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Name: M. H.
Status: student
Grade: 9-12
Location: AZ
Country: USA
Date: Winter 2012-2013

What is it called when you drill holes in metal to make it lighter? For example drilling holes in a Formula 1 race car frame to make it lighter. How is the placement of such holes determined?

Hi M.H.,

Thanks for the question. I do not know the name for the technique described. What an engineer is trying to do is get a good compromise of weight and strength. There is computer software which one can use to model where to cut the holes and still maintain structural integrity.

I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have any more questions. Thanks Jeff Grell

Hi M.H.,

There is no specific name for the removal of non-critical areas of metal in a part, as a means of reducing the weight of that a part.

The placement of the holes that are drilled to remove metal that does not contribute to the strength of a part, is determined by doing an engineering analysis of the part. Sometimes it is obvious to an experienced engineer where metal can be removed without affecting strength.

More commonly, since the entire design of a Formula One car is done nowadays using a 3D CAD computer program equipped with a Finite Element Analysis (FEA) program, it is easy for the engineer to remove metal on the CAD "model" of the part in question (before the actual part is made), and then use his FEA program to analyze the computer model of the part. In this way, the engineer can not only determine what weight of metal has been removed, but also his FEA program will determine an exact answer if the metal removal has affected the strength of the part, and if so, by how much. All this design and analysis is done while the design is still just a computer CAD model, and well before the modified part has ever been made.

Regards, Bob Wilson


An analysis of an ?I? shaped beam will show that the forces are in the top and bottom rails of the ?I? beam and that holes may be drilled in the center without effecting the load bearing characteristics of the beam. That is why when you look under a bridge, some of the cantilever support members have hollowed-out centers.

The college course that reviews these matters is called ?Statics.? Sometimes the classes are combined with Dynamics and the course is called ?Statics and Dynamics?. But classes in ?Strength of Materials? also cover these issues. These are usually one semester long courses.

You should not go drilling holes in the frames of race cars unless you really, really know what you are doing.

Sincere regards, Mike Stewart

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