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Why 3-D Printing Found Early Adopters in F1

As Formula 1 events enthrall Austin this weekend, tech companies are taking note of the innovative tools racers use.  

Besides entertaining car lovers across the globe, the technology used to design and manufacture F1 vehicles has seeped out into broader use.  Materials like carbon fiber have gained in popularity within recent years. And one big emerging product – 3-D printing – has been a part of Formula 1 for well over a decade.

3-D printers can fabricate anything from kids toys to handgun parts –but the Lotus F1 Team Limited’s Graeme Hackland says F1 has been using 3-D printing since 1998.   

“It’s now gotten to the stage where we’re running parts on the real car made out of what’s called 3-D printing,” Hackland says. “I think sometimes we help to advance technology that then makes it into people’s home and into something that they use.”

Hackland described F1 as a culture of constant change. With new regulations added every year for F1 vehicles, teams often have to redesign cars. Hackland says this drives up the demand for innovated machinery.  

“Formula 1 is really a breeding ground for new technology,” Hackland says. “We work with a lot of technology companies and we help them to develop their products in a much faster cycle then perhaps they would do normally.”

As for F1 finding a home in Texas, Hackland says the excitement of Formula 1 meshes well with Austin’s music scene – but it’s the intertwining of new skills and technology with young adults that binds the fast-paced sport with the city.

“It’s actually the high-tech and the student population,” Hackland says. “… Austin really fits in well with that whole Formula 1 of really fast innovation, trying new things and being quite dynamitic.” 

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