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Neil McLeod

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Geomagic Software Fuels Success for Formula 1 Racing Team

3-D inspection software and optical scanning technology improves the performance and reliability of Formula 1 racing cars.

Published: Monday, August 31, 2009 - 15:09

If ever there was an industry in which time compression is the name of the game, it’s Formula 1 Grand Prix motor racing.

Scuderia Toro Rosso, owned by the Red Bull Co., is among the Formula 1 teams looking for new and better ways to compress development and production times, while increasing the reliability of its racing cars.

One advantage Scuderia Toro Rosso has over the competition is Geomagic Qualify 3-D inspection software, used at the company’s headquarters in Faenza, Italy. Geomagic Qualify has reduced the time required to inspect new parts by an average of 30 percent. It has also given Scuderia Toro Rosso the ability to inspect parts that previously could not adequately be inspected within the demanding time frames of Formula 1 racing.

The software enables fast, easy-to-understand graphical comparisons between 3-D CAD models and as-built parts, or between parts from different production runs. It saves time and increases accuracy for first-article and in-process inspection and enables trend analysis, 2-D and 3-D dimensioning, geometric dimensioning and tolerancing (GD&T), and automated reporting in a variety of formats, including Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, PDF, and VRML/HTML.

Pierluca Magaldi, quality manager at Scuderia Toro Rosso, believes that in addition to reducing the time needed to inspect new parts, Qualify has played a role in enabling the team to achieve the best results in its history last year. During the 2008 Grand Prix season the team earned its most points ever, its first pole position, and its first win, fittingly at the Italian Grand Prix in Monza.

Wide-ranging inspection needs

Apart from its engines, which are supplied by Ferrari, around 35 percent of the components of Scuderia Toro Rosso’s F1 cars—including the chassis, rear crash structure, body shell, and bonded aerofoil wings—are produced in-house. The remaining 65 percent—including light metal castings, machined parts, and carbon fiber laminates—are produced by external specialists. Final assembly is done completely in-house.

“Production runs for our components range from one to maybe 30 to 40 parts for a complete season,” says Magaldi. “So we are definitely a prototype company, even though the prototypes we produce are used for racing.”

Before implementing Qualify, Scuderia Toro Rosso used an outside company to inspect parts with complex shapes. Parts with less complex shapes were inspected in-house in the traditional way, using micrometers, vernier calipers, and coordinate measuring machines (CMMs).

This traditional method required collecting individual measurements at specific points on the part. Those points would then be analyzed for any deviation from the nominal as defined on the corresponding 2-D part drawings. Inspection was a long and laborious process and only a limited selection of points on the part could be inspected.

Today, Scuderia Toro Rosso inspections start with a FARO Laser ScanArm and a laser line probe to capture the shape of an object, whether it is a cast or molded component, an aerofoil wing, or a casting pattern. The resulting point cloud represents the bounding surface of the object to an accuracy of 35 µm. The point cloud is read into Qualify to begin the inspection process.

“We still use CMMs for geometric dimensioning and tolerancing checks on machined parts where tolerances are set to a few microns,” explains Magaldi. “But in general, we use the scanner and Qualify because the process is much quicker and allows the whole part to be inspected in detail, rather than just a few selected measurements.”

Figure 1: Gear box case


Simple, fast process

The inspection process relies on two inputs to Qualify: the 3-D scan data of the part to be inspected and the original 3-D CAD model of the part from Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Unigraphics CAD/CAM system.

The first step is to create a single, unified 3-D scan model of the part by aligning and merging the individual scans taken from different viewpoints. The scans are aligned using automated methods provided by Qualify.

When the single 3-D scan data model has been produced, datums and features upon which the inspection is going to be based are created on the CAD model. The scan model is then aligned with the nominal 3-D CAD model using both manual and automatic alignment features provided by the software.

The whole process, from reading in the scan data and the CAD model to arriving at the point where the two models are aligned correctly and inspection analysis can start, takes about an hour or so to complete.

With the models aligned, the 3-D scan model is automatically analyzed against the 3-D CAD model to identify and measure any deviations between the physical part and its counterpart 3-D CAD model, as well as for GD&T purposes. The software automatically assigns colors to the 3-D model that represent different degrees of deviation. Actual deviation values are also shown, along with GD&T call-outs.

Generally speaking, surface form errors at Scuderia Toro Rosso are 0.2 mm maximum for complex shapes. If appropriate, whisker plots of cross-sections and wall thickness analysis results can also be calculated and displayed.

Inspection reports are then output automatically as PDF files and sent to the research and development department and the design office for any remedial action. If any big nonconformities are discovered, the reports are sent to the original part manufacturer for action.

Benefits all around

At Scuderia Toro Rosso it’s all about maximizing results in the fastest time possible, so the first parts analyzed by Magaldi and his team were those that had an effect on the aerodynamic performance of the car. These included the front and rear wings, as well as their corresponding patterns and molds.

Today, the software’s use has been extended to just about every kind of part that is manufactured, either in-house or by third-party suppliers. These include cast, machined, and carbon fiber laminate parts, as well as the patterns and molds used to produce them. Because of the small batch numbers involved and the automation and speed provided by Qualify, Scuderia Toro Rosso is now able to inspect every part produced for its Formula 1 cars.

The software is also used in the assembly process to check, for example, the correct insert positioning for structural composite parts.

“There’s no doubt that the use of Geomagic Qualify has brought us a number of very real benefits,” says Magaldi. “For a start, we are now more confident that parts conform correctly to what was designed. We are also able to inspect parts that previously we couldn’t inspect fully, either because we didn’t have the technology or because of time constraints—or a combination of both of these. This gives us a better understanding of what we are going to assemble on a race car, which will help toward better performance and reliability.”




About The Author

Neil McLeod’s default image

Neil McLeod

Neil McLeod is a UK-based communications consultant and freelance writer specializing in CAD/CAM technologies.