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Optimizing the Frame Joints of FSAE Cars Using Simulation and Additive Manufacturing

The frame of E-AGLE Trento racing team’s FSEA car has 3D- printed joints that increase torsional stiffness.

The Formula SAE (FSAE) race car competition has become a time-honored tradition among engineering schools around the world. For many teams, like the University of Trento’s E-AGLE Trento racing team, the contest isn’t just about race day — it’s about optimizing the design of the car.

What set the E-AGLE Trento team apart from the competition was its innovative way to optimize its car’s strength-to-weight ratio using additive manufacturing, simulation and parameter optimization.

The team used ANSYS Additive Suite to ensure the car’s frame joints would print correctly and ANSYS Mechanical to reduce the mass of the car and increase its stiffness.

Using Additive Suite and Mechanical to Optimize the Joints of FSAE Car Frames

To keep weight down, the E-AGLE Trento team designed an open frame — instead of the monocoque design used by most teams.

Next, the team conducted parameterization studies in Mechanical and ANSYS Workbench to optimize the configuration, thickness and diameter of the frame’s metal tubes.

One of the biggest challenges the E-AGLE Trento team faced was coming up with a way to attach the tubes without creating a weak point.

A four-way joint designed by the E-AGLE Trento team.

Traditionally, FSAE teams weld the tubes end-to-end, in a joint that is considerably weaker than the rest of the frame.

This wasn’t an acceptable solution for the E-AGLE Trento team. Using Mechanical, the team designed a joint that transfers the mechanical stresses to the mechanical fit of the joints in the tubes — rather than the weld. The car’s overall stiffness was improved, without adding too much weight, when the joint was 3D-printed and connected to the tubes.

The team also used Additive Suite to ensure that the joint would print properly. This minimized the trial and error associated with additive manufacturing. To learn how the E-AGLE Trento team used Additive Suite to compensated for thermal deformation associated with additive manufacturing, read: Framing a Lighter, Stronger Race Car. To try the software for yourself, read: ANSYS Free Student Software Downloads.