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Encouraging young engineers

In his third report from the European Altair Technology Conference (EATC), Robert Roe learns how software is being used to encourage young engineers.

Engineering has long suffered from a lack of fresh new graduates – leading to a number of STEM initiatives in Europe and the USA to promote the subject to young students.

The European Altair Technology Conference (EATC), held in Munich at the end of June, demonstrated how software can play a role in engaging with students, building on their established skill set, and setting them up with engineering jobs while still in university.

Delegates at the conference also heard how ESAComp software is being used to design the European Space Agency's Solar Orbiter and how simulation driven design is being used in the automotive industry as reported previously in SCW.

Highlighted at the event was the work of several companies that have been run for or by students; two distinctively different racing companies designing vehicles with the help of topology optimisation; and a French centre for multi-physics simulation developing, among other things, composite materials for body armour.

Hydro2Motion started out as a student project at the University of Applied Sciences in Munich, supported by professors, sponsors, and the University. Its main purpose is to participate in the annual Shell Eco-Marathon.

The Shell Eco-marathon challenges student teams from around the world to design, build, and test extremely energy-efficient vehicles. The goal is to travel the furthest distance using the least amount of energy possible. Entrants have used energy sources ranging from diesel to solar, depending whether they are built purely for ultra-energy efficiency or one that also considers the practical needs of drivers.

In his presentation to the conference, Sebastian Henneke, a Hydro2Motion team member, explained that the team consists of around 25 members, although the numbers fluctuate due to the nature of student’s limited time at university. He said that the Hydro2Motion team competes in the prototype class, streamlined vehicles where the primary design consideration is reducing drag and maximising efficiency. The vehicle weighs 35 kilos and uses a hybrid propulsion system, comprised of a fuel cell that generates electricity which is stored in super-capacitors and then used to power an electric motor. The last time the team competed in the competition, they achieved 225 km per kilowatthour – the equivalent to about 3000km per litre of petrol ‘or a little less than a shot glass of gasoline for 100 kilometres,’ said Henneke.

Johan Lohr, another Hydro2Motion team member, explained how he developed the chassis as part of the work for his thesis: ‘I decided to do the optimisation with Optistruct because I wanted to use the model in other parts of the HyperWorks product family.’ The use of Optistruct led to some unexpected design variations when designing the new chassis. ‘My design variant was the volume of the body and then I calculated in about 18 steps the design of the monocoque and the frame.’

He explained that one thing that surprised the young engineers was that the optimisation of the chassis delivered a design where the frames in the back of the vehicle are not straight but instead were curved. ‘This was a little surprise for me,’ he said, because logic suggests that a straight frame would be stronger than a curved one but from that design, I redesigned the frames and replaced them in the new position.’

The new vehicle is still being developed, but the team hopes to compete in the Eco Shell race next year

The Racetech Race team, from the technical university Bergakademie, was established to provide students with real world engineering challenge with strict deadlines. The team enters a vehicle into the Formula Student race.

Formula Student, run by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, aims to inspire and develop young engineers. Universities from across the globe are challenged to design and build a single-seat racing car in order to compete in static and dynamic events, which demonstrate their understanding and test the performance of the vehicle.

Freiberg Toni Wächtler, chief of simulation department at Racetech racing team said: ‘We are actually working on our eighth race car; the first five cars had a combustion engine. It was 600 cubic centimetre with 85 horsepower.’ He explained that the newest iterations of their race car have used electric engines with 120 horsepower. ‘The weight of the new car is 256 kilograms and has acceleration of about 3 seconds from 0-100 Kilometre per hour. People often ask us “is this a car for children?” It’s a racing car, this is not a car for children.’

The team was established in 2005 by a group of four people; today they have 56 team members, across nine departments.

The team used the HyperWorks suite to design many aspects of the car including: front and rear wheel hubs; rear wheel carrier; suspension bridge; brake pedal; and the steering housing.

The team used a combination of topology optimisation, stress analysis, and crash simulation in the design of their vehicle. Wächtler said: ‘Topology optimisation helped us to find the optimal structure of our mechanical parts.’

He continued: ‘Another important field of simulation is stress analysis; this helps us to make a statement about the service durability of the parts. We can calculate the stress for parts with very complex structures with multiple load steps for example; different loads; pressures; and forces.’ ‘We use the stress analysers as an iterative development process -- we search the areas with high stress elements and change the thickness of the geometry. ‘

‘The problem for a student is very short development times – we start at the beginning of October, with our first ideas. We start our construction before Christmas, so we had only three months to develop our parts.’

This provides a really intense challenge for the team, where mistakes can mean that the vehicle will not be ready in time. Simulation-driven design makes participation in the race possible for student teams as the designs can be quickly amended based on topology optimisation, stress or crash analysis results.

CEDREM, (Centre d’Expertise en Dynamique Rapide Explosion et Multiphysique), is a French company consisting of ten people, mainly young engineers, who specialise in composite structure design under high hydrodynamic loading, covering explosion and impacts.

The company has been established primarily as a ‘product performance enhancer’, where they offer support in the creation of concepts, the management of validation testing, and the characterisation of materials.

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