Today we have an extra special blog post from John Young of the University of Michigan. John Young is a senior in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Michigan and an intern at Altair Engineering. This year, he is the Chief Engineer of the University of Michigan SAE Supermileage team. He intends to pursue a master’s degree at the University of Michigan upon graduation. While interning at Altair this summer, John learned about solidThinking Inspire. Below he details his story.
Each spring, teams from universities across the country come to Houston, Texas to compete in the Shell Ecomarathon competition. The goal is simple: produce a vehicle that gets the best fuel economy. Often with little more than a lawn mower engine and some spare bike parts, these teams regularly reach 2000-3000 miles per gallon (MPG).
The University of Michigan Supermileage Team is a relative newcomer to this competition; spring 2014 marked our second appearance in Houston and we have many improvements to make. As team lead for the upcoming 2015 competition, I wanted to explore ways to take our designs to the next level. My experience as an intern at Altair this summer gave me some food for thought.
One of the main ways to get higher fuel economy is to reduce mass as much as possible; less weight = less energy to push the car = less fuel used. Pretty simple concept, but as undergrads the optimal design is not always apparent at first glance. While struggling with this problem I happened to be introduced to solidThinking Inspire by a coworker at Altair. I immediately knew that this was the solution for our team. The software was very easy to learn, and using manufacturing constraints resulted in shapes that we could easily manufacture on our limited equipment.
I set about redesigning some of our chassis components with solidThinking Inspire. Specifically, I wanted to optimize the structure that connected our front wheels to the main carbon structure of the car. Some pictures of the parts in the software interface are shown below. The extrusion constraint allowed me to design parts that can be almost completely made on the water jet, a huge time saver for a team as small as ours.
The final iteration of the part designs took some other design constraints into account, but the basic shape generated was maintained. In total, the redesign reduced the mass of the assembly from 1344 g to 407 g, a reduction of almost 70%!
We plan to continue to use solidThinking Inspire for more components in the car and I will be keeping this blog updated as we move through the rest of our design and manufacturing process. For more information on our team, please visit http://umsm.engin.umich.edu/ or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.