March 2000

Design View

From Trident to the Track

FACE TO FACE:

Mark Fletcher speaks to Steve Nevey, CAE Manager at Jaguar Racing, on his quest for the paperless CAD office

With the new Formula One season upon us, the rush of car launches has drawn to a close. This year, as well as the throaty roars of the engines and the squeals of the tyres, there will be a welcome return to British Racing Green – in the shape of the new Jaguar Racing team.

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In the engine room of the design office the track data is constantly analysed to get that one extra mile per hour out of the car. Formula One cars require probably the most intensive design process in the world of motor sport. There is no finite line drawn to say that the design is finished: the cars will be continually improved right up to the green light of the last race.

Steve Nevey, CAE manager at Jaguar Racing, points out: "The design of a Formula One car is a 12-month process. It just happens that, at some stage in that cycle, the season begins." With this type of demand placed on a design office, shorter design times and faster processing as well as unheard of levels of concurrent engineering all help to make it a success story. As a former design engineer on the Trident submarine (the first CAD-designed submarine) Nevey joined Jaguar with the ideal of creating a paperless design environment (the first in the sport, he believes). All the engineers who joined from the start were experienced in CAD and thought to be those who would aspire to the paperless environment.

The paperless office is a goal for many people but it can be fraught with pitfalls – especially where the company relies on so-called 'legacy data' that has always existed in a hard form. The Jaguar team was lucky in that it started from a completely clean slate. "There were initial problems," Nevey adds. "The main one was the lack of visibility that you have with a screen-based system. The technical director was unable to see the full-scale plot and appreciate the design as a whole."

Jaguar initially overcame this by creating a full-sized plot, but this was soon superseded by a projector system. "The total CAD environment has been incredibly beneficial," says Nevey. "The car literally falls together." The CAD environment also helps with development timescales.

"We are not into reducing lead times," says Nevey. "Instead we try and keep the design process going for as long as possible. If it takes four months to design the car there is no benefit in reducing it to three. Instead we try to go through as many iterations as possible until it is time to manufacture. "Our new Hewlett Packard hardware can generate more iterations in a shorter time, getting us to a more advanced stage than the other teams. This should lead to an improvement on the track."

This just-in-time design concept can be shown by the fact that wind tunnel testing on the engine casing can be undertaken in California while the mould tool is being rough-cut in a factory in Coventry. If a change needs to be made, all the information can be entered electronically, via the design centre, and the tool path will be altered according to the new data.

What advice would Nevey give to others who crave a paperless environment? Although it depends on the type of product and the amount of legacy data required by the design process, he thinks there should be no major hurdles. "Teething problems will appear," he says, "but they can be easily ironed out to produce a much more concurrent and streamlined design process."

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