Eamon Kelly - Roller Coaster Design

Discovering the Thrill of Engineering Thrills

Project Experience

My Design Project - An Introduction

Posted by Eamon Kelly on March 23, 2010 at 11:32 PM

So, I am going to explain here what I hope to accomplish with my design project. This idea has been sort of floating around in my head for a while, after Dan from TPEG (Theme Park Engineering Group) told me about his idea to link up 3Ds Max and Excel to develop a process with which to design roller coasters. We thought about offering this project up to the group, but after consideration we thought it'd be too technical for underclassmen to get heavily involved in,and we were afraid that there wouldn't be enough interest to execute it properly. (We try to keep the projects fun, but still engineering based. We feel the tower did this well.)




So now I've decided that I want to execute it myself, so that I can have a better understanding of what the process is like, and what it is like to develop a complex process in the first place (arguably the more difficult aspect of engineering). So, in order to start this process, I thought of what I would want to do. I came up with a list of things, and a possible outline. I have only just begin, and in the past month my plans and goals have already changed. I expect this change to be constant throughout the process, and I am okay with it. Roller coasters are dynamic, and I see no reason to think their design is any different. So, to start I'll list my goals with a brief description.





Layout design with MatLab: MatLab was basically the starting point of this project. After seeing NoLimits Elementary and the Force-Vector Design code developed for it, I decided to go a similar route by representing track segments as mathematical functions. The reason for doing this is to allow easy manipulation of variables within a system. For example, if I plot out a course as a collection of x, y, and z points, I can find the changes from point to point, allowing me to find g-forces if I add in a velocity. This has already seen a major change since I began, seeing as I am going to try and plot 4 lines at once, a spine, two rails, and a heartline.  Basically, I will be using MatLab to layout ride sections, some of which will be dictated by forces (a hill producing 0g at the top), some by heartline (a heartline roll, where the track lines will be twisted while the heartline is straight).  After this is done, I will move into 3D modeling.




Structure design in Inventor/SolidWorks: After the MatLab work is done (or at least to a point where I can use some of it in 3D), I will try to model the structure. This is, right now, the most unknown area of the project. My hope is to be able to use the data directly from MatLab to, for example, create tubing around the center-linethat is the spine line's values. I think there will be a way to do it, and it will likely be done section by section (as per manufacturing limitations). Even if this proves to be impossible for me to figure out, I will know that the MatLab portion wasn't in vain, as it is likely the most important part of the whole project.




Train Design in Inventor/SolidWorks: I'd like to design trains, if possible completely, so as to better understand the choices made by industry professionals. This will likely be the last thing fully executed, with the exception of what would be done below.




Other ride aspects: Chain lifts, brakes, and sensors would be things that I'll probably try to model realistically. I also will likely try to work out logic charts for the sensors, brakes and the station platform, so that I can reliably predict capacity and ride performance.  Again, time allotting on these, but I'd like to explore them eventually.   LIMs, LSMs, cable lift hills, hydraulic cable launches, and spinning coasters type stuff would be fun, but due tocomplexity and time, I doubt I'll get deep into any of these.




Modeling/animation with Inventor, MatLab, and 3Ds Max: This is the end-goal of the project. Since I do not have the resources to manufacture a roller coaster, the best I can do is manufacture one in a computer. I'd like to run a complete train on a complete structure designed via MatLab and Inventor. Essentially, this would prove to be a physically possible coaster, developed completely by me. The shortcut may come in the form of simplified track modeling and simplified train modeling. I would still use the MatLab speed and position algorhythms to govern the train's movement.  Depending on how much progress I can make in the next two years will govern whether I take any short-cuts, and what type of coaster it ends up being (For example, a wild mouse would be easy, a B&M invert would be challenging).




Possible side project, for fun: Solder together piano wire or other bendable yet durable wire to make a model coaster. Right now I'm thinking a Euro-fighter would be fun to do, but this would likely chew up time, and it wouldn't be as beneficial to my education as everything above would be. Could be a fun summer project though.




Categories: Roller Coaster Design Project

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