Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Mechanical Engineering


Mechanical Engineering


Joseph Mello


Because of their high strength-to-weight ratio, Fiber Reinforced Composite (FRC) materials are well suited for use in high performance racing applications where weight must be kept to a minimum. Formula SAE (FSAE) race cars are designed and built by college students, roughly following the model of a scaled down Formula One car. Strict regulations are placed on specific components of the car in the interest of equalizing competition and ensuring the safety of the drivers. Students are required to construct a survival cell (the chassis), which can resist large amounts of energy in the event of a crash, with an energy absorbing device at the front of the vehicle. The nose cone of the Cal Poly FSAE car is constructed as a carbon fiber shell designed to act as this sacrificial energy absorbing device. One difficulty associated with using FRC materials is that the anisotropic properties can lead to a variety of complex failure modes such as buckling, delamination, matrix cracking, and fiber breakage, all of which absorb different amounts of energy. In order to accurately predict the behavior of the nose cone so that it meets the requirements set forth by SAE, an initial finite element model has been constructed. This model uses the test results from another paper to construct an explicit non-linear dynamic analysis in Abaqus which simulates the axial crushing of a thin walled composite tube between two rigid plates. The modeling techniques discussed in this paper will be used as the basis for a future thesis dedicated to designing the nose cone for the Cal Poly FSAE car.