Determined to race its way to a Top 10 finish at the intensely competitive Michigan Formula SAE this May, the University of Minnesota’s Gopher Motorsports team has enlisted the help of waterjet manufacturer Jet Edge, Inc. to cut parts for the team’s #52 G04-16 Formula SAE race car.
“Using waterjet is the fastest way to produce parts with the geometry that we’ve designed,” said Nathan Tigges, Gopher Motorsports FSAE vice president (mechanical engineering/class of 2018). “Based upon our good experiences with waterjet cutting, we have redesigned several CNC parts to be manufactured as an assembly from waterjet parts, such as our rear bellcranks.”
The Formula SAE competition draws some of the world’s brightest engineering students, who design, manufacture, market, and ultimately race their cars at MIS, which is widely regarded as the fastest track in NASCAR. The teams are scored on their vehicle’s performance, business logic and design presentation. Gopher Motorsports, which is the University of Minnesota’s student chapter of the Society of Automotive Engineers, has been competing in the Formula SAE since 1997, twice placing seventh out of 120 teams from around the world. In 2015, the team placed 13th. This year, the Gophers have their sights set on a Top 10 finish, and hope to continue outpacing their rivals from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“We are proud to say we’ve beaten Madison for three years running!” Tigges said.
Gopher Motorsports builds a new car every year. They are required to change the frame geometry every year. To improve competitiveness, they also fully redesign about one-third of the system each year. Another one-third of the car needs to be revised in order to comply with the new designs and the legacy components. Prior to 2015, the team pillaged old cars for parts, but with the support of the university and local community, they are now able preserve the old models. This allows them to preserve the team’s heritage, train new drivers and give future team members the ability to see the progression of previous designs so they can improve upon them.