Bobsled aerodynamics are crucial
Limited budget until help from speed-loving friends
Here, fans are given V.I.P. access to the testing facility. Despite popular support, the budget for many Olympic teams (until recently) was quite small. That's a problem for sports like bobsledding, which require equipment that's costly to prototype and test.
Daytona-500 winner Geoff Bodine (V.P. and founder of Bo-Dyn) got involved with the U.S. Olympic bobsled team in 1992 at Speedweeks at the Daytona Intl. Speedway after he heard the U.S. team didn’t medal because "they were using secondhand European equipment ... that they bought themselves,” says Bodine.
Modeling the bobsled first
Shown here is a CAD file of the bobsled that Bo-Dyn used to perfect the design of the sleds before having them built.
Initial sleds were based on shapes to optimize aerodynamics using features that the Bo-Dyn team initially perfected in their work designing racecars.
Bodine (who's won 18 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races) says the car-racing experience let him to create and fund the project to help the U.S. team get decent bobsleds ... with significant support from Whelen Engineering, Jegs Automotive, Lucas Oil, Lincoln Welders, and Summit Building as well.
President of Bo-Dyn, Phil Kurze, is also V.P. at Whelen.
CAD software helps reduce design costs
Here's another view of the four-man bobsled design in SolidWorks. Bob Cuneo, who worked as an engineer at Bo-Dyn before retiring in 2011, said at the SolidWorks World event that he had a hard time trusting the software results at first.
"We based a lot of our design improvements on things we knew about aerodynamics from years and years of experience in the racecar industry. It took several protypes worth of confirmation for me to finally see that the results we were getting from the software were accurate."
Cuneo engineered and designed the Night Train 2 — the new four-man sled from Bo-Dyn — from his Chassis Dynamis Shop in Oxford, Conn.
So much for retirement.
Many victory laps
Here's one winning Bo-Dyn design on a track in Lake Placid.
The Night Train 2 four-man sled plus an athlete foursome led by Steven Holcomb have already won gold medals in three 2013-2014 FIBT World Cup races held in Calgary, Park City, and Lake Placid (above). Holcomb is confident they'll do well in Sochi.
For Bo-Dyn to leverage new ideas and materials such as carbon fiber — used in all of this year's Olympic sleds — it meant outsourcing specialized work to subcontractors.
“The ability to take pieces of the completed designs from SolidWorks is a huge advantage when working with subcontractors,” says Bo-Dyn's Jim Garde in a statement last year. “We can share relevant sections with the CNC partners who can easily understand and manufacture the designs we send. With SolidWorks we can also better control tolerances of the machined parts, thereby raising the accuracy of the design.”
Center stage at SolidWorks 2014
No wonder that SolidWorks showcased Bo-Dyn's use of their software at their recent SolidWorks World 2014 event in San Diego in January.
Center stage at SolidWorks 2014
What inside a bobsled looks like
At the SolidWorks World Partner Exhibit Hall, the bobsled team also displayed a cross-section of one retired bobsled. Notice the molded-in grips and brakeman fittings.
Keep calm and bobsled on
The tight quarters in the bobsled are matched only by its tight tolerances.
Now, for the zippy little two-men rockets
This is a picture of the U.S. bobsled's new two-man design from BMW of North America — which you'll see in use in Sochi next week as well. Here, it's being tested by U.S. bobsledders Justin Olsen (left) and John Napier at Park City's Utah Olympic Park. The automaker is leveraging its expertise in designing with carbon fiber from BMW-i — the company’s sustainable division that designs carbon-fiber electric vehicles.
"After more than a year of development, we’re thrilled for the [athletes] to finally race this bobsled," says Michael Scully, Creative Director, BMW Group DesignworksUSA, BMW Group’s international design and creative consultancy located in Newbury Park, Calif.
Strong and lightweight with carbon fiber
The two-man versions of the bobsled must weigh 170 kg, so BMW engineers worked within that limitation to concentrate more mass around the center. The BMW engineers also made copious use of carbon-fiber in the front to improve handling.
The sleds are also much smaller than previous designs, as you can see from this picture. That makes getting into them harder, something the athletes have had to practice.
Here, Michael Scully (BMW's lead designer on the two-man bobsled project) talks with Craig Eggly, the head workshop operator for BMW's DesignworksUSA in California.
They're discussing an early design concept of the bobsled next to the studio’s 3D milling machine.
Good luck, Olympians!
Here's the new BMW bobsled during recent trials. We wish the athletes (and the engineers behind them) best of luck.
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