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Web-enabled apps mean even tablet computers are useful tools for engineering analysis anywhere, anytime. 

Driveline and gearbox design via apps

Software integration is good news for engineers designing complex automotive systems such as drivelines and drivetrains. Today, sophisticated CAE tools are powerful and proven, aiding design of smooth-operating, powerful and quiet automotive component systems. “Building a quality gearbox system means using a number of different tools, ranging from CAD to meshing tools to multiple structural solvers such as NASTRAN and Abaqus,” explained Steve Brown, sales manager for Comet, a software integration company. Compounding the potential for complexity, designers continue to prefer their own various proprietary tools.

Tools from disparate companies usually are chosen because they are viewed as best-in-class by design engineers - and engineers usually want the best. But there is a price. That price is the time, effort, and understanding of how to merge results from so many different tools. It is like the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel.

Enter Comet’s SimApp Authoring. The company's unique twist is in recognizing there is more to software integration than simply linking different data formats - models also have different conceptual underpinnings. Think of the difference between a multi-body dynamics model and a finite element mesh. That is where integration companies like Comet enter the picture. Comet developed its SimApps tool for automating sophisticated analysis chains, “appifying” entire simulation chains for automotive systems such as drivetrains and now gearboxes.

The core of Comet's technology is its Abstract Engineering Model, or AEM. According to the company, the AEM establishes a single functional model for a product system that is “abstracted” from the details of CAD, FEA, Multibody Dynamics, CFD, and other tools. “This [also] eliminates the need for using scripts to create automated templates, which are brittle,” explained Brown. He stressed that the AEM does not rely on neutral formats, such as FMI, STEP or IGES to establish links to the AEM. “We work in native formats, accessing programs like CATIA, NX, or NASTRAN through their native APIs,” he said.

The current Driveline SimApp available from Comet sets up parameterized 3D, 2D, 1D, and OD representations of propshafts and axles to analyze complete axle systems. Comet will add many new SimApps for gearbox engineers, connecting popular gearbox design tools that include Romax or SMT/MASTA. “Comet promotes a systems-level engineering approach by allowing engineers to run simulations that span across various disciplines without the need to have a local component or system expert supervise the analysis work,” said Brian Wilson President & CEO, Advanced Drivetrain Engineering & Technology (ADET), a partner with Comet in building the Gearbox SimApp. “Capturing and extending expert design guides and criteria empowers the entire global organization by aligning to predetermined quality standards for drivetrain system performance.

“We have had companies build in two days an automation template that shortened analysis time form one day to three minutes,” he said. While that may be an extreme example, efficiency improvements of at least 80 percent are commonplace, according to Brown.

There also is a growing desire to get sophisticated simulations in the hands designers who are not expert computational mathematicians.”SimApps can be built for both expert and non-expert and are web-deployable,” explained Brown, with "Web-deployable" being the key. It still takes significant computing horsepower to run the most sophisticated and useful, tools, but using a smartphone or tablet as the human- and web-enabled interfaces connects powerful cloud computing with results deployed wherever the smartphone is located. 


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