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Monthly Archives: May 2017

Automotive Industry

The global automotive industry has been growing constantly. Technologies such as connected transport, smart driver experience, improved battery management systems and better fuel efficiency are reforming the automotive industry.Innovation never stops!

Automotive manufacturers are required to work in uncertain conditions with increasing complexity as a result of wide range of products available to the customer, changing technologies, increasing pressure to innovate, environmental concerns and globalization.

Engineers are constantly under pressure to develop products that are future-proof. Hence, it is vital to bring the right expertise together that can combine multiple engineeringdisciplinesto handle challenging applications that lead to faster production.

Simulation-based engineeringhelps develop the products in a risk-free environment. This is a faster and more cost effective way to test the products when the expectations are high and failure can be disastrous.Simulation is the key to shorteningtime tomarket as it will accelerate the workflow from design to prototype.

COMSOL Multiphysics enables automotive engineersto accurately investigate design concept to production and fully benefit from the virtual prototyping capabilities that it offers. With COMSOL Multiphysics engineers can couple electromagnetics with heat transfer, structural mechanics, fluid flow, and other physical phenomena, allowing them to accuratelysolve real world problems.

A thermoelectric cooler application is one of 50 app examples available with COMSOL Multiphysics. The user may test different geometries, thermocouple configurations, and material selection in order to determine the ideal cooler option for a specific configuration or an optimized design for best performance.

Researchers working within the automotive industry have used COMSOL Multiphysicsto study corrosion in automotive parts found in car paneling, for example. Simulation helpsresearchers investigate electrochemical reactions on the surface of the rivet, analyze decay in sheet metal, and understand the effects of geometry in the corrosion process.

It’s important to support the experts who often have to serve the entire organization while covering a diverse range of simulation needs,by bringing simulation to a larger group of people. The latest version of COMSOL Multiphysics and its Application Builder provides simulation experts with the tools needed to turn their detailed physics and mathematical models into easy-to-use simulation apps for use by everyone in their organization and beyond.

Designers can easily build a simplified interface based on their model in order to let anyone in the product development team test different operating conditions and configurations. Given how competitive the automotive industry is, building simulation apps for an entire team will allow designers to maketheir expertise easily available and free up resources to develop new concepts.

Automotive Platforms

The automotive industry has recovered from the 2008 recession, and is regaining its former strength. There are many factors to show that it is still gaining momentum, for example, General Motors has recently stated they have had their highest global sales ever this year. One industry forecast predicts global automobile production will exceed 61 million, a 7 percent growth from the previous year. Interestingly, GM sold more cars will be sold in China than the US.

Large investments have been made by automakers, this been noticed in many areas. These investments include opening new plants and refurbishing older facilities. The auto industry has long been on the cutting edge of manufacturing technology. However, industry investments don’t just include investment in high technology such as robotics, but also, literally the nuts and bolts of the auto industry. A general increase in manufacturing around the automotive sector has been noticed as well. This includes such staples as steel production, plastics and the key metal forming component. Secondary markets, such as the tier II metal forming industry have picked up over the last several years. Metal stamping, roll forming and carbide die production have increased. In the area of tool and die the auto industry has long since taken advantage of metal forming technologies such as tungsten carbide dies. Tungsten carbide is three times as hard as steel and is used to form many parts such as axles, tubing and a wide variety of other components.

Basically, manufactures continue to invest in their supply chains as well as design and technology. The tier II metal forming industry suppliers relationships were severely strained after the 2008 recession. When the recession hit the industry put greater demands on their suppliers for cheaper parts. Even worse, several key automotive companies were unable to payoff large debts they incurred to the vast array of suppliers forcing many suppliers to close their doors. However, these supply chains have been strengthened in recent years, to the benefit of the industry. It would be great if we could say that the tier II and tier III suppliers have been guaranteed a profitable place in manufacturing but unfortunately it is all still on a case by case bases. Supply and demand still rules the day after all.

Will the auto maker’s realize the short sided mistake of trying to eke out every penny from their supply chain or will they construct mutually beneficial relationships. It is better to depend on a pool of competitive suppliers than it is to starve suppliers or attempt to bring it all “in house”. For example, GM or Toyota isn’t going to advance tool and die as quickly as the whole tool and die industry, they need to rely on the tool and die suppliers to advance their own craft and focus on designing and manufacturing better cars and trucks. Perhaps only Ford Motors only realized this, and it allowed them to weather-the-storm. How about controlling their long term obligations to their work force while rewarding talent and hard work by their employees?  Platform-based manufacturing is a growing concept that is gaining popularity in Detroit as well as their competitors in Europe and Asia. The industry is trying to create a common vehicle designs that can be modified to replace the multitude of vehicle models all over the world. This gives automakers the opportunity to standardize manufacturing procedures and parts, increase the size of their facilities, and be able to respond more quickly changes in demand from the consumers in the global market. In the end, the whole process of rolling out models from plants across many countries and supply chains gets simplified, assuming your systems can support these transitions.

Japanese manufactures have been enhancing this concept since before they stormed the market in the nineteen eighties (a concept they learned from the Americans after World War II and ran with while the US ignored their own brain child). They now use these concepts, basing 65 to 75 percent of their manufacturing on a world platform. The US companies have been lagging slightly behind in platform-based manufacturing. Why not have a standard carbide die to make your mufflers with a set amount of cobalt and tungsten worldwide? With the immense recovery costs associated with coming back from being on edge with automotive obscurity, investments are primarily being focused on platform-based assembly models. It has been estimated US auto makers are actively planning to shift up to 70% of their production to platform-based vehicles by the middle of by 2018. This isn’t loosing focus on things like carbide tooling, it’s standardizing it! To go back to our carbide die example, this means laying out a global strategy for what die makes what part. Does tungsten carbide die with 13 percent cobalt make better mufflers than one with 20 percent? If so than let the die makers know and standardize it globally. This is what makes the nuts and bolts, and the nuts and bolts matter more than ever.

There is good news for up and coming manufactures, they will not need to reinvent the wheel. The earlier companies had to make up their own manufacturing processes.  Now they can just copy the flexible manufacturing style of major auto companies. New manufactures can avoid the large expense and lengthy process of development cycles that early adopters have had to proceed through. Modern “next generation” manufacturing execution systems offer new levels of flexibility and agility in production, so the smaller car makers can emulate this type of production strategy without the multi-billion dollar investment it took to come up with these techniques in the first place.

A Formula One team is the Driver

The most visible person in a Formula One team is the driver, the man who receives most of the glory for a victory or the blame for a failure. So it is no surprise that it is his career path that attracts most public attention.

Tales of teams nurturing future drivers from a young age are now typified by the careers of the Briton Lewis Hamilton, who is second in the drivers’ standings heading into the Hungarian Grand Prix in Budapest this weekend, and the German Sebastian Vettel, the reigning world champion.

But out of the spotlight, the multitude of engineers who provide the driver with a racing car are now also being nurtured by teams as they develop programs similar to the young-driver programs to come up with the best technical minds of the future.

In the past, as recently as the 1980s and ’90s, most of the top Formula One car designers came from backgrounds unrelated to car design or engineering. At the time, it was still possible for one designer to conceive of and build the whole car.

Some of the programs aimed at cultivating young engineers have existed outside the series much longer than the young-driver programs. Formula SAE, for example, was founded in the United States in 1978 and also has European and Asian programs called Formula Student.

Formula Student is run by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, an international organization based in England, and organizes a competition for college engineering students to design and build a racing car using a basic set of regulations. Cars from the competing institutions are then judged according to several criteria, including design attributes and results in endurance and sprint races.

The top prize this year was awarded on July 13 to an electric car developed by a team from the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. The competition was held at the Silverstone track in England, involving 3,000 students and more than 100 teams from around the world.

Some teams, like McLaren and Williams, have developed secondary technology businesses that are independent but linked to the series and connected to racing, and they also require engineers.

“McLaren is a pretty sizable company now, we have 2,200 people across the three main companies,” said Ben Heatley, a McLaren spokesman, referring to McLaren Automotive, McLaren Applied Technologies and the Formula One team. “As a result of which, we have increasingly taken on a similar kind of approach to this kind of activity to other big technical companies. So it’s not far from what somebody like a Rolls-Royce, a GSK or a BA Systems would be undertaking.”

He noted that McLaren offers graduate trainee programs, apprenticeships, technical trainee programs, work-experience placements for internships, summer replacements and full-year internships. It also sponsors Ph.D. students, who work for the company while completing their doctorates.

To encourage young people from 11 to 14 years old to become scientists or engineers, McLaren has a number of programs linked to studies of science, technology, engineering and math. The McLaren Manufacturing Challenge, for example, invites youths to design a nonmotorized vehicle that they race in McLaren’s factory. McLaren also is a partner with GSK, the global healthcare company based in England, in the Scientists in Sport Pit Stop Challenge, which seeks to inspire students to apply their classroom studies to Formula One. With its technology partner Exxon Mobil, McLaren sponsors a program that this year challenged European teenagers to “design the safest, fastest and most energy efficient Formula 1 racing car for the 2040 F1 season.”

One of the oldest programs, F1 in Schools, is also one that takes students from the youngest age. The program was founded in 2000 and was sanctioned by Formula One in 2005. It is now promoted in 42 countries with more than 20,000 schools participating, according to Andrew Denford, its founder and chairman.

For students from 9 to 19, the program involves making a miniature Formula One car to specifications provided by the organization. Two cars race each other like dragsters on a straight track, powered by a burst of compressed air.

“There is a massive shortage of engineers in the automotive industry,” Denford said, “and we are using the magnetic appeal of Formula One to attract students.”

He said the way that the miniature cars are built and the team atmosphere and organization replicate the real world of racing.

Design software is provided free to every school and students do an aerodynamic computational fluid dynamics check, manufacture the cars and even use 3-D printing technology. One team at the world finals last year produced a carbon-fiber front wing, nose cone and rear wing.

The cars are high precision, working to thousandths of an inch to make sure they fit within the tolerance, like taking the Formula One rules and fitting them into the F1 in Schools rules. The world finals this year are to be held Nov. 13-16 in Abu Dhabi, a week before the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

F1 in Schools has spawned engineers who went on to study engineering and take part in Formula Student and then joined Formula One teams. There is an engineer at the Mercedes team, now 26, who started in F1 in Schools at 14, and at Red Bull Racing another is working in the aerodynamics department under the technical director, Adrian Newey.

Newey is involved in a program called the Infiniti Performance Engineering Academy, run by Infiniti and the Red Bull team and designed to give work experience at the team to three students chosen from 1,500 from around the world. The Infiniti car company, a Red Bull team partner and sponsor, aims to develop engineers to help bring racing know-how to road cars.

The winners of the competition this year, announced at the British Grand Prix at the beginning of July, were a Briton and two Americans: William Priest, 23, of England, and Eric LaRoche, 25, and Jason Zide, 21, from the United States. LaRoche had also been involved in the Formula SAE program.

“What really got me into motorsport specifically is the connection to the automotive industry,” he said. “I really like the types of motorsport that will push technology and then have some sort of technology transfer, which is what this program is about.”

Toyota Invests in U.S.

Toyota, the Japanese auto giant, on Friday announced a five-year, $1 billion research and development effort headquartered here. As planned, the compound would be one of the largest research laboratories in Silicon Valley.

Conceived as a research facility bridging basic science and commercial engineering, it will be organized as a new company to be named Toyota Research Institute. Toyota will initially have a laboratory adjacent to Stanford University and another near M.I.T. in Cambridge, Mass.

Toyota’s investment invites comparisons to earlier research initiatives, such as the Palo Alto Research Center, or PARC, created by Xerox in 1970 to help the company compete with IBM. Xerox was never able to find a strategy to make it a significant player in computing, but the technologies invented at PARC during the next decade were used by Apple and Microsoft to completely remake the computer industry.

The new effort by Toyota is also the latest indication of a changing of the guard in Silicon Valley’s basic technology research.

International corporations like General Electric; Baidu, the Chinese search engine; Samsung, the South Korean conglomerate; and all the major automakers have been establishing research outposts in or near the region to take advantage of its engineering talent.

Artificial intelligence technologies were disappointing for decades, but they have finally begun paying off, leading to systems such as Siri, the personal assistant from Apple, and rapid improvements in self-driving vehicle technology.

And in recent years, there has been a rush to recruit talented researchers in so-called machine learning, many of them produced by Stanford and the nearby University of California, Berkeley. Toyota plans to hire 200 scientists for its artificial intelligence research center.

“The density of people doing this kind of work in Silicon Valley is higher than any other place in the world,” said Gill Pratt, a roboticist and former official at the Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency, or Darpa, who will lead the new company.

The new center will initially focus on artificial intelligence and robotics technologies and will explore how humans move both outdoors and indoors, including technologies intended to help the elderly.

When the center begins operating in January, it will prioritize technologies that make driving safer for humans rather than completely replacing them. That approach is in stark contrast with existing research efforts being pursued by Google and Uber to create self-driving cars.

In September, when Dr. Pratt joined Toyota, the company announced an initial artificial intelligence research effort committing $50 million in funding to the computer science departments of both Stanford and M.I.T. He said the initiative was intended to turn one of the world’s most successful carmakers into one of the world’s top software developers.

A similar challenge is now facing many of world’s largest noncomputing technology companies. In September, Jeffrey R. Immelt, G.E.’s chief executive, predicted that the company would be “a top 10 software company” by 2020.

In addition to the software engineers in each of its businesses that make jet engines, locomotives, power turbines, medical imaging equipment and other devices, the company now has more than 1,200 engineers at a specialized software center in San Ramon, Calif., just across San Francisco Bay from Silicon Valley.

“There is a software layer over everything now,” said John Zysman, a U.C. Berkeley political scientist and the co-director of the Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy. And that is a powerful magnet that continues to draw companies.

By shifting its focus to include mobility for a rapidly aging population, Toyota is also acknowledging that demographic changes may soon affect traditional automotive markets.

“Toyota has been a reasonable, conservative car company, so it is intriguing that they are making this move,” said Jameson M. Wetmore, an associate professor at the School for the Future of Innovation in Society at Arizona State University. “Kids are getting their licenses later and the car companies are becoming concerned they don’t have the place in society they once had.”

In addition to focusing on navigation technologies, the new research corporation will also apply artificial intelligence technologies to Toyota’s factory automation systems, Dr. Pratt said.

The company describes its manufacturing system as the Toyota Production Systems