What types of computer-based design and modeling techniques have you found to be of value when creating parts and systems for today's circle track racing markets? In pursuit of using such technologies, is it more economical and controllable to reach outside your company to enlist these services?
Comp takes a three-legged approach; balancing experience, testing, and modeling. We have used both 3D FEA and more simple "Mass-Spring-Damper" 1D models of valvetrain. Similarly, we have used 3D CFD modeling with engine firing for airflow, and stepped back to constant flow and typical 1D wave analysis approaches. All of the modeling approaches can be extremely beneficial. However, all have to be "tweaked" to match measured results. There are generally damping coefficients in valvetrain models or mass and stiffness values you can modify to achieve good agreement between predicted and measured behavior. You would think that a powerful enough model would need zero "tweaking," but a racing valvetrain has dramatic kinetic energy with coils clashing (often slightly off axis) and parts interacting in ways that are either not well understood or prohibitively difficult to correctly model.
We use the customer relationships to define a problem, then use our experience to layout various paths to explore. Then we prefer to run some baseline test and attempt to dial in a model. From there, we can explore various changes on both the model and testing. As we fine-tune the model, we can greatly reduce the number of tests that need to be run and even predict how changes that we do not have the technology to achieve or easily incorporate might improve the system (for instance a very light hollow head valve).
Anyone not learning to take advantage of a combination of experience, testing, and modeling is competing with a severe disadvantage. However, you must always balance the load on those three legs. The common trap is to lean too heavily on one (say modeling) and greatly reduce the time on others (like testing).
As a parts manufacturer, how do you establish and maintain the confidence of engine builders and racers in the protection of their racing "secrets" as they pertain to specific parts for their individual purposes?
Comp Cams has been around for over 35 years, and our customers know you cannot keep a great reputation in this industry without living and breathing integrity and confidentiality. We might be able to have a tiny spike in sales by sharing one person's secret, but we are not living and dying on quarterly sales reports. We want to keep our business strong year after year, and we value the relationships with our customers even more than our bottom line. Our customers understand nothing ever takes precedence over integrity, relationships, and our reputation.
On a long-term basis, do you see any shifts in how parts manufacturers do business when it comes to manufacturing processes and ways products are distributed?
Manufacturing equipment, capabilities and processes at Comp Cams improve so quickly it is hard to fathom. Things we used to think would be impossible are now common. Right now, I can't image just how it will get better, but ask me in 5-10 years and I'll likely be shocked that we made it by without things that are not even developed yet.
Briefly describe the future health of circle track racing, at whatever level you feel most comfortable commenting about. Where do you anticipate areas of growth or decline?
I'm extremely excited about all the new technologies headed into racing and truly believe this is the most exciting time ever in Valvetrain. Whether viewing from the engine shop, driver seat, or stands, we hope to see these new innovations make racing better, more affordable, reliable, and fun.
How are you positioning your product development plans to take advantage or guard against the answer to the previous question?
At Comp Cams, we love providing and promoting innovation. Lately, we have had tremendous results in both Sprint Car and Late Model racing. Customers are going faster, making more power, turning higher rpm, and breaking fewer parts. I believe this will continue in those and most other circle track venues. Engine builders, racers, fans and event promoters all desire to see great competition and innovation. While we may have seen some bumps in the road with both rules and turns in the overall economy, I certainly believe we have all learned and should be able to work together toward a very bright future. Comp Cams will continue to listen closely to our customers and respond quickly to their needs, following them towards whatever series and engine building applications they find most rewarding.