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Thread: FSAE Racecar Engineering Article about Rule A6.1

  1. #1

    Question FSAE Racecar Engineering Article about Rule A6.1

    Just got through reading the Racecar Engineering issue on Formula Student and thought it was a great read (it's also free btw). If anyone else has gotten the chance to read it, what're your thoughts on the last article in the magazine? It was a about Rule A6.1: "Vehicles entered into Formula SAE competitions must be conceived, designed fabricated and maintained by the student team members without direct involvement from professional engineers, automotive engineers, racers, machinists or related professionals. Do you think it's ruining the integrity of FSAE to ignore this rule? Does it allow too much separation from top teams to lower teams?

    I don't mean for this to discredit any team’s work. It takes a lot of work to design any team’s vehicle, whether you've got access to a wind tunnel and an autoclave or not. However, I have to admit that I get pretty envious when I look at some of the other teams cars. Obviously there’s a blurry line on the topic, but it was still a very thought provoking article. Thoughts?
    Rory Hourihan
    Chief Design Engineer - Mizzou Racing

  2. #2
    A wrote my thoughts already in the "Teams from India" thread:

    The article talks about "everything has to be made by students". I personally think that this is not a good rule, just think about the possibilites that would be missed due to that rule, we would be back in the 1990s with bad manufactured soapbox cars. In my opinion it is good that engineers learn how parts are manufactured, what possiblities are out there, but using a mill or a lathe is not what is going to happen in your professional life... (In fact rule A6.4 relativizes the manufacturing part of A6.1...)

    It is way more important than people can develop and design the parts of the car (and are able to manage their resources!) than produce it. Testing and Manufacturing are just additional measures of "how good did you design it for your capabilities".

    Yes, the gap between "well funded" and "bad funded" teams increases that way, but the learning experience still is better overall. Yes, the "Motorsports part" of this competition is cruel that way, but that's how it is.
    -------------------------------------------
    Alumnus
    AMZ Racing
    ETH Zürich

    2010-2011: Suspension
    2012: Aerodynamics
    2013: Technical Lead

    2014: FSA Engineering Design Judge

  3. #3
    In my opinion, this rule should be rewritten, particularly since it is not really enforced in the way it is written.

    In my former team, we had a small number of student, and a relatively low cash budget. Also, we had only acces to 1 good manual milling and 3 manual lathes (for the whole engineering students, 8 to 4, outside of machining class time!). Plus we had a small manual combined mill/lathe for rush jobs in the local we share with the baja team. The only CNC we have is a homemade wood cutting router for small molds.

    My guess, if we had machined all part in-house as the rule suggest, I would have experienced a lot less. By having sponsors machining the parts, I experienced designing some complex CNC parts, making good and detailed engineering drawings with proper GD&T tolerancing, tolerance stackups and communicating with the sponsors technical and machining staff. All things I would have missed to a certain degree by doing everything ourselves (i.e. calling plus or minus 1 baja inch on a drawing that goes to a professional machinist is not regarded as a wise move).

    I think that experiencing hands-on machining is a great experience as well, I had the opportunity to machine my own parts on a small prototyping CNC during my master thesis and learned lot also. I now have more a partical feeling of how the part will be machined and how to design and draw/tolerance it to help manufacturing.

    In our case, as I have stated, it would have been crazy to manufacture in-house with the resource we had. In addition to that, when we made parts ourselves, we usually had to pay for raw material which was given when fabricated by sponsors, so in the end we ended up saving on money. We also get a lot of laser cutting for free, which we use to make some very low cost parts with it, plus jigging frame and suspension components. Though we do all the welding ourselves, the frame is cnc-cut and is a real time-saver (Lifesaver!).

    In fact, if it wasn't for outsourcing, we would probably not have an FSAE team, which of course would separate us lots more from the "top" teams.

    I don't believe that enforcing the "all manufacturing by students" would help lower the gap between teams, because the resources available in each university are not equal anyway.

    My 2 cents
    :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: :::::::::::::::
    2007-2012 - Suspension, chassis, and stuff (mostly stuff)
    Université de Sherbrooke

  4. #4
    I guess there are some aspects in which it "increases the gap". But equally I think following that rule to the letter would increase the gap in other ways. For example, man power limited teams (more of these than severely monetary limited teams, or teams with little to no donated professional expertise).

    Example, a machine shop donating machine time and expertise in cutting hubs and uprights. This frees up a team member from learning to have to program and run a machine (not simple - especially for teams that have the 1 team member year cycle). The team have still done the design work from concept to FEA to manufacturability studet to final 3D CAD. Forcing them to reserve a team member to learn how to program a CNC machine properly to cut this part whilst a valuable excercise in manufacturability (machine ops, tool changes), there are more valuable places to spend time.
    Electronics Warwick Racing 11' Alumni

  5. #5
    JWard you might actually be right on that... I'll share my experience.

    Back in late 2006 when I started with the team, the only tools we had access to was a manual milling machine, two late 70's manual lathes, a 1998 2D laser cutting machine (which was by far the most high-tech machine we had access to), an angle grinder, a saw band and a press drill. Oh, and 8 team members. That year we built everything but the halfshafts ourselves (we could not cut the splines). The same held true in 2007-2008 season too, where we built our machined aluminum uprights in our manual milling machine.

    On 2008 we bought a small 3-axis CNC milling machine. From then onwards, all machined parts were built in-house. Basically the CNC allowed for some more complex designs on uprights, and also allowed us to start building our own tripod housings, wheel centers etc. which in turn allowed for a lower weight. The plugs for our monocoques throughout these years were built using in-house laser cut sheets, assembled in a 3D puzzle, that gave us reasonable accuracy. Throughout all these years, the only parts outsourced was some spline cutting and a few waterjet-cut parts we could not cut in our laser machine (we could probably mill those, but it was cheaper sending them out to waterjet)

    Last year we sent out our CF A-arm inserts because we could not machine them in-house, and also produced the monocoque plug from CNC-router cut MDF. While this saved us some valuable time, we encountered some problems with some of the parts, that we would not having machined them by ourselves.

    My point is that you can actually build a car using only team resources; we have been doing it for years! There is a certain trend starting having other companies building things for us right now, but I have found it extremely useful trying to make your design manufacturable within your resources; everyone can design a super-wow hollow upright with internal webbing on CAD, only a few can actually think HOW this is gonna be built and understand the real-life limitations, and that might be the best lesson teached in my FSAE experience. Just my 2 cents...

  6. #6
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    I think it is a poor rule.

    "conceived, designed, fabricated and maintained".

    I like everything but the fabricated bit.
    I would much rather a team learn how to make professional quality drawings with real tolerances, get multiple quotes, work with suppliers to reduce 'price', and then bolt the parts together than learn how to used a manual mill.

    In truth, were I a team adviser I would want most things made outside.
    That is a better learning experience than figuring out how to work an ancient lathe.

    Design, get quotes, assembly, and then testing.

    - William

    (Besides, essentially all team used an OEM engine even if it is heavily modified. Should we start designing engine castings?)

  7. #7
    I agree that the rule is poorly written. However, in my experience working in a school-owned machine shop and a professional shop, students don't learn to make good drawings (and good designs for that matter) without first having hands-on experience to help back decisions they make. I disagree completely that parts should be subbed out as much as possible. I would REQUIRE the students to learn how to use the ancient lathe. The actual structure of drawings is now mostly standardized, so students can easily look up how a feature should be dimensioned, but what about design for manufacturability? How do you decide what a reasonable tolerance is without experiencing the troubles of making something first? You can spend an entire year in a class scratching the surface of what reasonable features and tolerances are for various machine tools, or....You can spend a few months making parts yourself and actually experiencing it.

    I firmly believe that the manufacturing side of FSAE is the most valuable portion of the project. You have years to refine your analytical skills, but how many engineers actually get into the shop and make the parts they've designed? I've dealt with hundreds of students, professors, and working engineers over the six years I've been in the industry and would gladly take a poorly formatted, but mostly correct drawing any day over a perfectly formatted and toleranced part that is difficult to machine due to poor design. Not only that, but working on your own parts helps put manufacturing time into perspective so that when you receive quotes, you'll have an idea of whether that is reasonable or not. So many engineers (professors are often the worst!) have unrealistic expectations because they've never done it themselves and working in the shop alleviates quite a bit of that.

    That said, I have no problem with teams subbing out parts that they can't or don't believe they have time to make themselves. Obviously balance is key. If I were the advisor of a team and saw that manufacturing was significantly out of balance towards outside manufacturing, I would require future teams to simplify and make some parts in house. They don't have to be complicated! Spacers, rockers, plate and sheet metal mounts...anything that gets them in the shop making parts and learning hands-on.

    I don't know about other schools, but other than FSAE, my school is so far skewed towards research and the classroom that students are almost helpless when it comes to a real-world project. Even most Senior Design courses are purely analytical. Put those students into a real project and watch them sink. I've seen it over and over again...usually because they have no idea of what it takes to actually manufacture and implement their designs.

    Anyway sorry for the rant. I could (passionately) go on for days about this stuff...

    -Cole
    Last edited by coleasterling; 10-24-2013 at 06:33 PM.

  8. #8
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    FSAE.com
    Design it. It's beneath me to build it. I just want to race it.
    Geoff Pearson

    RMIT FSAE 02-04
    Monash FSAE 05
    RMIT FSAE 06-07

    Design it. Build it. Break it.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by coleasterling View Post
    I agree that the rule is poorly written. However, in my experience working in a school-owned machine shop and a professional shop, students don't learn to make good drawings (and good designs for that matter) without first having hands-on experience to help back decisions they make. I disagree completely that parts should be subbed out as much as possible. I would REQUIRE the students to learn how to use the ancient lathe. The actual structure of drawings is now mostly standardized, so students can easily look up how a feature should be dimensioned, but what about design for manufacturability? How do you decide what a reasonable tolerance is without experiencing the troubles of making something first? You can spend an entire year in a class scratching the surface of what reasonable features and tolerances are for various machine tools, or....You can spend a few months making parts yourself and actually experiencing it.

    I firmly believe that the manufacturing side of FSAE is the most valuable portion of the project. You have years to refine your analytical skills, but how many engineers actually get into the shop and make the parts they've designed? I've dealt with hundreds of students, professors, and working engineers over the six years I've been in the industry and would gladly take a poorly formatted, but mostly correct drawing any day over a perfectly formatted and toleranced part that is difficult to machine due to poor design. Not only that, but working on your own parts helps put manufacturing time into perspective so that when you receive quotes, you'll have an idea of whether that is reasonable or not. So many engineers (professors are often the worst!) have unrealistic expectations because they've never done it themselves and working in the shop alleviates quite a bit of that.

    That said, I have no problem with teams subbing out parts that they can't or don't believe they have time to make themselves. Obviously balance is key. If I were the advisor of a team and saw that manufacturing was significantly out of balance towards outside manufacturing, I would require future teams to simplify and make some parts in house. They don't have to be complicated! Spacers, rockers, plate and sheet metal mounts...anything that gets them in the shop making parts and learning hands-on.

    I don't know about other schools, but other than FSAE, my school is so far skewed towards research and the classroom that students are almost helpless when it comes to a real-world project. Even most Senior Design courses are purely analytical. Put those students into a real project and watch them sink. I've seen it over and over again...usually because they have no idea of what it takes to actually manufacture and implement their designs.

    Anyway sorry for the rant. I could (passionately) go on for days about this stuff...

    -Cole

    Depending on what machine a part is going and who it is going to, I'll dimension parts differently. Most of this is what I gained from running those machines when I was in that position. Manual Mill? I'll coordinate the whole profile or else there is not enough info to make it on our equipment. However, on the new 3D capable, CNC equipment, I'll send a CAD part, and a drawing that dimensions out the critical features and general dimensions. G code takes care of the rest.


    On the bit about research focus and real-world projects. I'm working on pushing our team towards a split idea that I had. To get people learning and interested, I offer up a 2 year old car for people to get themselves oriented. Sure, it's a carbureted engine at this point, but that's the least of it's worries. It's a 2 year old FSAE car with problems the length of your mother's shopping list during holiday season. There is always something to learn about or work on repairing and running the car. If they have a project idea, they can try it out. Different seating? Do it. Different dampers? Sure. Different dash? I'm ok with this. However, this vehicle is low priority, and mostly just a learning tool that is repeatedly broken over and over again for the cycle to continue.

    For people who helped develop and build it, there's the 1 yr old car. It's just back from competition, thoroughly tested, and full of potential. This one will take priority in budget and projects over the 2yr old car. This one gets designated for stuff like direct competitor testing, design projects intended to be a more direct application to the new vehicle and data logging everything for direct design information for the current design vehicle. The idea here is for systems to be adjusted, 'optimized', blatantly removed, or others added that it was never intended to have. If the test system becomes reliable and makes the car faster, within a discrete set of rules we have for design, then it may be incorporated into the new design, completed it's project life, or be deemed to continue testing with more alterations. This group requires a little more advanced involvement. You need someone knowledgeable enough to come up with a feasible research project, a few people who can fabricate (read make it happen) the systems needed, maybe a few more to do testing and validation.

    Above this is the current design vehicle. It's in CAD, it's in pieces, it's being developed. Overall, this requires the highest level knowledge about vehicle design and component integration. It's not just the ability to weld up little tabs and just make it work for testing, it requires a team that can package everything in the vehicle thoroughly and professionally. Camber curves, engine selection, brake packaging (inboard, outboard?), etc. Granted all of these people are still students, you have to get into a certain mindset to make these kinds of things work.

    With this structure, everyone is allowed to flow freely up and down the ladder. Knowledge flows both directions. I may drop down to the 2yr old car to help diagnose some weird wiring problem, or some mechanical system that a freshmen has turned into a pile scrap. For another example: someone who comes in, studies his books, knows his stuff, and is far more knowledgeable about control systems may get bumped around and up to help out on projects who've needed this type for a long time. But, new cars take priority over old, and they each have their specific purposes. When design is slow on the new car, work flows down. When manufacturing picks up heavily, workflow moves back up to building the new car.

    I wish I could give some examples of this structure working at our school -- but honestly, I don't think anyone has tried to involve people like this here in over a decade. So far...the results look good.

  10. #10
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    Cole,

    With respect I still disagree.
    This competition is about learning to be a better engineer.
    And for 99% of us that means learning to trust somebody else to build your design.

    I understand the value in learning from the process from the bottom up.
    However for almost any process it should be easy to ask your supplier/sponsor what their capabilities are and then design to that.
    Knowing the proper surface speed for a lathe cutting 7075 aluminum is not as valuable to understanding what surface finish is achievable with that lathe.

    As an engineer learning to operate a machine is not a very valuable thing to learn.
    Learning to work with a machinist who knows the full capability of that machine is very valuable.
    And in the time it would take to learn the basics of one machine they learn about the process for ten (somewhat exaggerated).

    For the record, I was the only industrial engineer on my team and the rest of the team trusted me to know what our CNC lab could do.
    Yes I could have taught all of them how to run the machines and program the parts but instead I taught them what the machine could do.
    And now that I work at a manufacturing company as a process engineer we have real problem with design engineers thinking they know our process better than us.
    Several times they try to design something based on their understanding of it and just before the design is released we have to stop it cold because they didn't listen to us.

    Learning to listen to what operations has to say about the process capabilities and limitations is something they could/should have learn in college.

    -William

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