3D scanning and additive manufacturing aid WSBK aero development

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Although racing motorbikes do not have the volume of aerodynamic appendages of their four-wheeled relatives, aero development still has a key role to play – not least when it comes to understanding and mitigating the influence of a rider perched atop their machine. In the case of BMW’s World Superbike Team, the services of the company’s acoustic wind tunnel in Munich has seen extensive use in the development of its 2020 S 1000 RR.

Riders can sit on their bikes during tunnel testing, but of course that requires them to be present and that is not always practical. As each rider has a unique physique, they cannot simply be substituted by generic dummies. BMW’s solution to this conundrum has been to use an additive-manufactured model of one of its riders (in the first instance, Eugene Laverty), produced using 3D scan data.

“Eugene was here in Munich with us before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic,” explained BMW Motorrad motorsport director Marc Bongers. “He was trying to find the ideal sitting position on the RR and, while he was in that position, we took detailed measurements with a 3D scanner.”

The high resolution of a 3D scan means each glove finger, contour of the helmet, seam in the leathers or crease that affects the airflow can be reproduced. “Based on the data from the 3D scan, we created a plastic model made of two halves,” Bongers added. “It took about a week to get all the details right, but our 3D Eugene was then ready for action.”

The plastic Laverty has been providing a very important service, racking up over 50 test runs in the wind tunnel. “Using a 3D model like this allows us to work more efficiently on development of our RR,” said Bongers. “While a real rider must travel to get here, the plastic version is available at any time for testing in the wind tunnel. This means that we can evaluate and implement updates even faster.”

Another major advantage of the 3D model became particularly apparent during the coronavirus-enforced break. While WorldSBK riders Laverty and Tom Sykes (GBR) were unable to be in Munich due to travel restrictions, plastic Laverty faced no such troubles, and was available as soon as the team could recommence testing. Following the break for coronavirus, the BMW team has now also been able to measure Laverty’s teammate Sykes in Munich.

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