Race-car manufacturer Dallara Automobili, based in Varano Melegari, Italy, has been looking into ways to shorten product-development time and reduce the cost of testing and driver training compared to track testing.
Dallara turned to the Industrial Group of Moog Inc., East Aurora, N.Y., to provide a motion system and the software for the driving simulator.
Moog delivered a highperformance driving simulator that uses motion simulation technology that has been successfully used for testing and training in the aerospace, defense, and automotive industries for decades. This new simulator was specially developed for test and simulation in motorsports.
The Dallara simulator is quite different than the simulators used to train airline pilots and other flyers. "A commercial plane is big and heavy, thus the simulator doesn't need to give occupants the feeling of high speed and acceleration," explains Fons Hoeberichts, business development manager for Moog’s Auto Test team in Europe. "Racecars, on the other hand, can corner and change direction quickly and put a lot of g's on the driver."
To simulate the higher g levels, the simulator for Dallara employs acuators containing more powerful electric motors and spindles with a higher pitch. Even so, the system is limited to generating about 2 g's, though a real race car might subject its driver to 4 or 5 g's. "But the idea is to give the driver a feeling of acceleration and deceleration. The exact levels aren’t that important," says Hoeberichts. "Though the g levels are limited by the maximum speed of the actuators, we can give the right sensations by, for example, imparting side g's to simulate going into corners. There are no electromechanical systems in the world that can move as quickly as the one done for Dallara."
For race-car drivers to experience the most accurate feel of a car, simulations must also exhibit very-low latency. Moog designed new actuators for the 6 DOF system that offer higher stiffness at lower weight to meet stringent frequency-response specs. The system’s fidelity was also improved by using a Moog control loading system that simulates the force feedback during steering. Drivers can now feel little bumps in the racetrack because a laser scans the actual track and that information is loaded into the software model.
“Over the two years the simulator has been in operation, it has proved to be indispensable for reducing development time and costs for new products and costs for car setup optimization and driver training,” says Andrea Pontremoli, CEO and general manager from Dallara. “It has contributed greatly in evaluating and refining car parts and bodies prior to production. For example, we have reduced the number of prototypes — most early prototyping can now be done by using sophisticated models and testing them in the simulator.”
Training in the simulator lets Dallara optimize the car's suspension setup prior to a race, resulting in fewer training laps to reach the best settings. Race tactics can be discussed, prepared, and practiced while using the simulator. Simulators are available at all times, unlike tracks which are bound by time limitations. Hoeberichts says Dallara has also incorporated wind tunnel data into its simulations to gauge such factors as the effect of drafting another car on downforce and other aerodynamic qualities.