Despite the rich experience in the annual Formula SAE events, the team have been following a particular pattern when it comes to the design and manufacturing process that involves a substantial amount of visual design accompanied with hands-on work. It is a delicate balance between repetition and innovation.
If the process of formula-style race car engineering were compared to oil painting, the role of chassis is rather reminiscent to that of the charcoal sketch, serving as the framework of the big picture. As a result, with the pursuit of weight minimization without compromising torsional rigidity and precision in terms of mechanics and driver ergonomics, chassis is normally regarded as the crucial component to start with.
Motor racing is a sport about the duality between machine and the human behind the wheel with so much emphasis on ergonomics, the science dedicated to such interaction, which is subtly incarnated in the manufacturing of chassis. To complete the front section, Manufacturing Engineer Chris Head needs to figure out the ideal suspension pick up points and make sure that the front bulkhead, the front roll hoop, and the main roll hoop were structured in a way in which the driver can sit in a comfortable position. But in order not to damage the vehicle’s dynamic performance, center of gravity and a high stiffness to weight ratio also need to be kept in mind. The rear structure demands to be executed in a similar fashion where panels and aluminum tubes must be organized and welded with maximum room left for engine, the heart of the vehicle, and electrical components.
The fact that the Mizzou Racing team consist exclusively of full-time undergraduate students at the College of Engineering doesn't necessarily mean that the vehicle is a product of unsophisticated design and structure. As a matter of fact, when it comes to the suspension system, the team are applying an idea widely utilized in Formula 1, the pinnacle of competitive formula-style racing, to constructing the front suspension of a Formula SAE car to lower the center of gravity. The double wishbone pull-rod system was first introduced to F1 in the 70s and it is carried out by almost every team except Ferrari after more than 40 years of evolution. The team stick with the traditional push-rod mechanism in the rear which provides a geometry of control arms that benefits the performance of the aero. From cutting rod tubes based upon the scale model and ordering source material for hubs to dynamometer testing, Chief Design Engineer Rory Hourihan will work on the suspension from December to early March based on a design that closely follows the specification stated in the FSAE competition rules.
Although simplicity does play a significant role in the design process considering the financial constraint, as the main factor influencing the vehicle's drivability, the powertrain system inevitably involves multiple complex mechanisms and procedures. Drivetrain, air system and cooling require the meticulous and concerted effort of Drivetrain Engineer Ryan Minick, Powertrain Engineer Ethan English and Nate Conrad, together with Brandon Clodfelter, who mainly focuses on the exhaust.
Exploiting the full potential of the Honda CBR600-RR engine, which was introduced by Honda as an engine for high-performance sport motorcycle in 2003, requires coordination among various components. The cooling system consists of a coolant and a radiator with a cooling fan attached to it. In order to provide equal airflow to each cylinder and ensure maximum utilization of fuel, the design and manufacturing of the intake and exhaust is a sophisticated process involving iteration in SolidWorks and templates produced through 3D printing. It's plausible to assume that with the engine being one of the few parts that are not directly produced by the members, many procedures may be largely simplified, but in fact, the smooth function of the entire power unit isn't not all about the engine.
Apart from the mechanical engineering aspect, data collection and telemetry can facilitate continuous improvement of the overall performance of the vehicle, which makes electronics designed by international student Nassa Firiki from Indonesia and senior Jason Mcloud a highly critical element. The Controller Area Network acts as the foundation of the system dedicated to organizing data received by different sensors. Modules used to measure tire pressure, brake temperature and suspension travel constitute the external electronics system, whereas information regarding the actual capacity of the vehicle such as engine parameter, thermistor input and wheel speed are collected by auxiliary sensors based on the Performance Electronics PF3 engine control unit.
Last but certainly not least, the aerodynamic elements are arguably the most iconic exterior features of a formula-style vehicle since compared with rally and touring car racing, downforce generated by the front and rear wings has even more significant impact on the air flow and heavily affect the car's performance both in straight-lines and corners. The original airfoil is usually determined using computational fluid dynamics software based on the archetype from last year. After the foam molding process is finished, the airfoil will be wrapped with carbon fibre skins for protection purposes.
With so many components intertwined with each other and a limited budget, constructing a machine for formula-style racing is essentially the process of reaching the most ideal result possible with efficiency, balance and constantly making trade-offs. Motor racing is about the interaction between human and machine. However, such interaction is never confined to the sense of control and handle, instead, problem-solving and analysis appears to be a much more accurate depiction.