(Photo: Canadian Press)
Formula 1, the highest category of motorsport, has always been a laboratory of technological innovation, where engineers have used all their ingenuity to improve the performance of single-seat cars. And often they don’t hesitate to flirt with the limitations of the sport’s rules in an attempt to gain an edge over the competition.
The Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), which enforces the rules, turned to Quebec-based InnovMetric to make sure all teams actually play by the rules of the game during F1 racing.
So the company, founded in 1994 in Quebec by Marc Soucy and Esther Boulian, took advantage of this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix presentation to step out of the shadows and detail how its software solutions contribute to, among other things, applications . towards safety and fairness in motorsport.
With the PolyWorks/Inspector platform spearheading InnovMetric, the FIA has taken a big step forward in vehicle compliance testing this season.
“Previously, the FIA conducted checks using 2D templates to check aerodynamic shapes or size limits to estimate the dimensions that need to be met,” explains Jean-Sebastien Blais, engineer and implementation expert for the company’s solution at InnovMetric. Although easy to use, these methods are expensive to maintain and must be redone every time there is a specification change.
“When using our software, all you need is a laptop, a small suitcase with a laser tracker, and someone who can do the verification themselves. This allows you to have a printed inspection report available immediately after the measurement.”
Specifically, the software allows you to measure in three dimensions the given points of a one-seater vehicle. The operator places a spherical reflector at certain points, which are fixed by a laser tracker. These measurements are then sent in real time to a database and compared to a model or digital twin of the vehicle.
“It’s almost like an architect drawing up a plan, and when the building is complete, someone pulls out a scythe to take measurements and check if it fits the digital plan,” Mr. Blais illustrates.
This tool is a huge time saver as the FIA only has five minutes to inspect each car before or after the race.
It is no coincidence that the FIA turned to InnovMetric and its software platform to ensure vehicle compliance on tracks around the planet. It has been a long time since most F1 teams adopted this universal measurement app from the Quebec company.
“All the major car manufacturers use our software in the production of their production vehicles,” says Blais. And once they have mastered this technology, when they have a racing team like Ferrari, they can apply it in many different ways.
“The FIA has realized that in order to be effective, they need this kind of technology and we are happy to work with it.”
When a customer like the FIA buys software, it becomes an indefinite license user, and as with all other software, updates are available every year. Through a network of subsidiaries, InnovMetric application specialists can provide on-site technical support.
The PolyWorks/Inspector platform technology also offers the ability to recheck recorded data at any time in the event of a dispute.
“For example, if we were to dispute the ground clearance of a car six months after the Grand Prix, since we have an accurate picture of the car at the time of the race, we could go back to take measurements and draw conclusions. Blais noted.
If desired by the FIA, this technology could even be used to determine if a track layout is suitable for cars.
“PolyWorks is already being used in traffic accident scenes. You can perform a full scan of the area, set the stopping distance and make sure nothing has been changed.
“Can we apply this to the schema? Of course, the technology is ready for this in terms of software. But I don’t know if the FIA would want to move in that direction.
InnovMetric in a few figures:
– More than 500 employees, including 250 in Quebec, and 13 subsidiaries, including 5 in Europe and 3 in Asia;
– 18,700 clients in 99 countries of the world;
– 98 out of 100 leading global manufacturers use PolyWorks;
– 50% of the company’s revenue goes to technical support and research and development.