Technology

Pointfuse software helps convert Formula One plane for world’s first electric air race

12 January 2020 | By Andrew Pring

Modelling software Pointfuse is helping engineers design and develop an electric plane that will take part in the Air Race E competition later this year.

The world’s first electric air race will see eight international teams, including Canada-based Team Outlaw, simultaneously race electric aircraft around a 5km circuit, 10m above the ground and at speeds of up to 450kmh.

Using as-built plans created from laser scanned data and processed using Pointfuse, Team Outlaw are planning to replace the traditional motor in its existing Formula One racing plane with a battery powered electric unit before competing in the race, which is described as stock-car racing in the air.

Pointfuse is a modeling engine that delivers an automatic, precise and flexible way of converting the vast point cloud datasets generated by laser scanners or photogrammetry into segmented mesh models. It also significantly reduces the file size of 3D models created from point clouds.

To adapt its 1993 Cassutt plane, Team Outlaw required detailed structural plans. Using a Faro S70 laser scanner, the team captured millions of individual measurements to create a working point cloud file. Once the data had been cleaned, using Autodesk Recap, and the plane detail isolated, engineers imported the data into the computer-aided engineering software package SolidWorks.    

“To assess different design options we needed a 3D model of the plane which we could use to explore different locations for equipment and different configurations,” said Thomas Lockwood, a mechanical design engineer working on the project.

“Having worked with laser scanning in the past I was confident it would be a relatively simple and cost-effective task to capture the raw measurements. However, what we hadn’t factored in was the process of getting the data, in a usable format, into SolidWorks. I’d used point cloud processing software before but it was hugely expensive so when I came across Pointfuse I was excited to try it out.”

Using Pointfuse, the Team Outlaw designers converted the cleaned data into a series of meshed surfaces. From this Pointfuse produced mesh model, STEP (Standard for Exchange of Product Data) files, which were exported for use in SolidWorks, giving the design team accurate surfaces and breaklines from which the CAD model could be created.