July 26, 2023
As mentioned in my last blog, Formula 1 gearboxes are now highly integrated into the overall car design. The days of a “spec” transmission from a third-party supplier are long gone. Teams now have to integrate kinetic energy recovery systems (KERS), complex computer controls, and insane power density into a gearbox that fits into limited chassis space without compromising the ground effects tunnels. I occasionally see some challenging request for proposals, but nothing as crazy as these teams face. When fans decry the rising cost of racing they need to consider that it isn’t a matter of ordering what you need from an online speed shop. Due to secrecy requirements, they keep design in-house and hire and retain staff trained in aerospace-type gears. Fortunately, the modern multi-axis CNC machine tools they already own can be tooled to make the gearbox parts. These parts are now rumored to include carbon fiber gearbox housings molded using 3-D-printed molds. How soon will these advanced technologies find their way into our shops? Cutting splines in CNC machines is already widespread; moving to spur and helical gearing will quickly follow. Rough milling spiral bevel teeth was “crazy talk” ten years ago, but even finishing these complex teeth is being attempted in some places. We’ve published papers and articles on some of these breakthroughs in Gear Technology and will continue to seek out “cutting edge” information as it becomes available. It is this blogger’s opinion that the most important aspect of Formula 1 technology we need to adopt is the desire to always be questioning why and how things are done the way they are. Henry Ford’s early interest in automobiles is credited to being in charge of “refuse removal” at his father’s livery stable. If something about the way we do something annoys you enough, there is no limit to the progress you can make.