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Japanese Auto Tech Students Design Winning Race Cars with Pro/Engineer

A formula racing team made up of automotive technology students from Japan's Sophia University in Tokyo has standardized on Pro/Engineer from PTC for the design of all its formula racing vehicles. Sophia Racing began using Pro/Engineer in 2005 and shortly became the first team in the history of the Formula SAE Competition of Japan to win three championships in a row, in 2006, 2007, and 2008. Sophia Racing's success continued with a third place victory at the world championship competition in 2008, a first for a team from Asia.

Formula SAE is a racing vehicle design competition for automotive technology students hosted by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). Its events have been held around the world since the first one took place in the U.S. in 1981. The Formula SAE competitions are judged on dynamic and static criteria, requiring an advanced level of overall vehicle quality. The dynamic criteria include an evaluation of the vehicle's movement and turning capacities. Static criteria include a per-vehicle production cost analysis of the various costs that go into production process, an evaluation of the innovation in the vehicle's overall design, and, finally, a judging on presentation of the development of the vehicle. One of the required elements in the competition is to demonstrate the ability to produce four vehicles a day, spending no more than $25,000 per vehicle.

Sophia Racing uses Pro/Engineer for all the processes needed for the vehicle development, from the sketching of clay models to detailed and mold design, to the manufacture of the power train, chassis, and aero-dynamic components. The Sophia team has used the features of the software to address challenges in lowering the vehicle's center of gravity and enhancing its engine power, as well as for conducting stress and aerodynamic analyses.

In order to improve the aerodynamics and lower the center of gravity of its vehicle, the team was able to modify the model parametrically and perform stress analyses on the model using Pro/Engineer Mechanica. The challenge of maintaining the stiffness in the chassis design was overcome through the use of this Pro/Engineer simulation module to perform finite element stress analyses for all parts as well as fatigue analyses where necessary. The surfacing and reflection analysis capabilities of Pro/Engineer were also leveraged for the cowling design.

"We use Pro/Engineer in a required course for sophomores and above in order to develop engineering resources through practical engineering education," said Takashi Suzuki, supervisor of Sophia Racing and associate professor in the department of mechanical engineering. "Pro/Engineer is the best tool for us because of its rich functionality and the ease-of-use for students who are learning best-practices product development. The top-down design approach increased the efficiency of our work and has become one of the key strengths of Sophia Racing's machine development."

Pro/Engineer was introduced to the university through Rikei, a PTC partner and reseller.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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