A design team used its metalworking experience and SolidWorks 3D CAD software to create a skeleton sled for an Olympic racer in only four months and for tens of thousands of dollars less than it usually takes to produce one of the highly specialized vehicles. Skeleton racing is similar to the luge, except racers go down high-speed ice tracks face-first instead of feet-first. The sleds consist of a fiberglass “pod,” metal chassis, and two runners, or blades. Late last year, World Cup champion Noelle Pikus-Pace found herself suddenly without a working sled, so her team turned to Salt Lake City-based NuQuest, a design, engineering, and manufacturing company. Engineers there say SolidWorks software helped them apply their experience in producing industrial equipment, such as electrical control boards and equipment skids, to the task of designing the sled.

“The software let us predict results that otherwise would have taken years of trial-and-error,” says NuQuest engineer Janson Pace. “For example, we first modeled all the sled parts, then used SolidWorks Simulation, which works inside of the 3D CAD, to test the sled’s strength, loads it would have to bear, and different materials so the vehicle wouldn’t buckle or deform. We then modified the parts based on simulation results. The first physical model we produced fit together so well there was no need to produce a physical prototype.”

Best of all, NuQuest came up with an innovative design while satisfying Olympic standards, Pace says. “Most sleds are welded together, but this sled bolts together,” he says. “This makes it easier to switch-out damaged or malfunctioning parts without subjecting the sled frame to heating and potential deformation.” Pikus-Pace is using the skeleton sled at the Vancouver Olympics, currently taking place.