Mar 10 2009

Cambridge University Students Racing to Design Solar Car in SolidWorks and SIMULIA Abaqus Software

CONCORD, Mass., March 10, 2009 – Dassault Systèmes (DS) (Euronext Paris: #13065, DSY.PA), a world leader in 3D and Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) solutions, today announced that a team of Cambridge University engineering students is using SolidWorks ® 3D CAD and Abaqus finite element analysis (FEA) software from Dassault Systèmes’ SIMULIA brand to develop a solar-powered car they will race across Australia in the fall of 2009. More spaceship than road vehicle, the car’s flat shape will feature a large solar panel that converts the sun’s energy into speeds of 60 miles per hour or faster as the team races against other teams from around the world.

The World Solar Challenge is a biannual event drawing about 40 teams from universities, car manufacturers, and individuals to race across 3,000 kilometers of the Australian outback. Engineering ingenuity and grit are typically the difference-makers, with teams only having a limited amount of time to design, prototype and test their vehicles. This will be the first World Solar Challenge for Cambridge University Eco Racing, and the team is finalizing the car’s design and testing in SolidWorks and Abaqus.

“When you think about it, this is just one big optimization problem to solve,” said Charlie Watt, a fourth year graduate student and Eco Racing Team Leader. “The solar panels we use only generate about 1 kilowatt of power, which is what a hair dryer uses. SolidWorks and Abaqus helped us find the best aerodynamic design to reduce rolling resistance, drag, and overall weight so we could wring the best performance from the battery.”

The team used SolidWorks software to model the chassis with an eye toward slimming down the profile to reduce the drag coefficient while maximizing the solar panel’s sun exposure. The team explored a variety of shapes in SolidWorks to find the fastest solution, while eliminating potentially costly errors such as part interference out of the design before prototyping began. “We were able to complete the design in a virtual environment without expending any materials such as wood, aluminum or carbon fiber, which is a huge advantage with limited time and resources,” said Watt.

Watt used SIMULIA’s Abaqus finite element analysis software to evaluate the realistic stress performance of the solar car’s chassis. The team used the SolidWorks Associative Interface for Abaqus to easily transfer their SolidWorks model to Abaqus FEA to quickly analyze the physical behavior of different materials, with the goal of optimizing weight against performance and cost. “We looked at using aluminum, steel, carbon fiber, bamboo, birch plywood, and PVC piping,” he said. “The analysis results from Abaqus showed us on screen that plywood, for example, wasn’t rigid enough to withstand the speeds. Other materials were either too expensive, or too unknown to pursue further in such a short timeframe. In the end, we went back to aluminum because we’re more familiar with its properties.”