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CAD/CAM Shares the Winner’s Circle in Auto Racing

Christopher Kozell
By Christopher Kozell Strategic Account Specialist, CNC Software Inc

Perhaps no other industry has tracked, embraced and applied various methods in the evolution of manufacturing technology as auto racing has. Further, many manufacturers are gearheads at heart, so it’s an exciting sport for us. We know what it takes to make just about every part in the latest generation of high-performance race cars. As a CAD/CAM software developer, we’ve been “riding shotgun” with the racing industry since 1983, when our product launched, making those new-on-the-scene CNC machines much easier and faster to program than punch tapes. Punch tapes were the only way to store a program before CAD/CAM software.

In the early days of CAD/CAM and racing, there was a lot of tinkering and manual manipulation of engines and programming code. Sprint ahead almost 40 years in the adjoining universes of CAD/CAM development and racing engineering, and the sophistication, technology, and partnerships have exponentially evolved the software and the cars. At each milestone on the timelines of both CAD/CAM software and the racing industry, we were there for each other. In the CAD/CAM world, being able to manipulate a CAD model over several iterations to get the component just right was a huge time savings for race teams. Translating that model into actual toolpaths was another big jump in efficiency.

Most recently, on the CAM side, the introduction of Dynamic Motion has been a boon to race car component makers. Dynamic Motion technology, or constant chip load machining, involves proprietary algorithms in the software that detect changes in the material being machined. The tool remains constantly engaged with the material, moving and cutting as it was programmed to do. The process reduces or eliminates the stepovers that can cause tool breakage, which halts production and increases tool and cycle time-related costs. Applying Dynamic Motion toolpaths, machines making engine or structural parts can be pushed to their full capacity, running as fast as possible without wasted air cut time. In racing, speed is the name of the game, and this technology helped the teams streamline their manufacturing time while improving part quality and consistency. This is vital now because many parts are made by a list of approved vendors that supply the same parts to every team. Locking hubs are an example. Teams can still have their nuances in certain areas to give them a potential edge, but NASCAR—usually for safety reasons—decided that some parts had to be the same for all.

Another helpful benefit to racers are the technology partnerships trending more often in manufacturing. For example, CAD/CAM software developers working closely with cutting tool manufacturers have resulted in new toolpaths that make the absolute most of the latest advancements in cutting tool geometries.

A Symbiotic Relationship

Even more visible indications of the symbiotic relationship between racing and manufacturing are all the recognizable (to us in manufacturing) brand names that sponsor race teams. In our case, the Mastercam brand supports certain team cars in NASCAR, F1 and NHRA, and we also support Roush Yates Racing Engines. Several machine tool builder names are also visible on race days—for example, Haas, as in Stewart-Haas Racing.

Manufacturing and racing go hand in hand. One has served the other over the years, pushing our individual developmental timelines to ever more sophistication because of our can-do, let’s-do relationship. Racing has a need—we fill it as fast as we can; we have a new methodology, and racing applies it without hesitation. That’s a pact ready-made for the Winner’s Circle!

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