Indian auto OEMs and auto components firms targeting global market need to develop delivery models for ‘design anywhere and manufacture anywhere’. Product lifecycle management (PLM) not only helps these companies to achieve this objective, but also enhances quality and efficiency in vehicle design, engineering and manufacturing, says Rakesh Rao.
Today, the automotive industry is dominated by the hype around mobility services, autonomous driving, digitisation, electric powertrains, and more. However, the vehicles of the future, whether electric or not, will still require basic parts such as chassis and bodies. As per the industry reports, the stamped components market is expected to grow from Euro 103 billion (2015) to Euro 127 billion (2025) and the addressable market for suppliers will grow from Euro 43 billion to Euro 63 billion. Experts expect hot stamping to become the industry standard for structural body components in the near future.
“Chassis and exteriors account for around 35 per cent of total vehicle value while the key components such A, B & C pillars along with doors, roof frame, trunk lid, rocker, longitudinal beam front and rear along with hood are the core components which are not only influenced by styling but also safety norms. Moreover, these components need to be analysed with the norms on the crashworthiness of the vehicle. In addition, the vehicle emissions regulations play an important role given the amount of weight the body contributes to the overall vehicle weight of the automobile. Vehicle architecture, which drives the occupant packaging, is one of the core factors that influences body systems design and engineering process,” says Shree Harsha, Business Consulting Director - Transportation & Mobility, Dassault Systèmes, which develops 3D design, 3D digital mock-up, and product lifecycle management (PLM) software.
Overcoming Design Constrains
The industry currently faces three main challenges when it comes to car designing. First, the car body structure has to be lighter while keeping safety and emission norms in mind. Second, the product needs to be engineered in the context of the manufacturing constraints. Last, the need for more car programs has led to an increase in the number of variants required for higher plant flexibility. To overcome these challenges, auto companies are banking on product lifecycle management (PLM) software for solutions.
According to CIMdata, PLM is as a strategic business approach that applies a consistent set of business solutions in support of the collaborative creation, management, dissemination and use of product definition information across the extended enterprise from concept to end of life, integrating people, processes, business system, and information.
Shree Harsha explains, “The PLM software enables automotive manufacturing companies in validating design, engineering and manufacturing knowledge capture, and reuse for new vehicle programs. It also helps to shorten design cycle time through relational design and collaboration between the different body-in-white (BIW) disciplines. Next generation toolsets allow integrated design, simulation, fabrication and quality including simulation based design for body-in-white structures.”
Collaborative planning solution allows designers to not only design but to ensure the quality of the BIW assembly manufacturing specifications within a 3D environment. Along with the increase in the number of car programs, there is a rise in the number of variants, which puts a strong demand on the need for plant flexibility. BIW manufacturing solution helps companies to standardise and reuse existing processes and resources. The complete manufacturing plan can be validated with 3D simulation of robots, workers, stations and even complete assembly lines. This optimised manufacturing engineering process enables early validation, reduces planning time and improves the quality of planning.
Welcome To Digital World Of Design
All modern cars that one sees on the road today have been developed digitally. And technologies help manufacturers to turn automotive dreams into successful products. “The automotive designers still start with a clay model to capture the emotions. Vehicle design is an iterative process and so is the car body. As designs develop - from concept sketch to clay model, through theme selection and onto production surfacing - so the ‘master’ model shifts from the physical to digital with continuous changes and refinements to the vehicle form. Throughout the process, feasibility matures, the vehicle package is optimised and the design is continuously validated against engineering, manufacturing and legal requirements,” informs Suprakash Chaudhari, Managing Director, Siemens PLM Software India.
To expedite this process, Siemens PLM Software’s NX Product Engineering solution and Teamcenter Lifecycle Management Solution provide knowledge-based engineering templates to enable designers and studio engineers to explore vehicle architecture and packaging configurations to rapidly progress designs from ideation to feasible concepts while simultaneously taking into account the voice of the customer.
Change during an iterative process is inevitable. “Digital sculptors using Siemens NX solution can readily accommodate change affording designers freedom to rapidly explore diverse concepts and iterate themes. NX uses associative constraints - rules such as tangency or curvature continuity and parameters, values such as length or radius, to control geometry. Values can be adjusted and features added, and the geometry updates accordingly. When combined, features, parametric inputs and associativity enable rapid change propagation and can significantly speed both – ‘create’ and ‘modify’ workflows,” states Suprakash Chaudhari.
In order to speed development, cross-functional teams must collaborate effectively and work concurrently. Early visibility of design data by the wider organisation can reduce design iteration and facilitate smooth progression through development gateways. “By utilising NX integrated with Teamcenter collaborative platform, multiple body engineers are able to work in parallel on the same part file to simplify creation and modification of complex BIW panels. Furthermore, template parts promote concurrent engineering best practice by enabling body engineers to replace class-A surface data, typically used to construct BIW panels, with the latest surface revision, and the associated BIW panel geometry updates accordingly,” he states.
The changing process
The process of body system designing and engineering is changing in the automotive industry. Most significant change in the emerging processes of designing body systems and incorporating engineering changes is to implement methodologies to create alternative vehicle concept models that enable efficient evaluation of modifications. This need of evaluation of alternatives while designing a car body, significantly facilitates following market requirements:
1. Assess body systems and subsystem performance early in the development process: OEMs want to produce vehicles that adhere to their brand value and meet customer expectations. In today’s market, standards are high. Only vehicles that combine an excellent driving experience with great comfort will survive. Although some crucial performance criteria conflict, engineers need to strike a careful and effective balance. This needs to be done in early development in order to avoid expensive changes later on. “Today’s body system engineering experts help OEMs translate requirements into precise targets for full vehicles and subsystems. They conduct benchmarks and assess the new design’s performance. Noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) targets at the vehicle level are translated into targets at the subsystem level. Once assembled, however, these subsystems are in constant dynamic interaction. The body engineering experts focus on assessing subsystem components in relation to the vehicle body,” opines Suprakash Chaudhari.
2. Efficient evaluation of modifications to beam-like sections or joints so that one can tune the global vehicle dynamics: Today’s customers expect a broad range of high-quality vehicle variants at a reasonable price, calling for reduced development time and cost. Making decisions based on virtual prototypes helps car body designers meet this demand. When implementing an ‘analysis-leads-design’ process, upfront engineering precedes detailed geometric design. This approach allows designers to solve many problems in the early development stage, resulting in an initial high quality computer-aided design (CAD) model. Chaudhari explains, “Fast body optimisation helps them investigate more alternatives within a given timeframe and improves frequency and accuracy of analysis feedback to design engineers. Fast body optimisation employs physical and modal sub-structuring of components to drastically reduce the calculation time for a full-scale finite element model, allowing more than 100 simulation runs in one day. Combined with powerful contribution analysis and optimisation tools, this approach enables body designers to reach global vehicle targets, such as the frequencies of the global modes, with an efficient and robust modification strategy.”
3. Reduce body weight while meeting NVH targets: Automotive manufacturers are under constant pressure to design eco-friendly vehicles that consume less fuel and produce lower emissions. In addition to looking into alternative powertrains, reducing car body weight is another way to reach this objective. But this can impact other functional performance aspects, especially noise, vibration and harshness (NVH). By understanding the influence of components on overall vehicle behaviour using testing, building simulation models that correlate with the real structure and optimising for different aspects simultaneously, weight can be reduced while keeping functional vehicle performance on target. Engineering experts need to understand which components are critical for certain vehicle performance aspects when they design the lightweight body. “By using advanced testing methodologies, engineers can determine a baseline model benchmark and set rational targets for improved design. Afterwards they can generate accurate simulation models for in-depth performance analysis and multi-attribute optimisation. This includes parameters for the components with the most weight-saving potential and results in well-balanced full-vehicle behaviour and a lighter body,” informs Chaudhari.
PLM for 2W, 3W, 4W
PLM Software is applicable irrespective of the type of vehicles as the joining techniques and the materials used will change based on the application and product cost restrictions. Chaudhari opines, PLM software constituents remain the same for body design of any type of vehicles but it is implemented or configured as per the specific line of business demands.
Having said that, the body design ‘needs’ of the various vehicles from 2 wheeler (2W) to 4 wheeler (4W) passenger or commercial are different. For example, a modern day 2W scooter typically has plastic body with more emphasis on its aesthetics and riding comfort. On the other hand, a motorcycle practically has no body except the sheet metal petrol tank and wheel guards, it makes a statement by showing off its shiny chrome finished engine, exhausts, wheel rim and spokes. A 4W passenger car body makes it statement through its brand specifications, aesthetics, safety and utility. A truck usually is made only with the cabin body leaving the rear to be made as per its intended usage by secondary suppliers and a bus body is designed as per the order received from the buying agency and its specifications.
“PLM platform provides the necessary collaboration, workflow, security, planning, costing and many such relevant applications which are configured based on the type of product and therefore, the engineering processes - a plastic body will need integrated plastic mold design and mold machining, a sheet metal body of a passenger car or truck will need integrated body design, simulation, sheet metal die design, advanced machining and BIW process simulation. Such process variations from business to business (or product to product ) needs corresponding process maps, workflows, documentation, manufacturing process planning and execution plan which are implemented through PLM Software platform and its integrated applications,” comments Suprakash Chaudhari.
Safety via simulation
While safety standards are increasing for vehicles, customers are demanding enhanced visual appeal and more interior space. PLM software helps OEMs to fulfil these requirements. “Simulation solutions deliver a full range of functionality that enables an engineering organisation to integrate body engineering processes and features for body-in-white and trimmed body. All attributes including crash and safety, vehicle N&V including acoustics and stiffness and strength evaluation are enabled from a single analysis product. Our many unique software features provide distinct modeling and analysis advantages in the marketplace,” informs Shree Harsha.
The key advantage for the BIW development workflow is to have continuous progress through concept, styling and design, prototype, process planning and tooling to assembly production. Each of the four functional areas - concept, development, manufacturing/tooling, and production - represent distinct modules that involve specific design tools, engineering disciplines, and methods.
Shree Harsha explains, “The need of the hour today is a uniform fastener model that all users can access to extract and feed in data throughout the product development process. Complete welding information provided in engineering releases should specify the overall requirements of weld elements. Designers should use welding symbols to specify welding requirements efficiently and precisely. The ferrous or non-ferrous metals selected for a welded assembly, for example, must be of suitable weldable quality for automotive applications. The outstanding benefit of this approach is the consistency of design.”
Advantage: Integrated approach
PLM’s integrated data model provides a framework to ensure that advanced engineering, manufacturing planning, and resources programming all have the same spot welds in their designs. The underlying notion is that early integration of process knowledge in the design stage will not only reduce redesign costs but also accelerate design times. Moreover, some steps between design and manufacturing can be eliminated. In a way, according to Harsha, this integration merges two aspects of car making that have often been treated separately or sequentially: the product and the process.
In the area of car body systems development, automotive companies are realising the value of an end-to-end, integrated lifecycle approach to the overall process, from vehicle concept, through engineering development and production. The sequential approach to vehicle development - where body styling, structural engineering and development, and manufacturing processes are separate functional disciplines as well as organisations that hand off each step of the process - is giving way to a more integrated approach.
“Concurrent engineering methods have helped to merge concept, development and manufacturing processes over the years, but the vision going forward is a systems-driven approach for automotive body engineering and manufacturing. The systems-driven approach brings all aspects of car design together in a holistic fashion and makes it easy to trace requirements - whether customer, regulatory, legal, or others - throughout the design process with constant validation and this is delivered by a PLM software platform like Teamcenter,” opines Chaudhari.
Indian auto industry banking on PLM,/br>
Many of the Indian OEM and suppliers have been using these advanced techniques to bring in new innovations in automotive manufacturing. The industry today is increasingly investing in product research in new joining techniques and exploration of new materials to reduce weight without compromising on vehicle strength and quality and adherence to compliance norms for various regulatory reasons.
“Manufacturers that target composite technologies to give them the competitive edge for their products are confronted with the challenge to build the competencies to master equipment and methods, required to successfully control a composite design and production process. Dassault Systèmes has taken a leadership role in composites with an integrated PLM solution that encompasses design, simulation and digital manufacturing solutions, which are engineered to manage the complex fiber lay-up and resin application process, and to run it efficiently on an industrial scale,” informs Shree Harsha.
Indian automotive industry is an integral part of global automotive ecology. Indian auto OEMs and suppliers alike are targeting global markets and are acquiring companies across the globe. This means developing delivery models for ‘design anywhere and manufacture anywhere’ for the makers of automobiles,
automobile subsystems, components and aftermarket solutions.
Suprakash Chaudhari explains, “The automotive industry is facing many ongoing challenges, including adapting to global growth, adhering to enhanced fuel efficiency and emissions standards and increasing reliance on electronics and embedded software. In addition, automotive suppliers must be prepared for regional expansion and to invest in new technologies in spite of highly competitive conditions. So there is greater pressure than ever to provide innovative solutions while maintaining profitability and meeting delivery expectations.”
These trends are causing a fundamental change in vehicle technologies, requiring more innovation from automakers and suppliers in alternative propulsion, vehicle light-weighting and energy optimisation. Adopting these new technologies and product innovations is driving more interactions across vehicle systems and components.
He elaborates, “Integrating mechanical, software and electronic components is critical for meeting performance targets. Suppliers need to expand their capabilities in electronics and embedded software design and integration with mechanical design to make sure that they manage these interactions and the effect that they have on vehicle attributes and overall program execution and delivery. The global growth of the industry also increases the pressure on suppliers to expand their own engineering, manufacturing and supply chain footprints around the world, which adds program and
For suppliers to realise more profitable innovation, they need to consider opportunities to optimise designs and improve validation earlier in the development process, enable cross-discipline development, quickly adapt to a changing global structure and improve visibility to program execution and risk management. “The ideal solution set to capitalise on the pressure for greater innovation includes model-driven program execution to provide early and comprehensive simulation and validation, fast and efficient design creation, integrated manufacturing validation and predictable program performance and profitability,” adds Suprakash Chaudhari.
Adoption of PLM platform extends the engineering infrastructure for an automotive OEM or supplier company to achieve these business needs and, therefore, has become critical norm to succeed in their respective pursuits.
PLM platform provides the necessary collaboration, workflow, security, planning, costing and many such relevant applications which are configured based on the type of product and, therefore, the engineering processes.
- Suprakash Chaudhari,
MD, Siemens PLM Software India
PLM software enables automotive manufacturing companies in validating design, engineering and manufacturing knowledge capture, and reuse for new vehicle programs. It also helps to shorten design
- Shree Harsha,
Business Consulting Director - Transportation & Mobility, Dassault Systèmes
Some of the critical business level advantages extended by PLM software platform in body designing of automobiles are:
• Weight management to meet fuel economy and vehicle performance targets
• Management & access of relevant information related to the increasingly complex BIW parts
• Reduced time to market means reduced margin for error
• Trend toward collaborative design means communication with internal and external teams including subsystem and service suppliers
• Design as per Government regulations and customer preferences which means strong and safe body with low NVH