Feb 16, 2010

Utah Design Team Uses SolidWorks to Create Skeleton Sled for Olympic Racer

World Cup Champion Noelle Pikus-Pace Turns To Local Metal Shop – And Her Husband – For Innovative New Sled.

CONCORD, Mass - A Utah design team used its metalworking experience and SolidWorks® CAD software to create a skeleton sled for an Olympic racer in a fraction of the time and for tens of thousands of dollars less typically required to produce one of the highly specialized sleds.

A skeleton sled is a compact racing vehicle that riders steer down high-speed ice tracks by flexing and shifting their bodies. Suddenly without a working sled late last year when hers was damaged, U.S. Olympic team member, 2005 and 2007 World Cup champion Noelle Pikus-Pace, turned to her husband, Janson Pace, and his employer. Janson Pace is an industrial designer at Salt Lake City-based NuQuest, a design, engineering, and manufacturing company. SolidWorks software helped NuQuest designers apply their experience producing industrial equipment, such as electrical control boards and equipment skids, to the highly specialized task of producing an Olympic-regulation skeleton sled.

“With SolidWorks, we were able to predict a lot of results that otherwise would have taken years of trial and error,” said Janson Pace. “SolidWorks Simulation let us test the sled’s strength, the loads it would have to bear, and the right materials to use so it wouldn’t buckle or deform. We modeled all the parts in SolidWorks, did the simulations, then modified them. The first physical model we produced fit together so well – because of SolidWorks’ ability to model parts properly and produce accurate drawings for the machine shop – that it was ready for Noelle to use. We didn’t have to prototype.”

The result of NuQuest’s innovation is a skeleton sled that meets Olympic requirements but departs from many sled design orthodoxies, Pace said. Skeleton racing is outwardly similar to the luge, except racers go down the tracks face-first instead of feet first. Skeleton sleds consist of a fiberglass “pod,” metal chassis and two “runners,” or blades. Most sleds are welded together, but the NuQuest sled is bolted. That makes it easier to switch out damaged or malfunctioning parts without subjecting the sled’s frame to heating and deforming. SolidWorks also enabled NuQuest to experiment with different materials to make the sled faster, where international competitions’ rules allowed.

NuQuest produced the sled in four months, which is years less than it usually takes to perfect a new design. NuQuest co-owner Troy Beckstead estimated that SolidWorks Simulation saved the company “tens of thousands of dollars” in development costs. Pikus-Pace will use the skeleton sled at the Vancouver Olympics. She was the first American woman to win the skeleton racing World Cup, and also won world championships in 2007.

“NuQuest had the skills and knowledge to create the sled even though it was very different from the products they normally design. All they needed was the right environment for testing new ideas to ensure they would work in the real world. That’s exactly what we want SolidWorks to be to them – a catalyst for their innovation,” said SolidWorks Vice President of Marketing Christine Washburn.

NuQuest works with authorized SolidWorks reseller Go Engineer for ongoing software training, implementation, and support.