Automakers Look Beyond Modeling and Simulation

The auto industry’s blend of high volumes, high reliability and low costs makes it a harbinger of trends. A show like the SAE World Congress attracts a lot of technical people, ranging from CEOs to fellows to engineers, all with an idea of how they’re pushing technology forward.

A few years ago, it seemed like everyone in Detroit was bringing up modeling and simulation regardless of what questions I asked. This year, the watchwords seem to be system design and broad view.

The head of diesel engines at IAV Automotive Engineering said that his focus takes advantage of modeling and simulation to pull all aspects of the vehicle together so that problems can be found and improvements made before physical prototypes are built. For example, hydraulic loads were too great for an engine design, so designers had to tweak the engine — this problem wasn’t discovered until the two sections were combined in a large simulation.

SAE World Congress panelists talking about powertrain design cited similar concepts. They said that to meet new fuel economy regulations, engines and transmissions have to work closely together. Simulations let designers know whether all the signals get through in the few milliseconds available to determine what to do when the driver floors it.

These comments echo something I’ve heard recently at an aircraft engine meeting and a design tools seminar. Engineers in these diverse fields are all using different terms to describe what is often lumped together as holistic design. IPC is helping drive this trend of looking at a whole system with a new conference and exhibition, IPC Electronic System Technologies Conference (IPC ESTC). It runs May 20–23 in Las Vegas.

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