The task starts with hours of design work in SolidWorks, a computer aided drafting program, to devise a solid aluminum part for the club’s custom vehicle. The part would be made from a single piece of aluminum to improve on the prior year’s four-piece welded steel steering knuckles. One of the knuckles fatigued during competition in 2011 and finally broke when a competitor’s vehicle landed on the Penn College car.
John L. LaFever Jr. uses computer-aided machining software called GibbsCAM to program an automated milling machine to manufacture a steering knuckle.
The two knuckles are produced on a Haas VFS computer-numeric control milling machine with a fourth axis.
The students first produce a fixture to hold the material in place during the manufacturing process.
They then run a less expensive piece of material to test LaFever’s CAM program.
The program to produce the complex shape of the steering knuckles requires more than 100,000 lines of code.
Solid surfacing using ball-ended tooling removes material in increments of one-10,000th of an inch.
All three axes are run on an oblong angle.
Run-time for each knuckle is about five to six hours.
A finished aluminum steering knuckle sits next to its prototype, created in the college’s lab facilities using fuse definition modeling with ABS extruded plastic.
Placed onto the team’s Baja vehicle, the steering knuckle holds the spindle and brake mounts.
A proud thumbs-up after an impressive 7th-place finish in the event’s final challenge, the endurance race, a four-hour, car-punishing test of driver and design.