains we make across every aspect of our operations as we move towards the front of the grid.”

Alfa Romeo's 2021 F1 car during pre-season testing.
Alfa Romeo’s 2021 F1 car during pre-season testing. Photo via Alfa Romeo F1.

AM Solutions’ post-processing technology

The Rösler Group has been providing services in the field of surface finishing for more than 80 years, with its additive manufacturing activities now entirely carried out through its AM Solutions subsidiary. Initially, AM solutions only covered post-processing for additively manufactured parts, but in 2019 expanded its capabilities to offer a range of 3D printing services.

Included in the company’s post-processing systems is its multi-functional platform for surface finishing of 3D printed metal and plastic parts, RapidFinish, and its automated S1 system designed specifically for the post-processing of 3D printed plastic and metal components. 

As part of Alfa Romeo’s partnership with AM Solutions, it will acquire three S1 systems for the automatic de-powdering and cleaning of its small to midsize volumes of 3D printed race car components. 

The S1 offers both automatic and manual shot blasting to enable the automatic and effective removal of residual powder after printing, and continuously rotates the printed parts during the cleaning process to ensure repeatable and consistent shot blasting results, without damaging the component’s surface. 

“We are delighted to partner with Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN in the field of post-processing of additive manufactured parts,” said Stephen Rösler, President and CEO of Rösler Oberflächentechnik. “As an early adopter of 3D printing Sauber has recognized the importance of post-processing in terms of automation, cost-effectiveness and repeatability in the AM production chain.”

The S1’s new basket design enables optimal distribution and circulation of the 3D printed parts, and is equipped with a specially developed wear protection lining made from non-staining anti-static polyurethane. The system features ATEX conformity, ergonomic and safe machine handling, and thanks to its small footprint can be easily integrated into any manufacturing line. 

AM Solutions' S1 post-processing system. Photo via AM Solutions.
AM Solutions’ S1 post-processing system. Photo via AM Solutions.

According to Rösler, the partnership will deliver benefits and learnings for both parties as they work together to improve the automation, efficiency, and repeatability of post-processing 3D printed parts for the race track.

“Their deep knowledge and experience will help us to further improve our solutions and to increase the awareness of our still young AM Solutions brand,” added Rösler. “We will bring our decades of know-how in surface finishing combined with our tailor-made solutions for the needs and challenges of AM to the track.

“By this partnership, we create a perfect win-win situation for two highly innovative companies that always strive for the max.”

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Featured image shows Christoph Hansen, Director of Technology & Innovation of Sauber Engineering, with Stephan Rösler, President & CEO of the Rösler Oberflächentechnik GmbH. Photo via Rösler Group.