Orion Racing India set to race at Formula Student Germany next month

by Tanmay Kulkarni 01 Jul 2016


Two-time Formula Student India (FSI) champion Orion Racing India of the K J Somaiya College Of Engineering, Mumbai, is all set to participate in the Formula Student Germany (FSG), which will be held from August 9-14, 2016 at Hockenheim, Germany.

The team has been a part of FSG since 2007 and has shown extremely sophisticated design and manufacturing skills at the international level.

FSG is an annual competition organised by the Society Of Automotive Engineers (SAE) to enable engineering students from all over the world to compete with each other by building an F1-type race car. However, the winners are not selected just on the basis of the fastest car but also on their performance on a variety of factors such as Engineering Design Report, Cost and Manufacturing, Business Plan Presentation, Acceleration, Skidpad, Autocross and Endurance race, all of which are classified into two categories – static and dynamic.

Rigel – made by young engineers

This year ORI unveiled ‘Rigel’ whose name is based on the brightest star in the Orion constellation. Developed by a team of 60 undergraduate students from the mechanical and electronics departments of K J Somaiya College Of Engineering, Mumbai, Rigel consists of sophisticated design and manufacturing techniques which are used by the automotive industry such as Rolled Steel Manufacturing and 3D printing, use of industry tested software tools such as SolidWorks for CAD design, ANSYS for simulation of flow and design and Star CCM+CFD packages for aerodynamic simulations.

The car also employs aluminium alloys from Hindalco, dampers from Ohlins, USA which provide excellent flexibility of damper-suspension tuning, bespoke brake discs which are specially made by ISR Sweden and brake callipers which are acquired from Wilwood.

A major change in the car’s manufacturing this year has been the extensive use of carbon fibre prepregs in bodyworks and aerodynamic components. This has reduced the weight of the car by almost 60kg from the 240kg in 2015 to 180kg this time around. This means Rigel is almost as light as the fastest accelerating race car in the world developed by the students of ETH, Zurich in collaboration with BMW, which is also one of the participants at FSG.

The engine assembly consists of a single-cylinder KTM Duke 390cc engine with a 10-inch wheel package which generates a power output of 43hp and 0-100kph acceleration of 4.5 seconds. “This is the lightest car that we have ever developed,” says Parth Mehta, who has designed the suspension mechanism of the car.

Gearing up for the contest

The students start preparing for the competition almost a year in advance and once the designs are fixed and materials are acquired, manufacturing takes place in about 4 months. The team is segmented into 10 systems – Frame, Composite Bodyworks, Suspension and Steering, Brakes, Powertrain, Air intake & Exhaust, Drivetrain, Cooling, Electronics and Aerodynamics.

The process starts with chassis manufacturing, followed by wheel assembly which includes hub uprights. Each team works in tandem with the others and takes care of designing and manufacturing along with testing and validation of individual systems and the overall car. A budget cap of Rs 20 lakh is set, most of which is collected via sponsorships. A buffer stock of wheel assemblies as well as a spare engine is also carried to the competition in case of unforeseen circumstances as it is crucial not to waste time in repairing components but to replace them. 

Speaking on the achievements of ORI in the competitions so far, Neel Thakkar, team captain, says, “ORI has participated in FSI 2016 and has won first place in the Engineering Design, Cost & Manufacturing, Autocross and Endurance events. Orion Racing India has been a two-time national champion team, winning both the editions of Formula Student India held in 2015 and 2016. We have also won awards at FSG that include Bosch’s Most Innovative Electronics Award in FSG 2010 and third place in the Cost & Manufacturing Event in FSG 2009. Ours is the only Indian team to complete in all dynamic events at FSG. We are striving to improve our performance at FSG 2016. The team has been progressing for the past 10 years. The knowledge and experience gained over the years has helped us refine our designs and improve it”.

Industry connect

The team has also managed to attract an impressive list of sponsors from the automotive and component industries for the various aerodynamic components and materials used in the manufacturing process such as Hindalco-sponsored aluminium alloys used in suspension and drivetrain components, HDFC, HPCL, Air India, Moldex Composites, Motul Lubricants, Volkswagen Motorsports, TLC bags, Loctite, KLT Group, Vijaydeep Fasteners and others. After the design and manufacturing processes are over, the testing phase of the car is carried out at the Somaiya Vidyavihar campus which has excellent infrastructure in terms of well tarred roads providing optimum testing conditions.

On being asked what the team does when the competitions are over, Neel says, “Re-usable parts such as dampers and engines are re-used while the rest of the parts are scrapped. It is an efficient way to save on excessive investment and bank on reliability of parts that are proven on the track”. Commenting on the team’s future plans, Neel proudly says, “We plan to make changes that shall catapult our team’s international standing and give better scope to its team-mates in showcasing their skills. A few things include turbocharging and a full-fledged aero package. Looking at the team’s progress, we are a fund- restricted team but there’s no dearth of skills!” 

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