Andretti Autosport Photo

Andretti Autosport uses 3D printing to build medical face-shield parts

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Armed with a vast array of computer aided design (CAD) software along with 3D printers that can create specialized parts and equipment, NTT IndyCar Series team Andretti Autosport is taking that expertise to the medical field.

Team owner Michael Andretti’s team is building a key part for medical face shields. These shields protect first responders, nurses and doctors from moisture droplets. The droplets can spread the COVID-19 virus from one human to another.

Simply put, the design process goes from Andretti Autosport’s CAD system to an intermediate piece of software and then the printer makes the part.

Andretti Autosport senior development engineer Aaron Marney is in charge of this project along with team technical director Eric Bretzman and Marissa Andretti.

“We went into our shutdown and have a few resources sitting there,” Marney explained to NBCSports.com. “We have been reading some stories about people wanting to help out the medical community. I reached out to our technical director, Eric Bretzman, if he would be open to doing something like this. That started the conversation.

“At the same time, Marissa Andretti on her own had reached out to Eric to ask if we could do something in this area. Me and Marissa connected. We wanted to do something and see what the shape looked like on it and what we could do, what the resources and how big of an impact we could make.

3D Printer Chamber — Andretti Autosport Photo

“We reached out Stratasys, the company that manufacturers the 3D printer. They are a technical partner of ours’. They were in the infancy of a program where they were printing PPE (personal protective equipment) for hospitals that had approached them. Once we talked about it internally, and what we could put into it, we jumped on board and have been helping them the last 3-4 weeks now.”

Andretti Autosport is making the frame that goes around the crown of the head and hold the clear face shield. Stratasys has a relationship with Medtronic, the company that makes the actual shield.

The simple design is a one-piece part that has a mounting for the actual shield. An elastic band can be attached to the frame to keep the face shield on a person’s head.

Andretti Autosport ships batches of 100 to Stratasys in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. After that, they are shipped to Medtronic for final assembly, including the clear lens.

“The crew is me and another person,” Marney said. “We are the point people on 3-D printing for our company. I go in and service the printer. When we have both machines going, we can print about 35 a day. Each machine takes about 20 hours to produce a batch of parts. We go in, pull the parts off, clean them and when we get 100 of them, we box them up and ship them off.”

The frame is made with “ASA” plastic, similar to “ABS” plastic. Don’t look up those acronyms, though, because the answer will never be revealed.

“It doesn’t stand for anything,” Marney explained. “It’s a name they came up for it. It’s a plastic polymer that has a little more bendability than ABS plastic. It is a little bit is something we use for a lot of prototypes and finished pieces like templates and fixturing. It is also pretty good for this application as well.”

Visors in the Printer Chamber — Andretti Autosport Photo

The 3D printer is an extremely useful tool for any IndyCar Series team because it can create a wide range of parts.

“It has a pretty decent array of materials it can use,” Marney continued. “We do lots of pit equipment. Fans and blowers that keep the car and driver cool. We make bolts for composite pieces along with holders and brackets. The more we work with it, the more in-use parts we can make. We also use it for a lot of templates and for prototypes as well. There are a lot of in-use parts and prototypes to see how things fit together and templates to drill holes.”

So, in detail, how does the 3D printing process really work?

To give that question the explanation it deserves, let’s have Marney explain it.

“There is a small group of us that would take an idea, such as the driver cooling for the aeroscreen,” Marney said. “There is a little duct that pipes air to the helmet. If we take a fan or a tube or a fitting, we will design that in our CAD system to make a 3D model of it. We would then evaluate it. The good thing about 3D printing is you can come up with some organic looking shapes and tailor it for what you need. You are not limited by standard manufacturing methods like mills or lathes or regular sheet metal. You can make the part look like anything you want it to, exactly tailored to what you need.

“We would evaluate the abuse and temperature and select the material based on that. Then, we introduce that into the software that Stratasys has that queues up all the tool paths and programming for the printer. We put the geometry in that to figure out the orientation we want to put it in. It has different strengths because it is building it one-ten-thousandths of an inch at a time. That can vary on what you are doing. It is building up these layers of plastic and melting them together. We have to figure out the compromise on how to build it, how heavy does it need to be, how solid does it need to be or how light it needs to be. We can make adjustments to the tool path, queue the job up and it takes care of the rest.

“Depending on the material, we have to go to a wash process. As it goes through and builds these layers, there is a little bit of a cleanup, but it is fairly minimal.

“We would take it, catalog it and then start implementing it.”

Once the NTT IndyCar Series returns to action, Marney will continue his role as senior development engineer. He helps with the team’s wind tunnel testing program. He is also involved in design work for electrical systems and other mechanical systems on the car.

As a project manager, he doesn’t have to travel to any race anymore. He was a road warrior until 2018. But if needed, his bags are packed to hit the road.

“If I need to fill in for somebody, I occasionally go to the track, but not on a regular basis,” he said.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 

 

Stacks of Visor Frames

Single Face Shield Frame — Andretti Autosport Photo

 

 

 

 

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.