Imagine an educational experience for budding engineers to leave textbooks and theory behind and actually design, build, and test real vehicles. Imagine those students' racing their own vehicles in an intense and exciting competition against other university teams. Formula SAE Series Racing has been making this dream a reality for more than three decades.
Not only do students gain real-world experience, they learn professionalism by working in a team environment under scheduling and budget constraints. This experience promotes excellence in multiple disciplines, including research, design, manufacturing, testing, developing, marketing, management, and financing.
The concept behind Formula SAE is that a fictional manufacturing company has contracted a design team to develop a small Formula-style race car. The prototype race car is evaluated for its potential as a production item. The target marketing group for the race car is the nonprofessional weekend autocross racer who races alone on the track against the clock.
All teams that enter must meet strict rules pertaining to performance and driver safety; the rules and requirements document for the Formula SAE is 182 pages long. Failure during the technical inspection means the team will not be allowed to operate the vehicle under power. Requirements include vehicle configuration, driver's cell, minimum material requirements, main and front roll hoops, bracing, safety equipment, fasteners, and much more.
"It's a big challenge for these students," says Dave Schaller, GoEngineer education account manager and rapid prototyping specialist. "They have to start in September, understand all the rules, design a vehicle that meets those rules, get the vehicle manufactured, get it assembled, test it, and make it to competition by June."
Schaller has worked in various roles for Formula SAE competitions in the past. This year, he helped University of North Texas' (UNT) Mean Green Racing team get the right thermoplastic material so they could 3D print their intake manifold.
The team struggled with ECU-related issues last year. Inspired to do better in 2016, UNT's engine team set several goals. For the intake manifold, the goal was to create an increase in runner velocity of 10%. The goal for the exhaust manifold was to create an equal runner length header of 27 inches, to create peak torque at 7,000 RPM. Finally, the goal for the fuel tank was to be able to supply the fuel feed system with enough fuel to complete the endurance event while making it lighter.
"The school had a 3D printer but didn't have the material that they knew was needed," says Schaller. "We wanted to help the students so GoEngineer sponsored the team and 3D printed the intake manifold for them in Ultem 1010." Ultem 1010 offers the highest tensile strength, heat resistance, and chemical resistance of any FDM thermoplastic.
The team uses SolidWorks 3D CAD for car design and Flow Simulation for testing. They also regularly use Stratasys 3D printers as part of their product development process. "We like to 3D print our parts to see what they actually look like and also resolve any fitment issues," says Justin Vincik, student and vice president of Mean Green Racing.
Additionally, the school has CNC machines, lathes, drill presses, 3D printers, welders, and more -- everything needed to build their vehicle. "There are a select few things that we have to buy," says Vincik. "But almost all the fabrication is done by the team."
Learning how to conceive, design, build, test, and then race a vehicle is a sophisticated undertaking on many levels, and the students are grateful for industry mentors such as Schaller.
"I really appreciate what Dave Schaller and GoEngineer have done for us," says student Reid Cloud, president of Mean Green Racing. "We especially like to show him what we have accomplished."
The Mean Green Racing team will compete June 15-18 in Lincoln, Neb. For more information about Formula SAE and the Student Collegiate Design Series, go to http://students.sae.org/cds/.
Get 3D Printing Right. Learn how to select the right prototyping method to fit your needs and more at Industry 4.0: Smart Manufacturing, part of Atlantic Design & Manufacturing Expo, June 16 in New York. Register here for the event, hosted by Design News’ parent company UBM. Enter promo code NY16DN for your FREE Expo pass & 20% off Industry 4.0 Conference.
Mitch Bossart is a technology enthusiast, and he loves writing about people and companies that are shaping our world. You will find him at various coffee shops throughout the Minneapolis/St. Paul area -- writing, socializing, or dreaming about the next great American screenplay.