FEA provides winning track record

DN Staff

April 13, 2004

3 Min Read
FEA provides winning track record

When a car undergoes almost a million engine cycles in one day, operating at almost 200 mph, its engine-and not the rims-becomes the coveted grail of amateur speedsters. So when an already successful NASCAR team commits to using FEA in-house to test these outrageous stresses on its engines, engineers take note: if it's good enough for them...

In 2000, two drivers of the Robert Yates Racing team (now Roush-Yates Racing Engines)-Dale Jarrett and Ricky Rudd (formerly of RYR)-dropped in the Winston Cup (now Nextel Cup) standings due to parts failure, prompting the team to take engine design and analysis into their own hands. Since incorporating SolidWorks 3D, COSMOSWorks, and COSMOSMotion into their engine design, the team has had zero failures for internally designed parts, less testing time, and the top two places in the Nextel Cup standings at the time of writing.

Amazingly, just a few years ago, RYR was running analysis through hand calculations that could take as much as a month to complete, all while racing the engines on a near-weekly basis. They also relied more on vendor-supplied parts, which could take even longer to integrate any necessary iterations found in analysis. "In post-race analysis, there's no time to wait around for a vendor to correct a problem," says John Calhoun, design engineer with RYR Engines. "Sometimes, we want to test things very quickly and it's just quicker to do ourselves."

Calhoun is responsible for bringing SolidWorks 3D, COSMOSWorks, and COSMOSMotion software to the company when he was hired in 2001. The goal was to eliminate some of the engine part failures that were occurring by using vendor-supplied parts, and to do it in less time. While some engine components they use are still designed by vendor companies, RYR engineers can now send designs to vendors for production after having optimized them with COSMOSWorks first. They also can run an analysis on a solid model design submitted by a vendor and go back to the vendor to request changes. "We have become a de facto analyst for some companies," says Calhoun. "Last year, we had a company rework a part; so we requested a solid model, ran an analysis, and we came up with a much-improved part."

With COSMOSWorks, users can test parts; with COSMOSMotion, they can test part operations within a system; and with SolidWorks 3D mechanical design software, they can quickly integrate any iterations. RYR currently uses the software to test such parts as valve train components and bracketry that holds alternators and power steering pumps. The company has taken the design of some parts in-house. Valve spring retainers, for example, are parts handled solely by RYR as much for the secrecy of the design as for the fact that the team simply knows what they want, according to Calhoun.

The Ford UPS car #88, driven by Dale Jarrett, is now tested with COSMOSWorks and COSMOSMotion by Roush-Yates Racing.

Also, in the important post-race analysis sessions, Calhoun and his team of design engineers can immediately begin testing should a part failure occur. This quick turnaround could prove critical when it comes time to race the car again, possibly a week later. "Now we can see a problem that occurs, and go right to the model in analysis and see if there's a direct correspondence," says Calhoun. "Otherwise, we would be at the mercy of a company we worked with."

While Calhoun backs away from estimating how much time RYR has saved in adopting FEA compared to their former hand calculations, he admits that some analysis may take as little as 30 minutes or up to a couple days. But he stresses the impact that time saved, in addition to the elimination of parts failure, has had in his industry. "Racing is so competitive," he says. "You can't expect to wait around and still win championships."

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