UTS engineering students find winning formula

SMC and the University of Technology, Sydney Motorsport team have collaborated to produced two notable innovations in car design for Formula SAE, a global design competition for university students run by the Society of Automotive Engineers.

The competition sees teams of engineering students from universities all over the world design, build, test and drive a Formula-style race car. It is a true test of a broad spectrum of engineering creativity and expertise.

Designed to win

The 2012 Motorsport team car is powered by a motorbike engine; with competitors selecting single, twin or four cylinder engines.

UTS run a four cylinder engine which provides a smoother power output and significantly less vibration for the chassis than it counterparts. However it is heavier and produces more power than can be utilised at the wheels.

Alex Lewis, the 2012 Team manager, says this is an example of how improving performance in one area often results in extra effort being invested in another. In this case, increased weight is a compromise to improve driveability and longevity of the chassis.

Innovation is the focus

The UTS Motorsport team participates annually in the competition with the support of a number of industry companies, including SMC Pneumatics & SMC Manufacturing – a technology partner and sponsor of the UTS Motorsport team.

In addition to the main prize, sponsors evaluate and reward teams for innovative design. Recyclability, crash worthiness, design approach and the inventive use of electronics are examples of the award categories.

With the aid of SMC’s staff, the UTS Motorsport team produced two notable innovations. They designed an assembly jig for the chassis construction which ensured the precision of the build and sped up manufacturing. SMC Manufacturing built the jig for the UTS team based on a 3D design model produced by the students.

Next was an inventive pneumatic gear change system which led to increased performance and a reduction in the car’s overall weight. SMC Pneumatics was able to provide valuable technology orientation for the students, as well as supplying the pneumatic valves and actuators for the team’s design.

SMC’s experts were able to give is insights to manufacturing alternatives, explains Lewis. For example, they chose to use the company’s precision laser cutting equipment to manufacture parts of the car’s suspension compared to the alternative of CNC machining. This saved both time and money; winning the team valuable points in the ‘Cost & Manufacturing Analysis’ event of the competition.

Sam Howe, SMC Manufacturing’s Business Development Manager, who has been involved in the UTS Motorsport project over the last few years, says the company values the opportunity to play a role in the education of Australia’s next generation of engineers.

“Over and above the enjoyment and pride of being involved in the project, the biggest reward for us is to see the enthusiasm and determination of the UTS Motorsport team,” Howe said.

2012 UTS Motorsport team

Though the engineering faculty at UTS is relatively small compared with other Australian universities and those abroad involved in the competition; it makes very success more rewarding says Lewis.

He believes that working in a smaller team allows team members have a broader range of responsibilities which provides a more enriching experience for each member.

As well as being the team’s manager this year, Lewis is personally responsible for the car’s suspension and chassis.

In order to make time for both his study and role in UTS Motorsport, he takes fewer subjects per semester. This means that it will take him a year longer to complete his degree. Lewis says the practical and project leadership experience the project provides is invaluable.

“The time I invest in Formula SAE returns more than just practical engineering experience. I have also had to learn about budgeting, costing, recruitment, promotion, sponsorship and project management. This means I will not only enter the workforce with my degree, but also a much broader range of skills,” he said.

Formula SAE

Formula SAE was set up in the U.S.A. in 1981, with Australia joining the competition in 2000. Today over 400 Universities compete from all over the world, with up to 30 teams from Australia. Competitions are held in the USA, the UK, Australia, Japan, Brazil, Italy, Germany, Austria, Hungary and Spain.

In 2010, the UTS Motorsport team placed 9th in the Australian event.

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