© Steve Etherington for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd.

Keeping compos­ites cool

When Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motor­sport cures carbon fiber compo­nents for its race cars, a lot of heat is produced. But cooling it made a lot of noise, which went against the team’s philos­ophy to have an optimal envi­ron­ment for employees. Fortu­nately, team supplier ebm-papst had an idea.


Formula OneTM would be impos­sible without ultra­light carbon fiber compo­nents. They can resist even high-speed head-on crashes and also enable a steady stream of new shapes for improving racing car aero­dy­namics. Chassis and other body work compo­nents for the cars are cured at high temper­a­tures in a special pres­sur­ized container, an auto­clave. The auto­clave produces a lot of hot liquid which then goes to two blast coolers to be cooled by air before the curing cycle is complete. In Brackley, UK, where Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motor­sport manu­fac­tures the race cars, six fans at the rear of the produc­tion facility were supporting this process.

Chassis and other body work compo­nents for the cars are cured at high temper­a­tures in a special pres­sur­ized container, an auto­clave.

The fans were driven by AC motors, which could only be turned on or off but not other­wise regu­lated. They used more energy than neces­sary, espe­cially on cool days. But that was not the only problem. Oper­ating noise from the fans was 96 deci­bels and there­fore did not fit to the team’s philos­ophy of offering employees and optimal envi­ron­ment. So, a solu­tion was needed.

“Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motor­sport told us about the prob­lems,” says James Cooper, product manager at ebm-papst UK, “and we suggested new, more effec­tive and quieter EC fans.” Since the idea sounded promising and a quick solu­tion was needed, Mercedes-AMG Petronas awarded a contract to retrofit the facility.

Noise reduc­tion of up to 30 deci­bels

The instal­la­tion itself called for detailed plan­ning. Only one day was avail­able for the retrofit; the amount of time the team was able to hand over the auto­clave for the work. Cooper and his team had to do perfect advance plan­ning to ensure that every­thing went smoothly on the day of the retrofit. After visits at the site, it was clear that the tech­ni­cians would need to work with a special bracket to adapt the ebm-papst fans to the surface of the blast cooler. So ebm-papst produced the part in advance of the retrofit. In the end, the instal­la­tion was completed in only a few hours.

“We reduced the noise level to 75 deci­bels on hot days and 67 deci­bels on cooler days.”

James Cooper, product manager at ebm-papst UK

Four new EC fans from ebm-papst now provide the same cooling capacity as the six AC fans did. But since they are much more effi­cient and can also run at reduced speeds, they are also much quieter. “We reduced the noise level to 75 deci­bels on hot days and 67 deci­bels on cooler days,” reports Cooper. “This did not only please us, but of course also our team partner.” Since the speed of the new motors can be indi­vid­u­ally controlled, there is an addi­tional benefit: On cool days, the entire system now consumes much less energy than on hot days.

More EC for the future

The successful upgrade is having an effect beyond its instal­la­tion site. Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motor­sport plans to install more auto­claves in a new building in Brackley this spring. The team had orig­i­nally planned to use AC fans again, but ebm-papst recom­mended installing energy-effi­cient EC fans from the start. After its good expe­ri­ences, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motor­sport decided in favor of EC fans from ebm-papst again and plans to install them in Brackley in the spring of 2019.

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