Each year Componeering sponsors different Student Motorsport teams by making ESAComp available to the teams for the entire season. Over the years, our teams have been very successful winning various prizes and awards for their vehicles.
In this article, we meet Michinari Limbacher from the University of Akron, Ohio, Zips Racing Team who gives us a taste of the challenges they faced to become a successful student motorsport team in and ESAComp's role within it.
Introducing Zips Racing...
Each year students from the University of Akron, Ohio compete in the Formula SAE/Formula Student events.
"Our team comprises of about 25 highly-motivated students. Each of them bring something different to the team because we're all from different backgrounds - from engineering to marketing majors - with a little or a lifetime of vehicle experience", explains Michan, "Our common goal? To become the best Formula SAE/Student in the world!"
Zips Racing Team 2013. From left to right: John Baluch, Logan Micham, Michan Limbacher, Ryan Kruse, Regis Stockert, Kevin Musial, Cloyd Reed, Patrick Moga, Dustin Zacharyasz, Chris Bergsneider; In the car: Preston Davis
The team's primary philosophy centered on producing a vehicle that is simplistic in nature - reducing cost and weight - while increasing performance to create a competitive world-class car.
"We established goals focused on both the vehicle and team to effectively manage Zips Racing and achieve the highest level of performance from our car, the ZR13", says Michan, "Our principal team goal was to educate ourselves with new technology as well as promote the ability for future generations through knowledge transfer and documentation".
The design team is structured into several subsystems, each responsible for their design integration into the complete vehicle. The design project timeline was broken down into three sequential yet continuous segments: design, manufacturing, and testing. This timeline allowed for two months of testing prior to the first competition.
"The 2013 season was a stepping-stone to international honor," explains Michan, "It was really about re-evaluating our entire vehicle concept. So, we began the year by breaking down every level of the race car and examining how it affected our overall competition points score. The outcome turned out to be an entirely new formula for success!"
At the expense of little "college life" and upwards of 80 hours a week in the "shop", the Zips Racing team unveiled the finished car after only 9 months of design and manufacturing.
How was Zips Racings 2013 season?
"Our season's efforts definitely paid off at the various competitions around the world," says Michan.
Starting with Formula SAE East at the Michigan International Speedway, the team took 1st place in the endurance event - the last and most difficult. "On average, 50% of the teams who make it to endurance don't finish," says Michan. The team went on to win 3rd place overall at the competition.
Their success continued at the Formula Student Germany (FSG) event in Hockenheim, Germany, where Zips Racing took home 1st place in skidpad and 3rd in design. "Despite fueling issues during the endurance event, we still got 6th place overall at the most prestigious and competitive event in the world", Michan explains proudly.
How did composites feature in ZR13?
For an insight into the construction of their design-winning ZR13 vehicle:
"One of the main advances for the team was the introduction of composites; an area of material science and manufacturing that was basically unchartered territory for us before the 2013 season."
"However, with ESAComp's help we soon outgrew our initial fear and faced up to the challenge of educating ourselves to take full advantage of high-strength and low weight carbon composites: that perfect combo for a racecar."
The primary composite development focused on the aerodynamics package and hybrid chassis. The aerodynamics package was constructed out of almost all carbon - necessary to remain lightweight yet strong enough to be structurally rigid under high aerodynamic forces and track abuse.
"The hybrid chassis consisted of a steel tubular space frame with composite structural panels in the center cockpit area. This not only stiffens the chassis to improve performance, but it does it at a lower weight than the use of all steel. Additionally, the safety of the cockpit was significantly increased - protecting the driver under any unforeseen circumstances."
How did ESAComp help with your success?
"Faced with little composite knowledge to begin with, ESAComp was our immediate choice for a toolbox of valuable information", says Michan. "Not only is there an extensive library of educational documents, there were countless tutorials to follow. This made the learning process more efficient under the stringent time constraints of the race season".
"Diving right into our own designs, ESAComp's Data Bank with the extensive library of major manufacture's products, was a major help to begin designing preliminary 3-point test panels. It saved me the headache of finding all composite properties and creating new materials from scratch. Quick testing and analysis was accomplished so preliminary physical testing could follow".
Depending on the area of the vehicle it mated to, some parts required different temperature ratings or strengths. However, most of the composite parts were made from either 3k plain or twill weave carbon with various epoxy systems. "Although not always the best option, at times we had to compromise to get parts quickly and cost-effectively," explains Michan.
What was the overall impression of ESAComp?
"We found the many graphical and numerical outputs that ESAComp makes seamlessly very useful during design events to quickly show judges our designs," says Michan.
"Many judges were also impressed with the level of analysis and I believe that is what helped us win 3rd place in the FSG - Formula Student Germany design presentations where we were up against the top universities across the world!"
Which of ESAComp features did you use?
"I was primarily using features that lead to the design and optimization of my desired 3-point bend panel", explains Michan, "I was working with laminate properties and 2.5 plots to determine composite characteristics based on angles and FPF. I also used the panel and beam design tools to test and compare different products and designs. The software also helped me identify probable failure modes. Ultimately, I used it to compare real life test data with simulation data to correlate the properties better. This simulation tool allowed for our composites to become optimized in weight and strength".
"I don't think I even scratched the surface on the capabilities of ESAComp. I know there is so much more to do with the software than I had the time for this season", Michan adds, "I wish I could have got into the bonded and bolted joint features of the program".
Michan is convinced "Without ESAComp, we would have never been able to implement composites as quick as we did. We certainly owe our successful season to Componeering. Our car would have never performed as well as it did both on the track and during presentations if it weren't for our new ability to analyze composites".
"We are certainly ready to take our composites program to the next level with our new knowledge", Michan concludes. "Thanks for all the help Componeering gave Zips Racing with the 2013 season!"
About Michinari Limbacher
Coming from Stone Creek, Ohio - near the heart of amish country - and a 2013 graduate of the University of Akron mechanical engineering program, Michan is the Zips Racing 2013 team manager but also served as the chief engineer and system leader for chassis, fuel, and exhaust.
© 2014 Componeering Inc, by Jo Hussey