June 25, 2021

UTFR Uses ACTnowHPC to Runs CFD Simulations to Optimize Bodywork Formula SAE Car Design

In 2020 the students on the University of Toronto Formula SAE Racing Team partnered with Advanced Clustering to make use of the company’s on-demand HPC cloud solution, ACTnowHPC.

The 2020-2021 academic year was particularly challenging for the University of Toronto Formula SAE Racing Team. Each year the team designs a new race car to compete in international SAE competitions. Within the last year, most of those competitions were cancelled due to the global pandemic.

The Aerodynamics team planned to spend the academic year designing bodywork that would maximize downforce while minimizing drag. But for most of the year, all in-person work at the university was halted. This prevented the team from having their usual meetings. They lacked access to a real wind tunnel and didn’t have access to a testing location in Downtown Toronto. Even their track time to test designs was limited.

“It was a very challenging year,” said Kelvin Cui, Aerodynamics Design Lead for the team. “We didn’t have access to our shop nor our car, and we weren’t been able to do any testing or manufacturing. Our wind tunnel simulations became essential because they were the only way we could verify our design.”

The team relied heavily on Computational Fluid Dynamics software available on Advanced Clustering Technology’s HPC cloud solution, ACTnowHPC to perform wind tunnel simulations. Despite the restrictions placed on their work, the UTFR team was able to design a brand-new aerodynamic element – the Undertray. Leveraging ACTnowHPC for the wind tunnel simulations, the team’s design increased their overall downforce by 16%, while only increasing drag by 5%.

Covid-19 restrictions remained in place, so the team never got to see the component they designed in action on the team’s race car. But they agree that their design serves as a great starting point for future iterations.

In fact, the team was able to simulate their entire race car in a steady-state wind simulation, which required heavy computational power. The UTFR team first starting using ACTnowHPC resources in 2018 to gain access to HPC resources that had previously been unavailable to them.

“Each year, we’ve been able to increase the fidelity of our simulations, allowing us to design better-performing parts,” Cui said.

In May 2021, the UTFR team participated in the annual Formula Michigan competition. The competition was entirely virtual, with judges evaluating participants for their design process, cost efficiency and business presentation.

Out of 132 international teams, UTFR placed 11th overall with the best design score out of all Canadian teams. This was the team’s best result since 2007.

“Thanks to ACTnowHPC, we’ve been able to design aerodynamic elements that greatly benefit the performance of our car,” Cui said. “Compared to our car without the aerodynamics package, we’ve increased our downforce substantially, shaving 4 seconds off our simulated lap times – a massive margin in motorsports.”

“Our decreased lap times would increase our competition points total by 20%, allowing us to place even higher in the standings. Even compared to last year’s design, our improvements in our CFD methodology have allowed for a further 0.5 second decrease. All of this would not have been possible if it weren’t for the resources provided by ACTnowHPC.”