How Team Penske is using 3D-printed parts to improve IndyCar pit stops

DETROIT (WXYZ) - In professional racing, the race is always on to get a little faster and a little lighter, improving speed and ultimately getting faster times and leading to race wins.

Team Penske is taking that to a new level as they have partnered with 3D printing company Stratasys to get exclusive carbon fiber parts.

Jim Vurpillat, the director of Marketing for Automotive and Aerospace for Stratasys said they entered into the 3-year agreement with Team Penske about four months ago.

Team Penske came to them with the idea to revise the handle of the fuel nozzle for IndyCar pit crew teams.

"Typically, it's all metal, and they wanted us to help them make that using carbon fiber," Vurpillat said. "We developed the tooling that helped them make that part. Now, it's lightweight and much more ergonomic for the operator."

The part had its debut at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis beginning in May and continued through the 101st Indianapolis 500 before coming to the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix this weekend. According to Vurpillat, the results have been great.

"The feedback we've gotten from the guys using the fillers is that it's so much easier for them to do their job," he said. "They think they've shaved a couple tenths (of a second) off."

According to Vurpillat, every pit stop is different but the part is still much easier to work with.

"in the way one of the fuelers explained it to me is, they have between three and four-tenths of a second to be putting fuel in from the time the car comes to a dead stop," Vurpillat added. "Anything longer than that, they're losing time, so any time they can cut off that is better."

The partnership is exclusive to Team Penske for the next three years, and Stratasys will continue to develop more parts for their cars.

"We wanted one particular team because we wanted that engineer collaboration with back-and-forth," he said.

With IndyCar debuting new aero packages for 2018, Vurpillat thinks there are many opportunities for the partnership to get some new ideas.

"Our goal is to get more and more 3D-printed parts on the car itself," he said. "We've got a couple areas we're working on, nothing we can talk about yet, but I think you'll se more and more as we move forward."

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