How ANSYS helps automotive manufacturers save millions by getting it right the first time

We’ve witnessed a cataclysm of car recalls in the last couple of years, big brands notwithstanding. The trick is to get your design right the first time with multiphysics simulations, believes ANSYS.

With the Indian auto industry finally gaining some momentum, you really cannot afford to take the foot off the pedal. You need to constantly innovate with groundbreaking new designs and technologies. Diminishing profit margins and the government's out-of-the-blue decision to switch from Euro 4 to Euro 6 norms hasn't helped its cause. Add to this, the numerous instances of car recalls the industry witnessed over the last three years.

Auto manufacturers are pleased as punch believing that single-physics analysis suffices for their design purposes. OEMs have always invested in the best simulation software, but in one type of physics only. What then happens is that the OEM now has four to five different simulation software for different physics.

All swell, but the problem now is that these different types of software don’t interact with each other. Also, the solution to integrate them may result in data loss.

What the industry really needs to focus on is to get it right the first time, and this where Rafiq Somani, Country Manager India, ASEAN & ANZ, ANSYS believes multiphysics design simulation can make the difference. "When you run a simulation in ANSYS, with all this physics upfront in the design cycle time, you save tremendous amount of design and manufacturing time," said Somani.

So, what is multiphysics design?

Let’s take the simple example of windshield design: The design may meet all the mechanical strength requirements, but not so for aerodynamics. Now if you consider functionality under rain, thermal resistance and thermodynamics also come into the picture. Add to this the element of rain-sensing wipers, and now you have mechatronics added to the brew. So, we see four aspects of physics being involved for a simple windshield design.

Now, the reason why we see so many component failures and car recalls is because most companies aren’t investing in multiphysics analysis.

“A lot of OEMs have quoted that around 25 to 33 percent of the costs can be saved if simulation is used effectively. Added to this is the advantage of a shorter product development time lifecycle, which helps bring your product to the market faster,” explained Somani.

Global industry leaders are using ANSYS to create complete virtual prototypes of complex products and systems. This comprises of mechanical, electronics and embedded software components, which incorporate all the physical traits that exist in real-world environments.

“ANSYS had the ‘multiphysics’ vision about 30 years ago,” said Somani. “We’ve been acquiring companies since then. We started as a mechanical design company, and then moved on to acquiring fluid analysis, aerodynamic & airflow, thermodynamic analysis, and embedded electronics software. We’ve got the whole gamut in our arsenal now.”

Typically in the traditional product design, you have people designing the cars, then they make a prototype, following which a whole lot of test data is collected.

Read more: Mahindra Reva Builds India's First Intelligent Car using Telematics and Mobility

Now, this is a sequential process, in addition to being very costly and time-consuming. You’ll have to build a mold for these prototypes, make the prototype, and then run road tests. If any of these products fail, you’ll have to go back to the drawing/design phase, and then making a brand new prototype. This is a traditional, sequential, product development process.

What ANSYS is saying is that if you front-load, or start using simulation early in the design cycle time, you can save costs drastically.

There is this concept called digital prototyping. “Today the ANSYS software is such a sophisticated and advanced software because today’s cars have a lot of electronics, mechatronics, infotainment, and sensors involved,” said Somani.

ANSYS is currently the only simulation software company that takes care of all the physics to do a virtual prototyping. This means you can do all the fit-form function and testing exactly mimicking real life conditions.

Somani believes that it’s okay to fail in the software design cycle. You’re not going to lose any money because you haven’t yet manufactured anything. With HPC and cloud, the processing is much faster, so analysis which used to take days and weeks and months to do earlier, now can be completed within a span of hours. This drastically helps cut down the product development time.  

“OEMs really need to get over the I-know-it-all attitude. They don’t!”

Today’s OEMs are basically system integrators. No automobile OEM is manufacturing all components. They design the platform, feed the concepts, physical aspects, and identify cost levels. Following this, the company outsources the parts, like the engine, chassis, brakes, and dashboard, to various other manufacturers.

So, the manufacturing technique, cost improvisation, material usage, among others. end up going to the supplier. The OEM, on the other hand, ensures that the car is manufactured within the cost constraints.

This results in suppliers manufacturing individual components at their level alone. But when you bring the car together, there are multiple components involved, and multiphysics comes into the picture.

“A major problem the industry is currently facing is the awareness factor. A lot of OEMs do not know that not having multiphysics is the prime factor. They’re still trying to blame the component manufacturers. OEMs really need to get over the I-know-it-all attitude. They don’t know the latest trends,” said Somani.

How ANSYS gives a leg up to autonomous cars

What’s powering autonomous cars is the advanced design system, or ADS as it’s popularly known. When you are talking about autonomous cars, you need to consider a lot of sensors and some very safety-critical embedded software.

“The added advantage ANSYS has in this space is that it’s the only company that conforms to Autostar and ISO 26262. These are absolute essentials for IoT-enabled connected cars,” said Somani.

In fact, both Mercedes and Google autonomous cars used ANSYS systems for design. One of the very important factors for autonomous cars is antennae design and its placement. “There’s a lot of chip package design, and this is where our Apache software plays a very important role. There’s a lot of power management to be considered,” explained Somani.

Roadmap for the Indian automotive industry

A key factor is that today’s customers are expecting an enhanced in-car experience, so passenger comfort and infotainment, at the right price, has become the need of the hour.

Warranty reduction is also a major focus point for ANSYS in 2016 and beyond, emphasized Somani. “If you look at the car manufacturers today, you’ll see that the profit margins have reduced a lot. This is because if some of the components fail, the warranty costs for a CFO or the maintenance department digs a big hole in the pocket, as the warranty claims can be pretty expensive – it directly hits your bottom line.”

Also read: Indian Auto Trends to Watch Out For in 2016

In addition to saving costs by eliminating the probability of component failure, ANSYS is also working on making wind tunnel testing a cost-effective and efficient process for Indian auto manufacturers.

“Wind tunnel testing is still an expensive affair in our country, in addition to a severe lack of availability. Most of these wind tunnels are booked for months, or even years. This is the reason a lot of OEMs are left with no option but to outsource wind tunnel testing to other countries,”

ANSYS can help bridge the gap as it is certified to carry out digital wind tunnel simulations for automobiles, in addition to defense applications, including aerospace and missile design.