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Two Approaches to Optimize Formula SAE Chassis Design Using Finite Element Analysis

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Mechanical Engineering Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Tanveer Singh Chawla Western Washington University

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Dr. Chawla is an Assistant Professor in Plastics and Composites Engineering, Engineering & Design Department at Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA. His background is in solid mechanics and materials. Research interests other than in mechanics of materials include manufacturing, characterization and repair of fiber reinforced polymer composites, and diversity in STEM.

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Eric Leonhardt Western Washington University

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I have been working to develop lower cost composite manufacturing processes for vehicles and built the Viking 40 and Viking 45 X Prize vehicles as demonstrators. Hybrid electric Viking 32 was built with funding from the Federal Highway Administration to demonstrate and develop carbon fiber honeycomb as an energy impact absorber—a development that was unique to Western. Viking 32 also became the world’s first biomethane hybrid as we demonstrated “Cow Power to Horsepower”. We have been developing a renewable fuel source, biomethane (a.k.a. renewable natural gas) since 2004. We built a compressed natural gas fuel station at the Vander Haak Dairy to help us develop our biogas upgrading technology. Funded by the Department of Energy, EPA, Paul Allen Family Foundation, Washington State Department of Agriculture, Whatcom Public Utility District, BP, and partnering with the Vander Haak Dairy and the Bellaire/Airporter Shuttle bus has allowed us to demonstrate some of the upgrading technology. We hope to develop the funding to complete the novel, pilot scale upgrading facility to produce up to 60,000 gasoline gallons of equivalent fuel energy. It is one of just a few facilities in North America. With students I helped develop a composite hood installation tool for Ford—the second use of composite tools in automotive assembly—and composite door molds for Bentley. I’ve also worked with students to develop lean manufacturing tools and jigs for PACCAR.

The Vehicle Research Institute operates as a technology development center that provides undergraduate students with opportunities for career specific training and research. Funding comes from a variety of sources including the Department of Energy, Department of Transportation, EPA, Paul Allen Family Foundation, BP, Washington State Department of Agriculture, Whatcom Public Utility District, Boeing, Janicki Industries, Northwest Porsche Club, Danner Corp. and Fluke. Past supporters include the Department of Defense, Fuji Heavy Industries (Subaru), PACCAR, Mazda, Ford, Bentley (parent company Audi), Alcoa, Conoco-Phillips, CNG Fuels of Canada, Chrysler, and DaimlerChrysler.

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Students in a vehicle design course, Vehicle Design I, are studying space frame chassis design with an interest in the Society of Automotive Engineers Formula SAE collegiate design competition. In parallel, students on the Formula SAE team are studying finite element analysis using ANSYS Mechanical APDL in a course titled Introduction to Finite Element Analysis (FEA). Students in Vehicle Design I are primarily junior level students while students in FEA course are primarily senior level students. Students in the vehicle design course use CATIA FEA to perform wireframe based FEA analysis on simple structures first before analyzing a full chassis frame. Students in FEA course compare the results from CATIA with results from ANSYS Mechanical APDL which enables students on the Formula SAE team to evaluate their chassis designs. The objective is to demonstrate how different configurations of truss designs can be used to optimize the chassis design. Students in the vehicle course start by analyzing simple truss structures using the CATIA Generative Structural Analysis workbench whereas students in the ANSYS FEA focused-course perform hand calculations on the simple truss structures to validate their FEA analysis. Both groups of students create models of the spaceframe chassis using beam elements. As students modify their designs, they determine the stiffness per weight of the proposed chassis. The project strives not only to improve students’ understanding of mechanics and finite element analysis tools but also to improve the process that students use to design the Formula SAE vehicle. Students also learn how to analyze a chassis using a wireframe model.

This paper outlines a process to optimize the design of a space frame, tubular chassis using both a finite element process for designers in vehicle course and an approach for structural analysts in FEA course. Students in the vehicle course produce a CAD model of their designs, complete with suspension, driver and powertrain packaging. In addition, they build a physical three-dimensional, one tenth-scale model of their chassis design. The final project in the Introduction to Finite Element Analysis course is used to assess the efficacy of the design process and this pedagogical approach to design. All designs are evaluated based on stiffness per weight in addition to other considerations such as project cost, manufacturability and FSAE rules compliance. This paper contains the example simple truss designs used in the class, the results from the FEA analysis, a sample chassis model, and the assessment of the sample chassis model. Assessment entails a comparison of the calculated values of stiffness to existing, physical FSAE vehicles.

Chawla, T. S., & Leonhardt, E. (2018, June), Two Approaches to Optimize Formula SAE Chassis Design Using Finite Element Analysis Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--31162

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