Building High-Powered Cars? Use High-Powered Computers

If you saw my post on Monday you know that we are celebrating the power of workstations this week. To keep the celebration going, I wanted to share how one small business is improving its workflow with HP Z220 Workstations.


Available in a small form factor (SFF) or convertible mini tower (CMT), the HP Z220 Workstations with NVIDIA’s entry-level professional graphics are HP’s most affordable, no-compromise workstations and are a great choice for small businesses looking to upgrade from PC.


Jesper Ingerslev, director of engineering at Factory Five Racing took me behind racing scenes to show me how they create kit cars using the Z220 Workstation.


Jim Christensen: How have you been using the HP Z220 Workstations?


F5 Race version Final 2.pngJesper Ingerslev: We use the Z220 mainly for SolidWorks modeling on our new project, the 818. It is used during the body finalizing step of the process, doing surface modeling making parting lines, weather strip recesses and part plugs with flanges.


JC: What improvements have you noticed with the Z220s over your previous systems?


JI: The biggest difference I noticed was the speed and boot up time. It is definitely a step up from the system I was using previously.


JC: Can you tell us a bit about your latest project?


JI: The current car we are developing is called the 818.  It is going to be a low cost elemental mid-engine sports car that uses widely available Subaru Impreza and WRX parts from 2002-2007.  This kit should cost $9,900 with an estimated complete finished cost of under $15,000.  The goal of the car is a fun to drive sports car that is easy on the wallet and can be built around the world.  We will be releasing the car early 2013.  You can learn more at


JC: What is the process that goes into the creation of a new car?


JI: There are a number of steps that go into the creation a new kit car. First we pick a car project and start with the basics: wheelbase, track width for the front and back, engine/drivetrain location and design goals. Then depending on the car we design a body shape. 


IMG-20111021-00896.jpgUsing SolidWorks, we design all of our frames and parts. Once the frame is designed we make a prototype and build a couple frames to test in the real world to ensure that it matches the computer simulations and help body fitment. We then build a driving frame to "go-cart" and check the suspension design and basic handling characteristics. Here’s a short video of the process


Depending on the body design we will either hand build half of a full size model or have a computer design model cut to full size in order to get a real perspective of the shape. With a full size model we can tweak any shape/line changes in person and scan the changes into SolidWorks for integration into the body shape. Once we have a good shape, we do flow analysis of the body and make parting lines. We weather strip recesses and then have part plugs made with flanges so that molds can be made for prototype production.  We are currently in this stage of development on the 818.


Next, we build a driving prototype to check fitment of all parts and again test the handling of the car. At this point the car will go through a design review to see if it needs any tweaking to meet design goals. Before the car is goes into production, we beta test with customers to get feedback and then build a final model to write the assembly manual and validate the tooling. Finally we can go into production.


JC: For you, what is the most important factor/feature in a workstation?


JI: The most important factor is having a good hardware platform that is fast, will not crash and works well with our CAD software, SolidWorks.  Our assembly models get fairly large so having a workstation that can load the assembly fast and deal with the graphics requirements is crucial.


JC: Anything else you’d like to add?


JI: Our relationship with HP has been great. They have always recommended great workstations and monitors that match our needs now and in the future.  Our HP Z220 Workstation with Intel processors and NVIDIA professional graphics has really exceeded our performance expectations.

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