Many of you know that I’m not a big supporter of the DeltaWing effort, but understand that its not for any of the technological goals and philosophies of the group. I just can’t get past the tricycle appearance of the thing and the mundane performance specs for the engine. Of all the designs and proposals made public thus far, I must say that Swift Engineering is by far my favorite. The renderings of their proposed models look great, but that’s not their primary strength; it’s their technological expertise and partnerships that I like. Cray and Mark One Composites along with Swift’s own in-house technology programs Swiftlights and their wake turbulence reduction system show to the public that they’re thinking well beyond just the aesthetics of the vehicle.
Today, the Delta Wing took a big leap forward in my opinion by announcing a technological partnership with Milliken & Company. The proposed DeltaWing car will be fabricated using new composite material, Tegris, created by Milliken. Most race cars now, even down at the serious amateur levels of the SCCA are made with significant amounts of carbon fiber. Carbon is not an easy or cheap material to use, though. When carbon fiber fragments, the shards can be quite dangerous both to machines and personnel as we’ve seen so often during IndyCar and Formula 1 races. Tegris is a polymer encased weave much like carbon fiber, but the weave is of a polypropylene with a higher melt point than the encasing polymer. This all-polypropylene construction greatly reduces the cost and recyclability of the materials.
“From the beginning of the DeltaWing project, enhancing safety was a top priority so we looked for new technologies that could be applied to make the chassis stronger and safer, while reducing mass at the same time” said Ben Bowlby, Designer and Chief Technology Officer of DeltaWing LLC. “Milliken’s Tegris material has excellent impact energy management characteristics while being extremely light weight. This is an example of a new material that has helped the DeltaWing design team achieve its extraordinary efficiency performance targets.” — Delta Wing Racing press release, April 26, 2010.
Tegris has about the same weight as carbon fiber, but isn’t quite as strong, having only about 70% of carbon fiber’s strength. The big advantage, however, is that fabrication costs with Tegris are about one tenth of what they are with traditional carbon fiber. In this age of cost-cutting, that’s a difference that one simply cannot afford to ignore! While I’m still not sold on the DeltaWing vehicle, the group continues to impress me with their technological goals, and finding partners like Milliken can go a long way towards achieving their objective of being the platform chosen for the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series chassis.