Leica Absolute Tracker AT901 gives Red Bull Racing wings

Red Bull Racing - UK

Microns in industrial metrology mean hundredths of a second in Formula 1. Precision and reliability are what matters in both fields. In this elite class of motor sport, manufacturing tolerances are not a matter for discussion – any deviation from the specified values could cost a race victory, lose valuable points or ultimately the world championship title. The Austrian owned, UK based Red Bull Racing Team relies on Hexagon Metrology as an Innovation partner.The Leica Absolute Tracker AT901 and the Leica T-Probe are generating lots of enthusiasm at the Milton Keynes factory.

Chris Charnley, Quality Manager at Red Bull Technology (the design and manufacturing part of Red Bull Racing), comes straight to the point: “We have no time for mistakes.” The manufacture of Formula 1 cars demands precision and the highest standards in the development and manufacture of vehicle components. “Basically in our business we are continuously developing prototypes,” says Charnley. During the racing season, the general shortage of time felt by Formula 1 racing teams builds up to extreme levels: Major modifications to the design to optimise the aerodynamics of the cars have to be completed in the period between two races – normally two weeks. “That’s what you call high pressure,” says Chris Charnley. “Working nights and weekends then becomes the rule. But we have a lot of fun doing it, especially when we see the success of our efforts in the race.”

Not just measuring – it has to be a “Leica-check”

The range of applications for the Leica Absolute Tracker in the day-to-day development environment is wide and varied. Quality Engineer Mike Hughes is frequently contacted by the designers when they wish to check the dimensional integrity of a new component. “They come to us and ask not just if we could measure the part – they ask us for a ‘Leica-Check’. The measurement results from our four Leica Geosystems Laser Trackers are reliable and authoritative – and word has got around.”

Red Bull Technology measures the assembled racing cars as well as the individual components. Formula 1 is a sport, and sports have rules. The dimensions of the cars are strictly defined. “Legality checks” are all part of the routine before every grand prix. Compliance with maximum and minimum limits is confirmed quickly and easily with the Leica Absolute Tracker and the Leica T-Probe. Jon Roberts, Metrology Specialist, describes his experience: “There are many critical points on a Formula 1 car. We check the wings on the front and rear, the overall width of the vehicle, even the position of the pedals. Everything must be perfect down to the finest detail. With the Leica T-Probe, the difficult-toaccess areas are simply more points to measure.”

Hexagon Metrology: Global technology partner

If worst comes to worst, Hexagon Metrology has already proved its worth as a Innovation Partner to Red Bull Racing. If the Formula 1 Team’s metrology engineers have to carry out a particularly difficult measurement, Hexagon Metrology technical service staff are there offering moral and practical support – if necessary at a moment’s notice. The Hexagon Metrology Regional Service Centre in Milton Keynes is only a few miles from the Red Bull Racing and Red Bull Technology HQ. Even when the Formula 1 entourage sets off around the world, Red Bull Racing can depend on Hexagon Metrology’s global presence. The Red Bull Racing measuring system usually stays at home. For an event in Spain however, the racing engineers urgently needed an accurate measuring machine. One phone call was enough: Hexagon Metrology in Barcelona quickly made a Leica Absolute Tracker available. Chris Charnley: “That’s partnership. Our contacts at Hexagon Metrology are fully integrated into our team.”

The machinery park at Red Bull Technology includes several product generations of Leica Geosystems Laser Trackers. These systems are in use at the Red Bull Racing wind tunnel at Bedford. During the aerodynamic tests, the Laser Tracker continuously analyses how the model vehicle deforms in the wind. In addition, Red Bull Technology uses DEA coordinate measuring machines and a third-party CMM that has been modified with a Hexagon Metrology retrofit package.

Leica Absolute Tracker: A brilliant all-purpose tool

Chris Charnley summarises: “The Leica Absolute Tracker is a brilliant all-purpose tool and without doubt one of our best investments. The speed of measurements justifies the investment by the time saved on component measurement. We are always discovering more uses for it. Accuracy, portability and reliability inspire the team. The Leica Absolute Tracker has played an important role in our many successes.”