Speed Composites, manufacturers of composite panels for race cars competing at tracks in Canada and the United States, were looking to expand their product line to give an extra edge to competition vehicles, when they landed on an innovative idea. An idea that would help provide precise measurements of a vehicle’s chassis prior to a race.
Competitive racing requires the measurement of the car’s chassis frame to determine optimum adjustment for varying track conditions. So important is it, the chassis set up can mean the difference between winning and losing the race, says Charlie King, president of the Dunnville-based Speed Composites. However, accurate digital measurement equipment is expensive and beyond the budget for most small racing teams, which is why typically a team member would lay on the ground with a tape measure and a flashlight, taking their best guess at frame heights.
With limited experience in electronics or programming of the software/firmware required to bring the product to market, Speed Composites approached Niagara College’s Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre for their expertise to create a wireless laser device that could be adapted for accurate and economical measurement of the chassis frame.
“Every time a team prepares its cars for an upcoming competition there are a series of adjustments and final checks that they perform, including weight distribution, tire size and pressure, spring compressions, fuel level and chassis height,” explains King, adding each one of these checks is critical and if any measurement is out of range, it would dramatically affect the vehicle’s performance.
“Our proposed solution was a laser sensor that would eliminate incorrect frame height readings,” he says. “Using our device will eliminate this guesswork.”
The project utilized the expertise from student and staff researchers in Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering Design, and Computer Programming to develop a device that can be positioned under the car and the required points of measurement could transmit data wirelessly to a mobile phone app to report the readings.
The research team utilized lasers plus a micro-laser sensor in order to determine the chassis measurements at different specified locations on the car. The device is controlled by a user interface installed on a tablet or a smart phone via a custom app and Bluetooth communications. The app allows display of the recorded data from the sensor as well as being able to save and relay the data to other devices for further use.
The project was made possible through the Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI), a Niagara College-led consortium funded by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev).
“The College put together a very enthusiastic team to work on this project and produced a working proof of concept that we are continuing to refine before final production,” adds King.