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3D white light scanning speeds Formula Student car development

11 March 2011

In any motor racing environment, cutting build time to increase the time available for testing is integral to the overall long-term success of the team. Whether it’s Formula 1, IndyCar, or amateur stock car racing, there is simply no substitute for time out on the track to allow final refinements to be made to ensure optimum performance on race day.

When the Brunel Racing team from Brunel University in Uxbridge was seeking to improve its results in the annual Formula Student championships, they knew that the key task of getting the new version of the Yamaha R6 engine correctly fitted into the rear chassis space frame was one of the most time-consuming – and therefore one which offered the greatest potential for time savings if undertaken optimally.

The team was keen to avoid having to build the space frame and then make physical adjustments, which would not only be expensive but would also eat into valuable testing time. The ideal solution was to develop a virtual representation of the engine for use in CAD assembly to adjust the measurements of the virtual space frame.

However, gaining an accurate measurement of a complete engine – with its complex geometry - is no easy task. A co-ordinate measuring machine might measure a few points accurately but to gain an accurate picture of the entire surface could take many weeks. Meanwhile, a laser scanner requires an expert operator, and may also entail a lengthy process to ‘patch’ individual scans together.

Brunel Racing approached the 3D white light measurement specialist, Phase Vision, whose equipment is able to deliver rapid virtual representations of large and complex objects – with scans able to be undertaken in a matter of seconds using a novel technology that projects a series of light stripes on the object and uses an integral camera to develop a complete representation based on millions of points.

The scanner revealed that some of the engine mounts on the new version of the engine were in significantly different positions to those the team had anticipated. However, as they were still working ‘virtually’, it was a simple matter to adjust the CAD drawing of the space frame and know that the mounting spots would be in the correct position.

Matt Carey, Powertrain Manager for Brunel Racing, said that having the engine scanned in this way cut around two to three weeks out of the design process. In fact the team was able to start manufacturing its chassis a full two months earlier than in previous years.

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