Creating custom steering wheel grips to help drivers achieve maximum racecar performance

Product: Artec Space Spider
Industry: Design and Art

Using NX reverse engineering and polygon modeling enabled design changes to be implemented and new grips produced between races, eliminating a potential on-track distraction.

Andrew Miller, Advanced Materials Engineer
Team Penske

Meeting fast-paced design requirements

Team Penske is one of the most successful teams in the history of professional sports. Cars owned and prepared by Team Penske have produced more than 600 major race wins, over 670 pole positions and 43 championships across open-wheel, stock car and sports car racing competition. Over the course of its 56-year history, the team has also earned 18 Indianapolis 500 victories, three Daytona 500 Championships, a Formula 1 win, victories in the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring, along with a win in Australia’s legendary Bathurst 1000 race. In 2022, Team Penske competed in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, NASCAR Cup Series and the FIA World Endurance Championship.

In addition to racing, the company also produces racecar components and support equipment for NASCAR, INDYCAR, International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) and World Endurance Championship (WEC) racing programs.

There is a lot more that goes into winning races than just luck. Over the last decade, Team Penske has focused on developing custom steering wheel grips to help drivers behind the wheel. A custom steering wheel grip allows the driver to focus on racing, achieving maximum performance from the racecar. Clay grips are sculpted to the steering wheel frame and 3D scanned for reverse engineering, which enables Team Penske to implement a suitable design solution as fast as possible.

Team Penske achieved this by using NX™ software and Teamcenter® software, which are part of the Siemens Xcelerator portfolio business platform of software, hardware and services.nullnull

Using reverse engineering to speed up the design process

Designing these custom steering wheel grips and the necessary mold tooling is no small feat. Team Penske used to outsource the reverse engineering of the scan data, which increased costs and lead time. More recently, Team Penske used a third-party software package to reverse engineer the scan data, generate initial surface and reference computer-aided design (CAD) data. However, this data was not native to NX so making changes to the design was laborious and inefficient.

Another challenge the company faced was meeting the demands of a fast-paced racing industry. When it comes to racing, drivers are the primary stakeholders that generate results from this development. Developing custom steering wheel grips for new drivers, or implementing changes for existing drivers needs to happen within days to weeks. The fast-paced development requires Team Penske to use integrated tools to create and change designs seamlessly.null

Once Team Penske realized the new reverse engineering capabilities with the Siemens Xcelerator portfolio, they set out to use NX and Teamcenter to streamline the process. Moving the reverse engineering and design to the native NX CAD system enabled a more efficient in-house design process. Using the NX CAD system helped store all data in one location with traceability in Teamcenter. Integrating the reverse engineering process into NX with the reverse engineering tools and polygon modeling has streamlined this process. Now, Team Penske can implement changes quickly in a parametric process. This is critical when dealing with multiple INDYCAR drivers, each with unique custom steering wheel grips.

Using NX decreased the design time required to implement changes compared to using third-party software packages. One example of this comes from INDYCAR driver, Scott McLaughlin. McLaughlin wanted changes to his steering wheel grips after his inaugural season with Team Penske in 2021. Using NX reverse engineering and polygon modeling enabled Team Penske to make design changes and produce new grips for McLaughlin between races, eliminating a potential on-track distraction. “A custom steering wheel grip allows the driver to focus on racing to achieve maximum performance from the racecar,” says Andrew Miller, advanced materials engineer for Team Penske.

McLaughlin went on to win three races, capture three pole positions and finish in fourth place in the INDYCAR championship during his second season in 2022.

“Using NX reverse engineering and polygon modeling enabled design changes to be implemented and new grips produced between races, eliminating a potential on-track distraction,” says Miller.

Team Penske quickly learned how to use NX and Teamcenter with help from the online resources in the Siemens Xcelerator Academy and customer support from Siemens.null

Racing ahead

Team Penske reduced the design time of the steering wheel grips and molds from a minimum of three to four days to within one to two days. It eliminated outsourcing or third-party software requirements for steering wheel grip designs and used Teamcenter to improve design traceability for grip designs. Team Penske plans to continue using NX and Teamcenter to further investigate texturing and algorithmic modeling for applying textures to steering wheel grips and interface devices.null

A custom steering wheel grip allows the driver to focus on racing to achieve maximum performance from the racecar.

Andrew Miller, Advanced Materials Engineer
Team Penske

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