Designing Composite Suspension Arms for a Formula SAE Vehicle 2011-01-1262
Due to their high specific stiffness and strength, carbon-epoxy composites have become the predominant structural material at the highest levels of international motorsport and are also gaining widespread popularity in collegiate design competitions. Formula SAE is one such event where college students design, build, and race a small, formula-style race car in an autocross environment. The use of composite materials in the structure of these vehicles provides a competitive advantage through weight reduction. Undergraduate students often face a steep learning curve when dealing with composite materials, however, as they have had little exposure to the design, analysis, and fabrication processes of composite structures. By outlining the design and testing of a carbon-epoxy A-arm for a Formula SAE vehicle, this paper will serve as an introduction to the unique benefits and challenges associated with composite motorsports structures. Specifically, it will cover the analysis and testing of composite laminates, as well as the design of metallic hard points to transfer loads into them. These two areas are where composites differ most significantly from traditional structures built from steel or aluminum, and are critically important in the design of effective composite structures.