Clemson Formula SAE (CUFSAE) is a student-run organization dedicated to designing, manufacturing, and competing with a formula-style race car. Their main focus is the enrichment of a Clemson education with hands-on and real-world experience. The involved logistical, engineering, and organizational challenges of this task offer every student, not just engineering majors, impactful experience that complements coursework. From engineering to marketing to financial planning to graphic design, CUFSAE has something to offer to everyone. They aim to provide students with the tools to learn relevant skills while exploring the possibilities of employment in the automotive industry.
SHD Composite Materials Inc. are proud to sponsor Clemson Formula SAE with prepreg materials for their formula-style race car. Take a look at what the team have been doing in their first material report:
With the sponsorship of SHD 12k prepreg, 3k prepreg, fireproof prepreg, and film adhesive, our composites team was able to construct lightweight and durable aerodynamic and structural components that were integral to the performance of our car at competition. For aerodynamic components of the car, 3k was used for its low weight and smooth surface finish to minimize the overall drag. For structural components, 12k was used in conjunction with nomex honeycomb and film adhesive to create strong, durable parts. Utilizing these sponsored materials, we were able to reduce the overall weight of our composite components significantly over the previous iteration of our car. Not only did this decrease our overall weight far beyond our 2022 car, but we also produced the lightest four-cylinder car at competition in Michigan which far surpassed our design goal.
We took full advantage of SHD’s quality 3k prepreg to manufacture the strongest front and rear wings possible. For the primary airfoil elements of the front and rear wings, we designed a carbon fiber internal spar and rib system. In combination with foam core material, this created a front wing that could withstand strong cone hits and external forces during competition, and a robust rear wing that a design judge at the Formula SAE Michigan competition called one of the strongest he had seen in years. For the construction of our rear wing, we created two structural swan necks using 12k to support the full weight of the rear wing as well as all generated forces. Combined with the embedded ribs and spars, the rear wing effectively became a structural component of the car. Applying a force to the rear end plates did not move the wing, but instead began to roll the entire car. We further used 3k prepreg to create long, thin spars that were both stiff and lightweight to reduce torsional forces across the mounting points of the main element. To produce the ribs, we used a nomex honeycomb core sandwiched with 12k. These ribs allowed for easy locating and alignment of all of the parts that make up the primary element of the front and rear wings, in addition to creating easy and sturdy mounting points to connect the wings to the car’s chassis.
SHD 3k prepreg was also utilized to create the body work of our car, providing a solid yet lightweight close out to the cockpit. Components such as the nose top and side body panels contribute a large yet necessary amount to the overall frontal surface area of our car, which is why it was important for us to have a material with a smooth surface finish. The lower skin friction of our car meant less drag and better efficiency across the board. This was especially apparent with the control arm covers which were able to reduce turbulent air from our control arms and provide cleaner, laminar flow into the side pod and radiator for cooling.
In addition to aerodynamic components, we also utilized SHD 12k to produce structural components of the car such as flooring, the steering wheel, and headrest. Due to the high loads experienced by these parts due to the weight of the driver and turning force, it was important for us to have a high factor of safety while minimizing weight. With only a few layers of SHD 12k with sandwiched nomex honeycomb and SHD film adhesive, we were able to produce robust flooring for the cockpit that was able to withstand the high loads on the pedals during braking as well as the cornering weight transfer of the driver.
The endplates of the front and rear wings are made up of 3k sandwiched around a honeycomb core material. Once cured and waterjet cut, the result was a set of incredibly strong, lightweight, and precise endplates. We cut precise mounting holes in the SHD-equipped endplates that allowed us to change the angle of incidence of key airfoil elements on the fly by moving only a few bolts while still maintaining a structurally stable endplate.
The result of the Clemson FSAE collaboration with SHD Composites was the strongest and lightest composites components that we have produced in years. This proves that quality SHD materials make all the difference on the racetrack.