To design, build, defend and race an open-wheel formula-style vehicle in the annual Formula SAE competition.
Issues Involved or Addressed
Management and completion of a complex vehicle in a cost-constrained, resource-constrained, schedule-driven, innovation-rich, multi-disciplinary environment. The vehicle must conform to the rules of the SAE Formula competition (http://students.sae.org/cds/formulaseries/).
Multiple sub-teams are required, addressing issues in suspension design, chassis design, aerodynamics, engine management, intake and exhaust, powertrain, brakes, controls, user interfaces, data acquisition, ergonomics, sensor integration, composites, etc. The vehicle has conflicting constraints and objectives including light weight, robustness, stability, sophistication, simplicity, reliability, and high performance, while also being as safe as possible.
Example RandD projects of immediate interest include (others may be added at any time):
1) Topological optimization of structural and suspension components. Classical component designs typically assume monolithic structures of relatively simple structural elements. Leading-edge manufacturing methods enable components of much lower weight but equal performance (these components commonly have an organic or trellised appearance). Components such as the suspension uprights, the engine cradle, and other components may benefit from application of the topological optimization that yields these organic designs.
2) Advanced sensing and communication systems. Development of complex vehicles requires tight integration between predictive analysis and field validation. Multiple parameters need to be acquired, ranging from vehicle speed, fuel consumption, suspension position, loads, etc. This data needs to be captured in real time, and either stored on board or transmitted to an off-board data collection and visualization system. Opportunities exist for the design and implementation of all aspects of this system, including novel sensing applications that would be used during development.
3) Development of low-cost composites. Composites, while offering superior strength relative to weight and almost unconstrained geometry, require extensive manpower and other resources for fabrication. The vehicle chassis is a carbon-fiber monocoque with a honeycomb core. The aerodynamics package is a complex, multi-element design with multiple components that are labor-intensive to manufacture and integrate. Design and manufacturing techniques need to be developed to minimize the manpower cost of manufacturing and mounting these components; for example, develop fabrication techniques for near-net-final-shape for all of the aerodynamics packages. Also, the vehicle uses an undertray and diffuser; development of a means to load this through the suspension, rather than the chassis, would be advantageous.
4) Advanced materials in novel applications. Competitive advantage may be gained by any means that increases performance in some manner; such as through developing and applying novel/innovative/non-traditional applications of materials, for example, the use of carbon-fiber composites in drivetrain and suspension components.
5) Engine/powertrain development. Formula SAE rules provide a great deal of design freedom in terms of engine development and management, from the intake through to the exhaust. Novel applications of materials and systems to improve performance are of interest.
6) Continued development of light-weight brake systems. Braking systems are a critical component of any vehicle. The team has pursued and continues to develop its own custom-designed calipers, rotors, and mounting systems for weight savings on the vehicle.
An FSAE vehicle is quite complex, with numerous components and systems. Opportunities abound for projects in design, development, test, and validation on almost any aspect of the current, future, and past vehicles.