Creating aerodynamic body panels for our Digital Genius F24 race car is now underway. We used the shape conceived by students from Eastbourne Academy and Hurst College with modelling foam before starting on the individual panels.
Aluminium is a light weight metal. Much lighter than steel. We chose thin sheets of aluminium as these can be more easily bent into shape. Each flat aluminium panel was cut to size by our metal supplier. They come coated in a thin green coloured protection film that we will remove later.
Placing an aluminium panel on the chassis we check it is the right size. We then temporarily clamp the panel in place, so that it does not move, while we mark out lines to indicate where the panel needs to bend.
Bending thin aluminium sheet panels does not require any complex machinery. We lay the panel on one wood pallet and place another on top where the edge of the pallet lies along the marked line. We bend the panels using our own strength being careful to make sure we are bending along the marked line. (You should where gloves for this).
Some of the panels require more preparation as we need to cutout sections before we do any bending. We use a cardboard template so we can check the fit. Once we are happy with the template we can transfer the details onto the panel.
We lay the cardboard template on top of the panel and double check we have it correctly placed. The top edge of our template should match the top edge of the panel. We run a pen around the holes and transfer them on to the panel.
To cut the panel we first drill small holes in the corner of each cutout section. These small holes need to be big enough to insert the Jigsaw blade. We then cut the remaining shape using the Jigsaw. We use a blade designed to cut metal. Normal wood cutting blades will not do.It takes a few minutes to cut each hole in turn. Once we have cut out all the sections, we check our work, placing the panel back on the chassis. Everything looks good. All the holes are in the right places. Now we can start bending this panel too.
Currently we divided the body into five panels. Two for each side of the car plus a bonnet. We chose five because it is always best for the panels to meet at the chassis structural members. It is also easiest if each panel is not too large to handle/fit/remove.