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Tips to Design a Formula SAE Racecar with Simulation

The LOBOmotorsports Team at FSAE Lincoln 2017

Students and faculty looking to start a Formula SAE team are faced with an uphill battle. The team needs to create an immense number of designs, simulations and prototypes just to qualify, let alone win the contest.

Few know this better than John Russell — the director of the University of New Mexico’s (UNM) LOBOmotorsports Formula SAE program for over 20 years.

During this time, Russell has learned a few tips and tricks to get an SAE car on the raceway.

When it comes to optimizing a Formula SAE car, Russell suggests starting with simulation software. He says: “ANSYS products have played a major part in validating our designs to withstand the forces and conditions we see during testing and competition.”

SAE Designers Focus on Validation First

FEA of a font upright during pure braking.

Russel notes that his design engineers first focus on validating all the components of the SAE car.

This is where static structural analysis using finite element analysis (FEA) comes into play.

LOBOmotorsports uses FEA to assess many of their parts, including:

  • Uprights.
  • Clevises.
  • Control arms.
  • Rockers and.
  • Tabs.

“We will continue using ANSYS Mechanical to ensure our components can withstand the maximum loads from braking, cornering and acceleration,” says Russell.

According to Russell, the more you learn about the sturdiness of your designs, the more you will know how to lightweight them. This will help your car go faster and use less fuel.

Optimizing the Design of Your SAE Racecar

Thermal mechanical simulation of a front rotor.

Russell hints that as your team grows, it starts to apply what it learns from old designs. This optimization process improves future designs.

For instance, LOBOmotorsports wants to improve the thermal performance of its brakes and rotors.

“[We want to remove] the hot spots that appeared on the rotors in simulation,” says Russell. “These hot spots increase the need to replace the rotors over time and could cause cracks to form as the parts are heat cycled.”

It turns out that as the team improves the symmetry of its rotor design, it also reduces these hot spots. As a result, the team maintains the part’s symmetry as it is lightweighted.

“We maintain a symmetric design and remove similar amounts of material from each section,” says Russell. “Given the same track, our new designs should be able to drive longer and harder than previous cars.”

LOBOmotorsports builds SAE cars that rely heavily on simulations. It suggests that new teams will also benefit from learning simulation software.

“Using the tutorials to learn the program helps immensely,” says Russell, “It allows our team to instantly transition our models into FEA. With ANSYS’ user-friendly method to import [CAD] models, we can quickly analyze and iterate our parts to ensure a competitive design at competition.”

To gain access to the ANSYS portfolio of free student software, click here.