Three Outstanding Applications of CAD for Car Design

 There are a whole lot more to automotive design than just designing aesthetically pleasing and aerodynamic CAD models (although modeling is definitely a big part of it).

The automotive design and manufacturing process in Industry 4.0 is highly digital, and it is increasingly accessible to stakeholders across the entire manufacturing chain via the magic of product lifecycle management (PLM) systems.

This month’s industry-specific collection of case studies will take a look at how the automotive industry is making use of SOLIDWORKS solutions across the product life cycle.

APS Helps to Build the New Ford GT40s

Fans of motorsports, classic cars and even racing videogames will recognize the car shown in Figure 1. The Ford GT40, which was designed in the 1960s as an endurance racing car, won the Le Mans 24-hour race on four consecutive occasions in the years spanning 1966-1969. 

Figure 1. A GT40 replica. (Image courtesy of APS.)

 The original GT40s are very rare and worth their weight in gold, so you’re unlikely to own one, but the good news is that there is a company in Australia that builds replicas of the models, which have been optimized for the 21st century, with 21st-century design tools.

Automotive Performance Solutions (APS) was founded in 2004 to provide engineering support and solutions to the GT40 owner market and has expanded to designing and building its own replica cars.

“Unlike other replica or antique car companies, our approach is to design and build an entirely new version of the GT40 without disrupting the classic body shape,” said Ivan Viduka, APS business development manager. “Our customers get the performance of a modern underbody—including the drivetrain and suspension—combined with the classic period interior and exterior components that they love.”

To bring its GT40s into the 21st century, APS has utilized a variety of design tools, including SOLIDWORKS.

“For example, our chassis are hand built and riveted together,” Viduka noted. “Using the Hole Wizard in SOLIDWORKS, we don’t have to spend time measuring and indexing holes to space rivets and attachment points, as the software accurately enables tolerancing checks and uniform spacing of hole locations.”

In addition, APS has made the most of the simulation environments in the software.

“We can leverage the dynamic motion, interference detection and FEA analysis tools of SOLIDWORKS Premium software to increase the assembly accuracy and meet our performance targets for both components and assemblies.

“Integrated simulation tools in SOLIDWORKS Premium also enable us to conduct the structural checks, such as natural frequency and fatigue analyses, that minimize prototype iterations,” Explained Viduka.

The combination of these features has allowed APS to cut design cycles by 50 percent and decrease assembly time by 40 percent, resulting in a 30 percent reduction in development costs.

Ford Manages Tolerance

Tolerance is fundamental not only to the functioning of automotive components, but can also cost big bucks in the manufacturing stage if it is not managed correctly. It is estimated that up to half of scrap and rework can be attributed to poor tolerance and variation management.

Figure 2. The Ford Flex. (Image courtesy of Ford Motor Company.)

Ford Motor Car company understands this and has employed third-party software plug-ins to help keep track of tolerances.

To perform the tolerance and assembly build analysis on components and assemblies, Ford uses Varatech’s SigmundWorks software, a Certified Gold Product for SOLIDWORKS, which means it is completely compatible in that CAD environment.

With SigmundWorks, Sigmund ABA and SOLIDWORKS, engineers at Ford are able to check new designs from global suppliers and staff engineers for in-car entertainment systems, including DVDs, CDs and radios. Once the functional intent and build objectives of a design have been verified with the software, tooling can be released.

Measure twice, cut once, as the old phrase goes. But with software such as SigmundWorks, why stop at merely measuring twice?

To evaluate quality, engineers at Ford run thousandsof what-if scenarios at a time, tweaking dimensions, tolerances and variations at will.

For example, on one occasion, Ford’s engineers were assessing the tolerances within a CD player, and they set the tolerance software to run a scenario involving a warped optical disk. The tolerances were found to be too small to accommodate disk warpage, which would have resulted in disks jamming. And so, the CD player fittings were redesigned to allow for such warpage.

Better to redesign a part early on than to issue a product recall after it hits the market!

And thanks to third-party plug-ins, these design bugs can be identified easily and addressed before they turn into major and costly headaches.

JL Racing Simulating and Modeling

Figure 3. JLE race car rendering. (Image courtesy of JLE.)

JL Racing Products (JLE) is the leading manufacturer of racing cars in Brazil, having designed race car systems for a number of prestigious racing events.

Although JLE has been dependent on CAD for quite a while, it started off using 2D platforms such as AutoCAD, and only switched to the SOLIDWORKS 3D platform in 2007.

Since then, the company has managed to shorten design cycles by 70 percent, cut race car suspension weight in half, reduce the number of prototypes tenfold, and decrease chassis production from 10 days to just four hours. Those are some pretty impressive metrics. What products did JLE use to achieve these engineering miracles?

SOLIDWORKS Simulation plays a large part in the company’s achievements.

“Our cars have to be strong but light, and SOLIDWORKS Simulation tools have enabled us to build faster cars,” said Gustavo Lehto Gomes, engineering coordinator at JLE Racing.

“We conduct linear static stress, displacement and fatigue analyses to reduce weight, increase speed, and ensure safety. For example, the weight of the suspension for the G15 stock car is less than half that of previous models.

“We used to do a lot of prototyping to see how parts perform,” continued Gomes. “Because SOLIDWORKS Simulation lets us see how parts will perform prior to testing, we now make 10 times fewer prototypes. This capability saves us time and money, and enables us to achieve consistent levels of quality from car to car.”

And, of course, don’t forget about the aesthetics! These cars may not be designed for road use, but race cars still have to look kinda cool, right? We’re sure that there is some kind of law that dictates this….

Either way, JLE is making the most out of the SOLIDWORKS modeling features, too, allowing easy creation of the sweeping and curved geometry that goes so well on sports cars.

“SOLIDWORKS surfacing and large assembly design tools have allowed us not only to design faster, safer cars, but also to improve car aesthetics,” said Gomes

In fact, JLE is so smitten with its CAD choice that it has standardized on SOLIDWORKS design, analysis and product data management (PDM) solutions across the whole product life cycle.

Lighter, faster … and more cost-effective.

This is the mantra so common to the automotive industry, and it is one that is being realized by companies that employ SOLIDWORKS in their design and manufacturing phases.

So, we’ve taken a look at how CAD is used at various stages of the product life cycle.

Do you know of any production cars that have been designed entirely with SOLIDWORKS (or other Dassault products)? Maybe some of you have worked in automotive design and have some insider information? If so, we’d love to hear from you.

Let us know in the comments below!

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