Flying car creators choose CATIA

The creator of 'street legal' flying car has chosen CATIA software to design and develop the vehicle's beta prototype.

Terrafugia will use Dassault Systèmes' CATIA Analysis and CATIA Composites Design (CPD) solutions for 3D composite and finite element modelling on its revolutionary Transition Roadable Aircraft, with delivery expected in 2011.

The Transition Roadable Aircraft can cruise up to 450 miles at 115+ mph, take off and land at local airports, drive at highway speeds on any road and fit in a normal suburban garage space. The two seat vehicle has front wheel drive on the road and a propeller for flight, transforming from plane to car in thirty seconds. Both modes are powered by unleaded automobile petrol.

After Terrafugia completed a successful proof of concept for the first version of the vehicle in early June, the design team began planning the vehicle's second iteration. Having spent several years developing the initial transition prototype, Terrafugia identified multiple ways in which it wanted to adjust the original design, including experimenting with alternate materials and sizing for the wings.

In order to analyse the way different materials would bend or move under various conditions, the company required a solution with advanced 3D composite ply-modelling, dedicated part modelling and material behaviour simulation capabilities.

RAND North America, a reseller of Dassault Systèmes PLM, chose CATIA's composite solutions for its technical features, which it said would help Terrafugia correct problems like wrinkles and bridges in the very first stages of design by visualising ply characteristics and fibre behaviour.

Terrafugia adopted CATIA Analysis and CATIA CPD as composite focused complements to its existing SolidWorks infrastructure and, according to Ben Zelnick, engineer at Terrafugia: "CATIA is a great complement to our SolidWorks solution. Being able to have a full digital model of a ply by ply layout will allow us to conduct accurate structural analyses, which is invaluable in reducing the weight of the Transition. In fact, we recently correlated an analysis of a CATIA model of a portion of the structure closely to a sample tested in our facility."

For the upcoming second prototype, Terrafugia's design team is using CATIA Analysis to create preliminary design simulations within a familiar CAD environment. The solution, says the company, allows the team to optimise its designs based on product performance specifications and to quickly make updates after real world testing.

Paul Fanning

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