As the semester pushes forward, the Mines Formula students are hard at work between studying and manufacturing the 2016/2017 Formula SAE car. Deadlines are fast approaching, as the team hopes to be able to thoroughly test the car before taking it to competition in the last week of June. Significant progress has been made during the past few weeks all over the vehicle, including the chassis, pedals, body, brakes, suspension, and electrical.
The chassis is the single most time consuming part on the entire vehicle. Every year it is redesigned and constructed from scratch. Since nearly every subsystem interfaces with the chassis, it's crucial that the manufacturing is within a tight tolerance. The chome-molly steel tubes have to be cut, bent, notched, and fitted by hand to ensure perfect fitment. Complex wooden jigs are used to hold suspension tabs in place while they are welded to the frame.
In the machine shop on campus, the two Haas Mini Mill CNC's have been pumping out parts right and left. Students have also been using the manual mills and lathes to make simpler parts while waiting for the CNC's to finish. The most complex billet component on the car, the uprights, were recently completed after more than 8 hours of machine time per upright. The pedal rails, levers, and faces were also completed. Subsystem members spend a lot of their time ensuring that their parts are easily manufacturable, and often utilize more than one manufacturing method to create a part. The pedal levers are a great example of this, requiring both water-jet and CNC machined operations. This cuts down machining time along with the cost of manufacturing.
While the structure and functionality of the MF5 are crucial, the vehicle also needs to look presentable. A carbon fiber body is used to encapsulate the chassis, display sponsor logos, and keep road debris from hitting the driver. Mines Formula members have been hard at work preparing a positive mold, which will be used to make a negative mold, which will ultimately be used to create the smooth and sleek carbon fiber bodywork. This process involves cutting, gluing, and sanding over 30 layers of pink foam. Not to mention, it makes a huge mess.