Waterjet Cutting Automotive Components for Formula SAE Race Car

Waterjet manufacturer Jet Edge based in St. Michael, Minnesota, has been asked to help the University of Minnesota’s Gopher Motorsports team to cut components for its #52 G04-16 Formula SAE race car as part of its effort to reach the Top 10 spot at the highly competitive Michigan Formula SAE in May, 2016.

Waterjet Cutting Automotive Components for Gopher Motorsports Formula SAE Race Car

Figure 1. Gopher Motorsports racing in last year's Formula SAE race. They took 13th place. This year, they are working toward a Top 10 finish.

Advantages of Waterjet Cutting

The Gopher Motorsports team is involved in the development of an open-wheeled, open cock-pit race car (Figure 2) for the largest and most coveted global collegiate competition held by the Society of Automotive Engineer at Michigan International Speedway (MIS) during May 11-14, 2016.

For this work, Jet Edge has been carrying out waterjet cutting of various aluminum, steel, and carbon composite components for the Gophers. Some of the components being fabricated with waterjet cutting include structural inserts for the wings, mounting tabs for the frame, chain guard and brake rotors.

Waterjet Cutting Automotive Components for Gopher Motorsports Formula SAE Race Car

Figure 2. Gopher Motorsports builds a new car every year. Here is a sneak peak at the 2016 car!

Nathan Tigges, Gopher Motorsports FSAE vice president (mechanical engineering/class of 2018), said that automotive components can be rapidly produced with the required geometry using the waterjet technology.

Building on its expertise with waterjet cutting, the team has reengineered several CNC components to be fabricated as an assembly from waterjet components , including rear bellcranks.

Engineering students showing interest to design, produce, market, and eventually race their cars will participate in the Formula SAE competition at MIS, which is widely recognized as the fastest NASCAR track. Scoring is based on the design presentation, business logic, and performance of the vehicle of the participating teams.

Gopher Motorsports is the student chapter of the Society of Automotive Engineers at the University of Minnesota. Since 1997, it has been participating in the Formula SAE, earning 7th place twice out of 120 teams from all over the world.

The team attained 13th spot in 2015. The Gophers plan to reach the top 10 spot and expect to continue outperforming their rivals from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Tigges informed that the Gophers have beaten the Madison team three years in a row.

Gopher Motorsports build a new car every year, as there is a need to change the frame geometry annually. Also, about one-third of the vehicle needs to be completely redesigned annually in order to improve competitiveness.

It is necessary to revise another one-third of the system to conform to the new designs and the legacy components. The old cars were pillaged by the team for components until before 2015. However, the team is now able to preserve the old models with the support provided by the local community and the university.

Besides preserving the team’s legacy, this action facilitates training to new drivers, and enables future team members to gain knowledge about the progression of earlier designs so that they can further improve the design.

Tigges went on to say that Jet Edge plays a key role in reducing the material, money, and students time spent on the system. This provides an edge to the 34-member team in the crucial "Cost Report" event being held at the Michigan competition. The team is able to fabricate superior quality components at a lower cost, both in terms of money and resource.

The support of a great sponsor like Jet Edge saves a lot of time the team would otherwise spend in the shop by itself and allows it to use money that otherwise would be used for the same services elsewhere. These savings help the team to stretch its budget.

The use of waterjet technologies optimizes the competitiveness of the team by minimizing the estimated large-scale production cost at the Cost Report event being conducted as part of the competition. Instead of reporting in terms of pricing the components as machine components, the team can report the cost of waterjet cutting, which brings down the overall budget in the “Cost Report.”

Waterjet Cutting of Automotive Components

Tigges marked the partnership with Jet Edge's team as a great learning experience. The support of Jet Edge has helped the Gophers to use the raw materials in a more efficient manner. Brian Wallace, Jet Edge's Machinist who runs the company’s waterjet applications test lab, helped the Gophers to save 50% of a carbon composite sheet by tightly nesting their pieces more effectively (Figures 3 and 4).

Waterjet Cutting Automotive Components for Gopher Motorsports Formula SAE Race Car

Figure 3. Jet Edge Machinist Brian Wallace reviews a waterjet cut part with Gopher Motorsports Team member Phil Hoff.

Waterjet Cutting Automotive Components for Gopher Motorsports Formula SAE Race Car

Figure 4. Jet Edge waterjet systems can tightly nest parts to reduce material waste. The parts cut here include brake pedal mounting arms, throttle pedal mounts, and an assortment of frame tabs. Gopher Motorsports performed FEA analysis to validate the decision to use waterjet-cut pedal mounts instead of CNC’d parts.

Wallace has used Jet Edge's premier EDGE X-5 5-axis waterjet system to cut the team’s components. This CNC-controlled industrial waterjet system generates a 75,000 psi hair-thin bullet-fast abrasive waterjet using garnet abrasive and ordinary tap water. Using this waterjet, precisely shaped components can be cut virtually from any material.

The system features a Jet Edge hydraulic intensifier pump for pressurizing the water. The pressurized water is then made to flow through a jewel orifice, along with abrasive and focused through a nozzle.

Wallace cut the Gophers' components using a .010/.030 orifice/nozzle combination and 0.5lbs per minute of 80 grit garnet abrasive (Figures 5, 6 and 7).

These 0.09” alloy steel parts were cut at 55,000 psi with a 0.010/.030 orifice/nozzle combination using 0.5 pounds of garnet per minute

Figure 5. These 0.09” alloy steel parts were cut at 55,000 psi with a 0.010/.030 orifice/nozzle combination using 0.5 pounds of garnet per minute. Cut speed was approximately 25 inches per minute.

These 0.5” carbon composite parts were cut at 55,000 psi utilizing a .010/.030 orifice nozzle combination and 0.5 pounds of garnet per minute

Figure 6. These 0.5” carbon composite parts were cut at 55,000 psi utilizing a .010/.030 orifice nozzle combination and 0.5 pounds of garnet per minute. Cut speed was approximately 35 inches per minute.

Since 60% of the team’s points will come from dynamic events, it is necessary to have a strong list of capable drivers, Tigges continued. It is really a tough task to design a faster vehicle when compared to training drivers to be faster. Besides having a competitive position in the Formula SAE, Gopher Motorsports has earned various awards, including the Cummins Powertrain Excellence award.

The parts make up the spar support system of the front wing.

Figure 7. The parts make up the spar support system of the front wing. Other composite carbon parts will be bonded between frame members to increase rigidity.

Bosch had selected only 10 teams from all across the world for sponsorship based on the creativity displayed by them in testing when they lost crucial dynamometer research space. However, this is compensated by developing a dyno of their own in addition to trackside tuning. According to Tigges and Hoff, taking part in Gopher Motorsports has been the focus point of their mechanical engineering education.

Tigges said that the participation in Gopher Motorsports has helped him to acquire several skills that would otherwise not possible inside the classroom. Activities such as coordinating with sponsors, working on complex schedules, or even conducting performance analysis over several years of design have helped him to learn various skills to get prepared for the industry.

Tigges added that the team takes part in outreach events to motivate future engineering students, including the University of Minnesota’s State Fair booth, STEM Expo, CSE Expo, and other high school and youth events.

Conclusion

Gopher Motorsports expects to complete building its #52 race car by the middle of March, 2016, and to launch it in April, 2016. Jude Lague President of Jet Edge, expressed his happiness for the company’s role in helping out Gopher Motorsports. Jet Edge staff have a keen interest in racing, and the company will be supporting Gopher Motorsports to reach the top spot in the Michigan Formula SAE.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Jet Edge, Inc.

For more information on this source, please visit Jet Edge, Inc.

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