As students at the University of Florence, we aren’t just racing to class, we’re racing around Europe. Last season was particularly exciting for our 35-member Firenze Race Team (FRT). We designed two new single-seater cars — the FR-17T and FR-17DT — and introduced them at Formula Student competitions in Italy and Germany.
Our campus-based design process began with an earlier prototype. Using ANSYS structural and thermal modules, we evaluated and improved different parts and features of the car. Every design decision was based on comprehensive analyses of performance, vehicle dynamics and cost. For example, we evaluated the vibration modes of the car’s spaceframe using a 1-D model imported from a CAD design. This was necessary to optimize the reliability of the frame material, which we achieved after several design iterations.
ANSYS Mechanical APDL was most helpful, for two main reasons. First, it allowed us to save and improve our list of instructions through a simple text editor. This helped us to make faster revisions to our model. Second, the user interface prevented many errors because of the logical and intuitive positioning of the commands.
Another important focus area was related to the thermodynamics of the braking system and, more specifically, the brake discs. Last year, on an earlier prototype, one of the disc ruptured due to excessive heat generation.
To overcome this issue, we analyzed the old rotors and identified the cracks and crimps caused by mechanical and thermal stress. We collected data that measured the vehicle speed as a function of time, as well as the acceleration and deceleration values, to discover where most of the heat originating. From data tables and other tests applied with the software, we were able to reduce the amount of heat generated in the braking system. With the FR-17T ready to go, the team participated in the Formula SAE Italy competition in Parma, at the Autodromo Riccardo Paletti race track. We finished second overall in the competition), and competed against students from around the world in both static (design, tilt, break and noise tests and business presentation) and dynamic (skid pad, sprint, acceleration, endurance and fuel economy) events.
A month later, at Hockenheim, we entered the new generation FR17-DT in the Class 1 category of the Formula Student Germany. This car has an internal combustion engine and is equipped with autonomous driving technology. In this category, we were judged on: acceleration (from 0 to 75 meters), skid pad (lateral tightness in curve), autocross (time of the fastest lap) and track drive. Our results and innovations have captured the attention of many automotive companies, and we look forward to our next road trip.
This blog was co-authored. Along with Caterina Lotti, we would like to recognize the other contributors.
After receiving his degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Florence, Riccardo is pursuing a master’s in mechanical engineering with a focus on land vehicles. In the 2016-2017 season, he served as brakes and pedals chief, and was responsible for designing the pedals assembly and braking system and developing the cost report. He’s now working as supervisor. His experience as a racing kart driver led him to join the Firenze Race Team.
Flavio graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering and is now studying for a master's degree focused on terrestrial vehicles. In the 2016-2017 season, he was a member of the frame and ergonomics group, and participated in Formula Student Italy. Working with FRT, Flavio has greatly expanded his software skills. He enjoys attending motorsport events, and relishes opportunities to learn in the field.