Modeling: No prototyping costs helps kart designer innovate

By Control Engineering Staff January 11, 2007

Design and motion analysis software was a new tool for founder and principal engineer Jim Richards, but it helped his company, James Engineering , create a patent-winning design for a high-performance race kart chassis. Richards said the software helped him anticipate structural problems and mechanical collisions in kart designs before the company committed to building expensive prototypes.

“The field is 30 years old and our competitors have a lot of accrued knowledge. [The software] gave us the ability to step up and leap over their practical experience by modeling many different kinds of chassis to see how they would perform under varying conditions,” said Richards, who calls his company a late entry into the kart design game.

James Engineering, based in Broomfield, CO, is a design and manufacturing facility with 22 years experience developing deburring machines for aerospace and automotive production. The company specializes in custom projects from very small to large, multiple-machine systems, but hadn’t used such software before. Richards said that, without prototyping costs hanging over his head, he was able to innovate freely to achieve the best possible design.

Richards’ racing kart design is a radical departure from mainstream design of these specialized vehicles, which have motors, transmissions, and solid rear axles, but no suspension systems to shift the vehicle’s weight and keep it under control during turns. Richards’ chassis, scheduled for sale in early 2007, uses a new bearing-and-joint design to keep the kart stable on curves. CosmosMotion analysis software from SolidWorks helped him develop a front geometry that kept the front end planted firmly on the ground.

“I’ve really been educated to the value of this tool. I’m a pretty good intuitive designer, but Cosmos improves my chances of getting it right the first time,” said Richards. “In the past, we’ve built components and spent as much as two weeks assembling them only to find out they didn’t work the way we expected. With CosmosWorks and CosmosMotion, we can see on the computer how an assembly is going to flex under stress, or whether parts will collide, and modify the design before we spend money to build a prototype.”

Richards is currently refining a design for a truck braking system that’s different from anything on the market today. Richards’ braking system uses oil pressure in the wheel housing to slow the wheel, instead of the traditional rotor-and-caliper assembly. Using oil to exert pressure on the rotor decreases the chance of the breaks locking up. His staff modeled the design in SolidWorks 3-D CAD software and is using CosmosWorks and CosmosMotion to determine how the brakes will perform as physical objects.

James Engineering also uses Cosmos in its primary business of providing arrays of custom deburring machines to automotive and aerospace companies. Cosmos and SolidWorks help the engineering staff modify and customize equipment arrays for its customers. The company works with SolidWorks reseller MCAD Technologies for implementation and technical support.

—Control Engineering Daily News Desk
Compiled by Renee Robbins , editorial director