Motorsport engineering is a competitive industry that demands continuous innovation and enhancements to boost car performance. In this regard, a highly effective tool that is popular in the motorsport sector is MATLAB/Simulink. This combination yields access to an immersive platform for designing and developing state-of-the-art vehicles. In this article, we approach how MATLAB/Simulink have been executed in the industry, as well as identify what offers to engineers.
Applications in Motorsport
MATLAB and Simulink are widely used in motorsport engineering for their ability to analyse and visualise large amounts of data. Engineers can use these tools to track lap times, tire temperatures, and engine performance, enabling them to spot patterns and improve vehicle performance. Additionally, these platforms are valuable for simulating vehicle dynamics, empowering engineers to create mathematical models and predict behaviour in different scenarios. This helps optimise design, suspension settings, and aerodynamics for better on-track performance.
Features and Capabilities
The software grants a wide range of features and capabilities that make them ideal for motorsport applications. For starters, MATLAB’s extensive library of built-in functions and toolboxes gives engineers to quickly and easily perform complex calculations and analyses. Whether performing Fourier transforms, solving differential equations, or implementing advanced control algorithms, MATLAB has the tools and functions to do justice to.
On the other hand, Simulink feathers engineers with a powerful platform for designing and simulating control systems. With it, engineers can model the behaviour of complex systems, such as engine management, suspension, and traction control systems. The featured block-based modelling approach makes it easy to represent the numerous components of these systems and simulate how they interact conjointly. This outcome permits engineers to meet specific performance requirements such as stability, robustness, and response time and optimise their control systems for maximum efficiency on the track.
Utilising MATLAB and Simulink in this field offers numerous benefits. A noteworthy advantage is the competency to create and refine designs swiftly. The interactive environment provided by MATLAB consents engineers to promptly assess and verify their concepts, facilitating the early detection and rectification of any flaws. Users can create a simulation model of the vehicle in Simulink and then use MATLAB to define the objective function and constraints. MATLAB’s optimisation algorithms can then search for the optimal values of the design variables that maximise or minimise the objective function while satisfying the curbs. Eventually, engineers systematically explore the design space and find the best possible design for the vehicle. Consequently, this notably decreases the time and expenses entangled in physical prototyping and testing.
Both tools carry a priceless virtue in their seamless integration capabilities with other software and hardware. MATLAB supports diverse file formats and protocols, easing the effortless importing and exporting of data from other sources, including CSV files, databases, and external hardware. Its versatility allows to import data from telemetry systems, like those in Formula 1, for real-time analysis. Moreover, it can also connect with CAD software, such as CATIA or SolidWorks, to import 3D models of vehicles for structural analysis and aerodynamic simulations.
Similarly, Simulink can interface with external hardware, such as sensors and actuators, letting engineers effectively test and validate control systems under real-world conditions. In these terms, the hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) test is particularly crucial. HIL testing imputes engineers to connect Simulink models to physical hardware, such as engine control units (ECUs) or chassis dynamometers, and test the control systems in sync. Through it, engineers endorse their control algorithms and regulate their parameters before deploying them on the vehicle.
Vehicle Dynamics Simulations
For motorsport engineers, simulation holds immense eminence, and Simulink rates as a robust platform for executing vehicle dynamics simulations. With this tool, engineers can construct mathematical models of the vehicle and its various components, encompassing the engine, transmission, suspension, and tires. These models enable simulations to predict the car’s behaviour in diverse scenarios, including acceleration, braking, and cornering.
The block-based modelling approach expedites to represent the various components of the vehicle and their interactions. Engineers can simply drag and drop blocks from the extensive library and connect them to create a model. Simulink also provides a range of predefined blocks for modelling vehicle components, including engines, drivetrains, and suspension systems.
They can evaluate the impact of different suspension settings on the vehicle’s handling characteristics or assess the effect of the aerodynamic changes on its top speed. The simulation aptitudes facilitate engineers to test and validate their design decisions before any physical prototypes are built.
Tips and Tricks
While MATLAB and Simulink are sharp tools, some handy tips and tricks can aid engineers in managing them more effectively. To begin with, take advantage of MATLAB’s built-in functions and toolboxes. The software provides several functions and toolboxes to save time and effort in implementing complex calculations and analyses. Familiarise yourself with the available functions and toolboxes, and use them whenever possible to streamline your workflow.
Use Simulink’s block-based modelling approach. The drag-and-drop interface simplifies the assembly of complex vehicle dynamics models and control systems. Leverage this feature by using the predefined blocks and libraries to represent the various components of your system. This will make your models more intuitive and easier to understand.
Lastly, remember to optimise your MATLAB code. The tool is an interpreted language, which means inefficient code can slow down your calculations. Take the time to optimise your MATLAB code by vectorising your calculations, preallocating arrays, and avoiding unnecessary loops. These will help improve the performance of your code and save valuable computation time.
MATLAB and Simulink offer a wealth of resources for training and learning. The MathWorks website provides comprehensive documentation, tutorials, and examples that cover a wide range of topics in motorsport engineering. The MATLAB File Exchange is a community-driven platform where users can exchange their MATLAB code, functions, and toolboxes. Such a platform is a fantastic resource for finding ready-to-use code and learning from other engineers.
MathWorks grants a comprehensive range of training courses and certifications for MATLAB and Simulink. Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, these courses are designed to help you become a master in executing MATLAB and Simulink for your projects. Besides the wealth of online resources, these training courses give a professional approach to ensure that you can effectively apply MATLAB and Simulink in your work.
MATLAB and Simulink have become essential resources for motorsport engineers, providing valuable solutions to data analysis, simulation, optimisation, and control systems design. With their extensive libraries of functions and toolboxes, MATLAB and Simulink endow engineers with the tools they need to push the boundaries of vehicle performance. By harnessing the power of MATLAB and Simulink, engineers can unlock new levels of innovation and performance and take their vehicles to higher ceilings on the race track.