Aston Martin Racing Revs Up PTC Tools In New Design Strategy

DN Staff

March 17, 2011

4 Min Read
Aston Martin Racing Revs Up PTC Tools In New Design Strategy

For the first time in recent years, Aston Martin Racing is moving awayfrom a third-party chassis strategy to take soup-to-nuts ownership of thecomplete design and manufacturing for its new LMP1 motor sports car as it gearsup for the 2011 racing season.

Prompted in part by new 2011 regulations mandated by the LeMans governing body, ACO, Aston Martin Racing opted for the new ground-updesign strategy along with plans to build an open cockpit vehicle. The changesalso precipitated a major shift in Aston Martin Racing's design tools partnerto PTC's Windchill PLM platform and CreoElements/Pro CAD suite as part of its plan to get the next-generation vehicleto the racing circuit in a timely fashion.

"In racing, our biggest challenge is time -- we had to designand built the first car in six months," says Ian Ludgate, chief designer atAston Martin Racing. "We had to complete the car design and create an enginecompletely from the ground up and to do so in the time frame we set forourselves was incredibly challenging."

The new ACO regulations call for more energy efficient vehiclesand for designs that bring more parity between diesel and petrol cars, Ludgatesays. As a result, the Aston Martin Racing team chose to change tacks thisyear, designing an open cockpit car while including a new blade-fin and the significantlydown-sized engine in keeping with the ACO's efficiency-focused regulations. TheLMP1 sports a 2.0 litre, turbocharged six-cylinder direct injection petrolengine along with a new bespoke carbon fibre, open top chassis and is capableof racing up to 320 kilometers (or 220 miles) an hour when pushed to top speed.

Race to the Finish
Determining that it needed more robust data handling andmanagement capabilities to do the job, the Aston Martin Racing team put inmotion an extensive benchmark process to evaluate CAD and PLM tools, includingPTC's software as well as offerings from DassaultSystemes and its incumbent CAD provider, Siemens PLM Software. The teamdetermined that PTC's platform was a better fit, Ludgate says, due primarily toWindchill's data management and collaboration capabilities for letting non-CAD andnon-engineering users visualize components and tap into engineering datawithout requiring an assist from the design team. For example, with the newplatform, the purchasing department can now have access to drawings and datathey need as part of the procurement process. "By taking this process away fromus [in engineering], it means we can concentrate more on design and less on theprocess of getting the [vehicle] out to manufacturing," Ludgate says.

The integrated simulation and analysis capabilities of CreoElements/Pro, formerly known as Pro/ENGINEER, also played a hand in thedecision. With its previous toolset, Aston Martin Racing engineers had to tap athird-party tool to perform analysis on its mechanisms, like the suspensionsystem, for example. With Creo Elements/Pro, the team can do the analysisdirectly in the software, which simplifies things and eliminates anyincompatibility problems and miscues associated with transferring data betweentwo programs.

"Historically, this had been a manual, iterative processwhere someone sat down, worked out a problem, determined how close they were tothe design goal, made any changes and then did the calculations," explains PaulHaimes, PTC's vice president of technical sales. "The behavioral modelingwithin [Creo Elements/Pro] automates that process and takes out huge chunks oftime."

Given that the design effort launched in earnest lastSeptember and racing season is just around the corner, any chance to compressthe development cycle will help propel the LMP1 to the finish gate. Not onlydid the Aston Martin Racing team complete the design in less than six months,the first LMP1 has been manufactured and circuit tested and production of asecond vehicle is already underway.

The car is set to compete in the LeMans race in June, andwhile the Aston Martin Racing team has high hopes for its performance, it'sreally looking to next year for the design to pan out. Using the PLM tools, theLMP1 design will continually be refined over the year, particularly in the areaof aerodynamics, and the team is betting that 2012 will be its best year since1959 when it took first place in LeMans.

"This is a development for us given that we had such a tightschedule," Ludgate explains. "We're looking to do our absolute best, but nextyear is when we'll be fully competitive."

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