Simulation: Not just a buzz word – part 2

Two weeks ago, the Claytex tech blog considered the role simulation must play in modern automotive development in a conceptual way. But what does that look like in context? How can VeSyMA be integrated into OEM workflows?

Existing structures need updating for modern vehicles

First, we must understand the typical automotive OEM workflow. Following a waterfall-type development structure, work is often conducted in what can be considered a V-Model. Starting at a high level, requirements are decided at a corporate level about the capabilities the vehicle will have. Moving downwards, concepts can be decided upon to meet these targets, which influence device and component selection. With component types selected detailed engineering and design work can be done to ensure the components meet requirements capable of ensuring the total vehicle achieves the corporate level targets.

At this detailed engineering level, work is traditionally grouped and conducted in modules of similar component groups, to promote the evolution of designs within the actual context of their end deployment. Testing processes emerge at this level, moving upwards in a mirror of the design chain. Components are tested individually before being incorporated into subassembly verification processes, eventually being incorporated into full vehicle testing, either in test “bucks” or fully fledged pre-production prototypes. Results and data from these testing processes is then fed back into the design side of the V, resulting in a cyclical, iterative process. Such a process is effective when vehicle components can be organised into neat subassembly groups.

Figure 1: The typical automotive V-model of development. Image: Mario Hirz
Figure 1: The typical automotive V-model of development. Image: Mario Hirz

As we know, this is not the case with a modern vehicle. Electricals/Electronics (E/E) components link mechatronic systems with the virtual world of software development. Module technologies therefore now mature at different rates, placing a significant bottleneck on total vehicle development as higher-level testing is impacted and curtailed by immature technology. Ultimately, either the final vehicle product is delivered under target spec, or the development lead time is excessively long, leading to late delivery or overabsorption of development resources. Neither outcome represents a positive technical or business result. Total vehicle simulation packages, such as VeSyMA, are precisely the solution required for this conundrum.

Claytex has seen these issues before

VeSyMA was born out of simulation tools developed to enable motorsport engineers, in series such as F1 or NASCAR, overcome the inability to physically test complete or partially complete vehicles. By nature, racing cars are highly integrated designs, so reducing the ability to physically test severely curtailed teams’ ability to design competitive cars. As resource allocation to development is much freer in motorsport, teams were throwing ever more unsustainable quantities of money at testing to account for every variable and permutation on their cars. Strict limitations on testing were driven by regulation to reduce money spent on testing. They had to find a way to identify issues normally discovered during the physical testing of old and remedy in the design process.

Figure 2: Animation view of Formula 1 and NASCAR race cars
Figure 2: Claytex is using it’s extensive motorsport simulation experience to provide the next generation of automotive simulation tools.

OEMs now face similar issues. Road vehicle designs are ever more integrated and complex requiring substantially more testing to account for all the variables; more testing than is feasible or practical.

Typically, in motorsport, a core simulation group would be responsible for the implementation and upkeep of simulation libraries and models. Taking advantage of Dymola’s native support for the Functional Mockup Interface (FMI) standard and code export options, models can be easily distributed to internal customers. Often, these will be wrapped in a proprietary computer programme, designed to interface with a company’s design and data management systems.

Deployment of simulation models in this fashion enables simulation to be effectively democratized as a tool, in the hands of design experts, who can then use it efficiently to aid their design processes. Such design experts do not need to be Dymola users or simulation experts themselves. VeSyMA as a simulation suite has been designed specifically to promote model re-use and collaboration through component and vehicle templates usage, with the express intent to be an easily distributable package capable of democratization from a central core to a wide collaborative audience.

VeSyMA can improve design

Starting near the top of the vehicle development cycle, VeSyMA library-based vehicle drive-cycle simulations can be used to probe and understand the fundamental trade-offs involved with vehicle conceptual design. Very easily, users can alter broad aspects of the vehicle quickly, using generalised component models to conduct sweeps of simulations to understand the effect of varying one parameter or aspect of a vehicle. As all VeSyMA vehicle models feature a common template system, vehicle type and architecture can be altered swiftly.

Conceptual choices can be interrogated and explored early in the design cycle. Users can directly compare component types back-to-back, re-running the same experiment. Items such as motor or battery type can be understood quickly in the context of the final vehicle, even if the final vehicle specification is fluid or the vehicle specification is incomplete as generalised component models can be configured to their current target specification.  

Figure 3: VeSyMA encompasses all aspects of the modern road going vehicle.
Figure 3: VeSyMA encompasses all aspects of the modern road going vehicle.

Once desired component concept is established, users can evaluate quickly specific component types, by parameterising detailed physical models of specialist components found in the subject specific extension libraries available for VeSyMA. VeSyMA – Suspensions offers vehicle dynamics related models; VeSyMA – Engines provides internal combustion related models; VeSyMA – Powertrain contains power transfer and delivery models. Further libraries available through the wider Dymola portfolio such as the Fuel Cell, Hydrogen and Battery libraries enable users to evaluate any component type they wish without having to invest substantial modelling resources.

Coupled detailed models in Dymola enables contextualised component selection to be more accurate, as all effects on the component from its surrounding are included. Phenomena previously only observable during testing can be understood during initial design.

Test with VeSyMA during detailed design stages

Experiments undertaken virtually to nominate component types and specifications are not limited to full vehicle. Each subject specific library comes with a plethora of individual and subsystem experiments, which can be used to interrogate component performance in isolation, as well as validate that bespoke component models are performing to standard. Modelling efficiency through component reuse in VeSyMA means the same models used in standalone test cases can then be incorporated into full vehicle simulations easily.

VeSyMA based simulations are of intrinsic benefit to the lower levels of the design workflow. As engineers look to investigate and analyse the suitability of designs against performance metrics, component models of their designs can be deployed in a multitude of test cases, developed to test components together in a combined way. Dymola’s support of multi-domain simulation means that studies traditionally discretized across simulation domains, can be combined into the same simulation. This means subsystems combining fluids and thermal components, with full mechanical or electrical and software models, like the active aerodynamics example, can all be tested together. At the design stage.

At both a full vehicle and subsystem level, this enables the contextualised testing of the component to be conducted with all important neighbouring systems. Therefore non-linear, and knock-on effects of component integration and design can be understood from the beginning of detailed design work. Linking design data repositories enables the data used in cross-department simulations to be updated with the designs, enabling engineers to collaboratively develop interconnected systems in a more efficient way compared to traditional V-Model processes.

Closing remarks

The effective upshot of deploying a simulation suite such as VeSyMA is that it enables virtual testing to be incorporated into design processes. Better design choices can be taken earlier, as issues which previously would remain hidden until later in the product development cycle are unearthed and revealed sooner. Not only does this save development time, but it also saves money and testing costs. Development bottlenecks associated with the traditional V-Model and physical testing are reduced with VeSyMA, as the understanding of all linked aspects, such as the mechanical and software in mechatronic systems, is incorporated into the design process. Such simulation enables components to be tested in context from the beginning removing bottlenecks where one technology is waiting for another to mature to progress to the next stage of development.  

Written by: Theodor Ensbury – Project Engineer

Please get in touch if you have any questions or have got a topic in mind that you would like us to write about. You can submit your questions / topics via: Tech Blog Questions / Topic Suggestion.

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