September 10, 2012

Several years ago I was a leader in my son’s Cub Scout pack. I wanted to try to show the boys in my son’s den the fun I had as an engineer, so I brought my computer to a meeting and we spent the evening drawing shapes for Pine Wood Derby cars. ( I guess it worked, because at least one boy is going to school for engineering.
Recently Autodesk Labs put up a technology preview tool that would have been great to use at that meeting. Project Falcon is a wind tunnel simulation tool.
It is easy to set up and get results. Falcon reads in various 3D model formats. Coming from Inventor I chose the STL format. I did have to make sure I had my units set to inches once the STL file was imported. Until I did that I had a tornado forming off the nose of the car. Interesting to see, but not what I was trying for.
So here is what I started with:
Pretty ugly, I know. And I think the results show that pretty well. The drag coefficient is up at about 0.68.  
Now I did some hacking to the Inventor model to make a wedge: 
And now the drag coefficient is down to 0.43. Not bad for one swipe with a saw.
I will admit that I doubt the aerodynamics of our cars ever drastically affected our race results. But I wouldn’t have let that belief stop me from showing the boys how different shapes have different effects. And I know the boys would have had a blast with it. So got ahead and give it a try. There are several sample files to help you explore this technology preview.
And while you are at the Labs site be sure to check out the Inventor Simplification tool as well. This one has a lot more everyday application for me. It helps take complex assemblies and easily make them look good and have a small enough footprint for subassemblies or as input for BIM models.
Check out some of the YouTube videos on Autodesk’s Manufacturing Channel to see more.
I’ll update you soon with more learning tools.
-Jim Swain
Jim Swain is the Project Manager for Manufacturing Solutions at Synergis.  Jim has been with Synergis since 1997 and has over 25 years of CAD experience. Prior to joining Synergis he worked in the consumer electronics and automotive industries as a design engineer, a test engineer, and as a CAD administrator. He has also taught design classes at the college level. Jim’s broad knowledge base helps him to understand customers’ problems and offer appropriate solutions.  As you can see, one of his passions are to share engineering in ways that excite kids, including his own three sons at home. 
See more on Jim’s experience and connect on LinkedIn.