Advancing Automotive Product Development with Simulation Applications

Stabilizer Bar app for modal analysis

The product development division of Mahindra & Mahindra Limited (M&M) is accelerating its product development lifecycle while fostering collaboration between manufacturing, design and computer-aided engineering (CAE) teams with software applications. simulation. In 2018, we wrote about how the organization observed promising benefits by implementing apps into their development workflow and now we check how their experience has been over the past few years…

Product development is an urgent process and automotive companies such as Mahindra & Mahindra Limited (M&M), a multinational original equipment manufacturer (OEM) in the automotive industry in India, are constantly looking for ways to innovations to shorten the product development life cycle. and gain an advantage over their competitors. Simulation plays a crucial role in this endeavor by reducing reliance on prototyping, which in turn reduces the time to market for any product.

However, even after integrating simulation, product design can take a long time. Designers require new concepts to be evaluated quickly, which may not be possible due to the required complexity of analysis. Once the design has been evaluated by the CAE team, the design team then modifies the design based on the CAE results and again awaits validation by the CAE experts. These iterations continue until a final design is achieved.

As a result, design time can be up to a few months for some vehicle components, depending on the number of iterations required to finalize the design. Additionally, time-consuming CAE analysis between design iterations leaves CAE experts juggling interim design assessments across multiple departments in an organization.

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Figure 1. CAE experts often have to perform repeated design iterations for multiple projects.

Simulation software such as COMSOL Multiphysics® The software, with the built-in Application Builder tool, enables non-experts to harness the power of simulation and helps companies like M&M reduce this bottleneck. M&M’s method development team has developed nearly 20 simulation applications, or applications, which are used by teams working in different areas, including design; test; and noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) analysis. Applications are deployed in the organization using COMSOL Server™ and COMSOL Compiler™.

These apps give the design team access to engineering analysis tools, allowing them to actively participate in validating new designs right from the design phase, collaborating much more effectively with CAE experts. This in turn minimizes the iterations needed to arrive at a robust design and frees up time for the CAE team to undertake other projects.

Benefits of Simulation Applications

The M&M team has found that using apps makes evaluating and finalizing designs significantly more accessible. With the apps, designers can try out various designs themselves and objectively rank them based on set criteria. The parametric nature of the applications provides convenience and flexibility for different design options to be evaluated quickly, resulting in faster turnaround time than with detailed 3D analysis.

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Figure 2. Parametric app example: Engine Mount Analysis app. Image courtesy of Mahindra & Mahindra Limited.

Applications are especially useful when the design is in the concept stage, as there is no dependency on CAD availability. Previously, the process was limited by the CAD team delivering the design layout; this further increased the design time. With the introduction of apps, design assessment can begin much faster. Applications are used as a starting point when detailed CAD is not available. A number of ideas are evaluated and CAD is prepared for shortlisted designs only.

For example, in the Chassis Concept Design application, faster evaluation of key parameters, such as vibration fundamental frequency as well as bending and torsional stiffness, is possible during NVH analysis. Application users do not need to manually add boundary conditions and a mesh; the app does this automatically for them. This leads to a greater number of conceptual designs being evaluated for the same design cycle.

Figure 3. The Chassis Concept Design app.  Image courtesy of Mahindra & Mahindra Limited.

Figure 3. The Chassis Concept Design app. Image courtesy of Mahindra & Mahindra Limited.

Another important aspect is the visualization of conceptual designs. In the previous process, designers used time-consuming tools or depended on other teams to observe the effects of their changes on the ensuing design, making it more difficult to suggest intuitive changes. Using apps allows designers to visualize different designs as well as the effect of changing key parameters on the resulting design. This allows M&M teams to make more informed decisions about the feasibility of a design concept. This is highlighted in the Stabilizer Bar app, where simplified modal analysis can be performed for quick evaluation of various design concepts.

Figure 4. Stabilizer Bar application for modal analysis.  Image courtesy of Mahindra & Mahindra Limited.

Figure 4. Stabilizer Bar application for modal analysis. Image courtesy of Mahindra & Mahindra Limited.

Moreover, the user-friendly interface of simulation apps has made them very easy and convenient to adopt in M&M. The design process is easily accessible to the various teams involved since applications can be launched from web browsers on their individual machines using COMSOL Server™. Plus, post-processing and sharing of results via the built-in reporting functionality makes it much easier for teams to collaborate.

Applications are also converted to stand-alone executables with COMSOL Compiler™, simplifying application accessibility since the application user can run the simulation without COMSOL Multiphysics® or COMSOL Server™ license.

Streamline product development

The most significant benefit observed by the M&M team after adopting applications in their design process is that the number of iterations before the design is finalized has decreased significantly since the first designs emerging due to the using apps are much closer to the desired result. Early design assessment means that more mature designs that already meet minimum requirements are passed to the CAE team for finalization. Even critical projects such as lightweighting and designing components to a target weight can be driven by the design team right from the design phase itself.

More conceptual designs generated due to the changed process, in turn, lead to faster design finalization, which ultimately translates into time and cost savings. The design team now has the tools to evaluate proposed designs, allowing them to create innovative designs for upcoming and ongoing projects. This led to more innovation from various M&M teams.

What awaits us

Using compiled applications has allowed the M&M team to truly democratize simulation across the organization. With the successful adoption of simulation applications for the design of various components in passenger vehicles, the M&M team plans to continue this momentum in the years to come. They plan to integrate more load cases and metrics into existing applications for optimal design evaluation. Newer and more stringent design goals will be factored into applications so that the resulting design is a bit closer to the expected final design. The inclusion of relevant optimization parameters will further improve the efficiency of these applications.

Gary C. Lisi