Up in the Sky, it’s a Plane…But on the Road, it’s a Car

CAD News - No Comments » - Posted on March, 23 at 11:38 am

Terrafugia Uses SolidWorks 3D CAD Software to Design an Aircraft That Converts to a Car for Instant Ground Transportation 

CONCORD, Mass., USA, March 18, 2009 – Terrafugia is one of only a few aeronautics companies in the world that has to design its aircraft to survive hitting a pothole at 40 mph. That’s because Terrafugia’s Transition® aircraft can convert into road-legal vehicle once on the ground, Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks Corp. announced today.

Terrafugia used SolidWorks® 3D CAD software to model the Transition and make the precise calculations needed to meet both aircraft and road vehicle safety and performance standards. As a double-duty vehicle, the Transition has to be light enough to get off the ground, yet sturdy enough to pass government regulations for crash safety. That meant reducing the amount of material wherever possible, which Terrafugia did by using SolidWorks Simulation to closely calculate the amount of material that could be reduced from key assemblies without compromising performance. Transition recently completed its first test flight at Plattsburgh International Airport in New York. To watch a video of the flight, please click here.


Key points about Terrafugia’s Transition:

  • The Transition is in a category of vehicles called roadable aircraft. Unlike novelty flying cars, which can be anything from a military hovercraft to a road car with wings grafted onto it, the Transition is first and foremost an aircraft. It is designed primarily for private pilots who fly to business and personal engagements and need a road vehicle for commuting to and from airports.
  • In addition to its flight assemblies, the Transition has a full automotive suspension, crumple zones, and roll cages to meet safety standards for road vehicles. Its wings fold to the side with the push of a button in the cockpit.
  • Terrafugia’s design team used SolidWorks to model the Transition’s major assemblies and ensure they would fit together properly before the company committed to physical construction. The machine shops that manufactured components for the aircraft also used SolidWorks 3D models to build the parts.
  • Terrafugia relies on authorized SolidWorks reseller CADD Edge for ongoing software training, implementation, and support.

Terrafugia quotables:

“We put all our designs into SolidWorks, then used the finite element analysis features to determine how much material we could cut out of the design without compromising Transition’s integrity as a road vehicle. SolidWorks let us be very precise, which was important because every ounce counts in this design.”

“It’s interesting how much reality matches what’s in SolidWorks. All the little details we see on the screen end up in reality, so we can modify the design to eliminate whatever we don’t want in the finished product. If we were working with just physical prototypes, we’d end up sanding those unwanted details off the parts by hand.”

SolidWorks quotables:

“Terrafugia successfully created what science fiction writers have been describing for years. Because the Transition is essentially two products in one, there were twice as many engineering challenges. We applaud Terrafugia for overcoming those and putting such an exciting concept into action.”

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