Race Car, Sports Car and Off-Road Vehicle Design Tools
For the amateur car designer, there are many tools available today that make designing a car easier. From creating an accurate model of the car and every nut and bolt in it in 3D, to the design and simulation of critical aspects such as the chassis and suspension, software programs have become commonplace to amateur car design.
Designing a vehicle is a process that is rarely laid out in books—many books cover parts of design, but not an overall process. To make it easier for designers, we created a design process for each of the four unique types of car project.
To help get the process started, we also created a “Conceptual Drawing Template” which includes many scale vehicle components, scale driver mannequins, and scale drawing paper. This template will enable you to draw out using a computer or pencil, your vision for your car.
To make keeping track of the components in your car project (few or many) easier, we created a “Component Worksheet” which acts as a repository for information gained throughout the design phase of the project.
All of these tools are available as a free download.
3D solid modeling software can help you to build a full three-dimensional model of your car before you ever cut a piece of steel or turn a wrench.
Parts can be created to exact scale and off-the-shelf parts can often be downloaded from the internet saving you time in creating them. The trick to doing this is to find a 3D solid modeling software which supports the common solid modeling formats like STEP and IGES.
There is a learning curve to solid modeling, but the reward is in the efficiency with which your design can be changed as needed. Some solid modeling software integrates with structural or FEM (Finite Element Method) analysis software than can simulate loads on your car’s chassis or other parts.
Aerodynamics Design and Simulation/CFD
CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) can be described as a “Virtual wind tunnel” for your car. Depending on the software, it can provide ballpark to high-precision data about the lift, drag and flow around aerodynamic parts, enabling comparison of parts like wings, spoilers, airdams, etc.
CFD can also be used to model the internal flow of air within the body of a vehicle (Like through ducts) and also to model flows of other fluids like water.
Our suggestion when looking for CFD software is to look for the idea of a “Virtual Wind Tunnel”. With software with this capability, the software usually handles the setup of the flow problem based on the 2D or 3D model and flow conditions you provide.
Structural design software or FEA / FEM (Finite Element Analysis/Method) enables you to simulate loads on a structure to determine how much deflection or load the structure will handle.
Some FEA software integrates with solid modeling software, which if you take the additional time to learn the FEA add-on, will enable you to very quickly analyze your vehicle without leaving the modeling software.
One of the earliest software packages to be available for “Consumer” or amateur designers was suspension design. Today, these packages model almost every conceivable suspension system.
Some suspension design software packages provide 3D visualization of suspension geometry and movement, and enable the designer to change pickup points and other points “in space” before re-analyzing the design.
Newer commercial software has kinematic features built in that simulate road conditions, or will calculate pickup points based on your “Ideal” suspension parameters (Essentially reverse engineering your suspension geometry needs)
Simulating the motion of a vehicle using a complete vehicle/suspension model is possible with some vehicle kinematics packages.
Other kinematics packages focus more on general physics. A package such as Working Model 2D enables physics problems involving gravity, torques, energy, motion, and mass to be solved “virtually.”
Whether working alone or in collaboration with others, having software to help manage tasks is very useful. Race car design and construction involves a lot of tasks in a given order.
Numerous collaboration and task-oriented project management software packages are available, with many being free.
Software that we thought might be useful goes in this category. General tools to help you day to day and preferably free.
The two major freeware office suites that compete with Microsoft are included because they both include a Microsoft Visio-style drawing program in addition to the usual word processor, spreadsheet and presentation software.