The student organization NTNU Revolve designs and produces an electrical race car every year. It all started in 2010 at NTNU, Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, Norway. Four students started to discuss a possible project to complete their engineering studies. Their main goal was to get more practical engineering experience related to their studies. Eventually, they discovered Formula Student. A student engineering competition where students from around the world design, build, test, and race a small-scale formula-style racing car. In other words, a perfect place for the students to live out their vision “from theory to practice”. This is how Revolve was born.
Reaching for the stars
From 2010 to today, the organization has grown immensely. Revolve consists of 65 NTNU students, from 19 different studies in 6 different faculties. It’s an interdisciplinary project with engineer work, project management, marketing, leadership, and economy. Their main goal is to accelerate students to become world-class engineers. And this year’s mission is more ambitious than ever.
In previous years the race cars have either been with a driver or driver-less. In the coming months, the students will produce one car that is capable of both. They will sustain the theoretical performance from last year’s car while improving reliability. One department of Revolve – Suspension & Powertrain – has worked on developing a new damper configuration, improved the uprights, gearbox spline coupling, brake system and structural suspension.
”With strain gauges, we have validated the forces which act on the car. Our main goal this year is to achieve a Top 3 finish in the Formula Student competition taking place in Germany”, Carl Oscar Rokkones explains, the group leader at Suspension & Powertrain.
The right tools for the job
When designing a race car there are a couple of key factors to consider when competing. Firstly, you need to beat all the other cars in the race. Secondly, you need to finish the race. Ola Flåskjer, a structural engineer for Revolve, is responsible for the Upright design. He says that structural analysis is one of the main stages in designing a structural component. If the component breaks, you won’t be able to finish the race. If you design by eyesight and say, ‘this part is strong enough because there’s a massive amount of material’, the car will be too heavy. This is not beneficial in a competition where you are power limited.
“To dimension the parts correctly and make them as light as possible, we use SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD and Abaqus. These solutions make sure the parts are strong enough to handle the demands of racing”, says Ola Flåskjer. “
You really can’t do without structural analysis and 3D modelling as an engineer designing the parts that we do. They did it with pen and paper years ago, but to be competitive in this field there’s no way without”, Ola Flåskjer.
An innovative car needs powerful solutions
Abaqus, a powerful FEA software with integrated tools for modelling and meshing, has helped Revolve greatly in their project.
“Abaqus has offered a wide array of customized abilities, as well as detailed data when evaluating simulation results. You’re able to pinpoint exactly where something goes wrong. That’s why the solution is more complete than other FEA software I’ve seen”, Ola Flåskjer explains.
Abaqus combined with SOLIDWORKS is an unbeatable pairing for Revolve. Tosca Topology optimization has helped Revolve to know how to distribute the material to make the part as strong as possible while using the least amount of material. In that way, the part is made as lightweight as possible. On the other side, if you have a loose component, it will affect the whole system.
“Setting those kinds of targets in topology optimization are really beneficial because the algorithm will control the part to match exactly the kind of goals, we have set for ourselves”, says Ola and adds: ”Lightweight parts are beneficial as Revolve has a strict weight budget, which includes the driver. “Last summer our driver actually shaved his head in order to weigh a couple of grams less”.
“It’s a brilliant software mix when you learn to use it and extract the data – it’s really powerful and being able to design the whole system within one part in the topology optimization chain is really beneficial”, says Sondre Audal, Structural Engineer at Revolve NTNU.
Topology study in Abaqus.
Sondre Audal adds: ”Ola has also been doing topology optimizations and he has manipulated the bias on the different load cases. This is useful because the camber and toe compliance of the part is tested mostly in cornering, while the most severe breaking case causes the highest stress in the part. If yield is not an issue, you would rather design the part to minimize compliance.”
Time is of the essence
A great challenge Revolve NTNU continuously faces is the one of time. The project normally lasts 8 months – from the semester starting in September, to the beginning of May when the first testing kicks off. By then the car should be test ready and ready to go at a rapid speed. The students have very little time to learn the different programs and software. This is where SOLIDWORKS plays an important role. Ola Flåskjer says:
“It shows how easy it is to learn and use SOLIDWORKS, as you only have a couple of weeks to get up to speed with it. Abaqus is a little more challenging to get started, but it’s a super powerful software once you get the hang of it”.
While working against the clock, Revolve NTNU also needs a common understanding of which parts are being worked at. They must ensure that the parts fit together and are designed in harmony with each other. For this, they use SOLIDWORKS Assemblies to put everything together – from the smallest bolts to the larger systems in the monocoque. “To make sure there are no collisions we can assemble the part and verify that the systems make sense and interacts in a beneficial way”, Ola adds.
Another essential tool for Revolve NTNU making sure they are always up to date with the latest revisions of the parts is SOLIDWORKS PDM. Sondre Audal, Structural Engineer for the suspension side of the car at Revolve NTNU, adds: “PDM allows us to see who’s responsible, who’s working on one particular part, the status of it and where to give your input”.
Collaboration with PLM Group
Although Revolve consists of a team with incredible knowledge within several different disciplines, it’s always good to have good support when facing unfamiliar challenges. Sondre Audal comments:
”There’s no doubt that the knowledge and expertise in PLM Group are way deeper than our understanding, and some of us may never reach that level of understanding as well. So it’s quite useful to have good and concrete feedback.”
PLM Group has been able to give feedback and pinpoint the exact problem so that Revolve can find the solution themselves, and in that way get a broader understanding of how the software works. Ola Flåskjer adds:
“They give us a broader understanding of how to fix our problems and also how to troubleshoot those simulations and figure out where the issues arise so we can do it for other models as well“.
The future is bright
Going forward there are a lot of exciting things happening for Revolve. As mentioned earlier, this will be the first time the organization merges the autonomous and driver car. This opens up even more innovative concepts.
”I think in the upcoming years those concepts will be improved upon until the solution is as good as possible. This will be a test year for those kinds of solutions – it’s really exciting”, says Ola Flåskjer.
The race will take place at the beginning of August this year, and students from universities throughout Europe will meet up in Germany. They have all built a car based on the same ruleset and will meet in the dynamic event (the actual car driving), and the static event. Here the engineering solutions are presented and scored based on their performance. We in PLM Group wish Revolve the best of luck in the competition and look forward to seeing the race car in action.