Improving the Michigan Tech formula SAE design process

Document Type

Technical Report

Publication Date



Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics


Michigan Tech Formula SAE is a student-led team that designs and builds an open-wheel race car to compete with similar teams from other universities in early May each year. The team has adopted a vehicle development process where the design, build, and test/compete phases happen in consecutive years. This process is motivated by the need to perform validation testing in the fall prior to competition due to Houghton winters lingering well into April. In order to compete every year, all three phases are always in-process to ensure the consecutive completion vehicles. As a student organization, Formula SAE membership has a two to three year turnover rate. This limited organizational memory results in redesign rather than re-use of parts. Simple parts are easier to re-model than manually search a directory structure for an existing design. This redundant work is wasted effort and is often results in repeating poor design features that had been improved by previous team members. Michigan Tech Formula SAE is working with CADENAS PARTsolutions to deploy an “Authoritative Source” of supplier and standard parts in a 3D CAD catalog to enable easy access to a catalog of parts that team members have designed for previous cars, as well as designs for purchased commercial and industrial standard parts like bearings and fasteners. Students input part type, dimensional, and performance specifications as search criteria for existing parts, driving “design intent”. Design effort is engaged only when there is no existing design that meets the specifications. CADENAS PARTsolutions helps capture team knowledge and promotes reuse of good designs enabling the team to direct more effort to improve designs that are not meeting requirements.

Publisher's Statement

© 2019 SAE International. All Rights Reserved. Publisher's version of record: https://doi.org/10.4271/2019-01-0807

Publication Title

SAE Technical Paper