As the skeleton racers took to the track this week at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, 2005 and 2007 World Cup champion Noelle Pikus-Pace hitched a ride on her sled–a racing creation designed with the help of SolidWorks Simulation.
While luge and bob sledding are perhaps its better-known cousins, skeleton racing positions riders aboard a compact sled face-first, vs. feet first as they do with the luge. Pikus-Pace’s long-time sled had been damaged, and the champion turned to her industrial designer husband and his employer, NuQuest, to help her design and create a skeleton sled in less time than normal.
Using SolidWorks CAD software and the SolidWorks Simulation module, the team was able to produce an Olympics-regulation skeleton sled in four months–a fraction of the time it typically takes. Using the simulation capabilities, the team tested the sled’s strength, the loads it could handle as well as the material choices so it wouldn’t buckle or deform under pressure. The team modeled all the parts in SolidWorks, did the simulations and then modified them. As a result, they were able to predict results that would have taken years of trial and error, and the first physical model produced fit well together and was ready for use without having to create costly prototypes.
Pikus-Pace’s skeleton sled has a number of differences compared with mainstream skeleton sleds. The sled’s chassis and blades are bolted together as opposed to welded together, which makes it easier to switch out damaged or malfunctioning parts. The sled also employs different materials, which make it faster while still complying with international competition rules.