City of Industry, CA--Solo Golf is part of Solo Enterprises, an aerospace subcontractor to Boeing. But instead of building wings, it's building wedges—the division has parlayed its expertise in aerospace materials and high tech design into becoming one of the leading U.S. makers of golf clubs. Solo was one of the first companies to use titanium in golf clubs, taking advantage of the metal's low weight and great strength.
Intelligent use of CAD played a part in Solo Golf's success, as witnessed by the company's recent announcement that CATIA helped to reduce development time 75%, while cutting design costs up to 60%.
"When we first entered the golf club business in the early 1980s, club design wasn't very precise. We were used to designing for tolerances measured in thousandths of an inch for aerospace, and found that club makers wanted a club to look good. If they could get it to perform 'well enough,' they could market it," says Ed Mugica, vice president and designer for Solo Golf. "We designed a club with CAD for the first time in the late 1980s, and found that the distribution of weight and mass in the right places was the key to performance. With that knowledge, we designed a club that looked good to golfers, and made it perform better."
Other golf club manufacturers recognized Solo's advances, and the company designed and produced clubs for Callaway, Lynx, Founders Club, Cobra, Titleist, Andrews & Aberdeen, and Cleveland, until starting to sell under its own name in the early 1990s.
Mugica singles out finite element analysis (FEA) embedded in CATIA as being important to his designs. "We can use fairly low-level FEA to look at mass properties and fatigue factors, wall thickness, and distribution of mass and weight. CATIA has an analysis menu with a mass properties function and it tells us the overall mass, volume, and moments of inertia. You want to distribute weight as far away from the center of gravity as possible, so that the club won't twist and will be more forgiving," he says.
The growing use of thin-wall technology in golf clubs also benefits from FEA. Golf club heads have tended to grow over time, and while the top pros can always manage to hit the ball with the "sweet spot," the clubs have to be designed so that non-professional golfers can hit the ball with the whole face. Metal club heads have hollow cavities to keep the weight under control, and with FEA engineers analyze how the heads will function with thinner walls. "Golfers are used to having the heads of golf clubs be particular weights. We can handle small variations—four or five grams—during the manufacturing process, to control what golfers feel as the swing weight," Mugica says.