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Integrated product design development is the key to success

Written by  Anwesh Koley | 05 May 2017 | Published in May 2017 ( Interview )

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Siemens is a leading software solutions provider to many carmakers around the world and has also been present in India for more than two decades. Auto Tech Review met Robert Haubrock, Senior Vice President, NX Product Lifecycle Management, Siemens, to discuss the intricacies of software development for automobiles. Haubrock says that, for software companies, doing well in the market will depend on the successful amalgamation of electrical and mechanical capabilities.

Bob Haubrock is Senior Vice-President of Product Engineering Software for Siemens PLM Software, a business unit of the Siemens Digital Factory Division. He and his team are responsible for developing and delivering NX design solutions and the platform on which all NX solutions are built. Haubrock has more than three decades of work experience in the Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) industry, starting with Structural Dynamics Research Corporation (SDRC) a company acquired by UGS, which was later acquired by Siemens. There he served as Director of CAE Product Development and subsequently relocated to Japan as President of automotive accounts for the Asia-Pacific region.

ATR _ Please explain Siemens' NX software and its application for the automotive sector

Bob Haubrock _ The NX platform from Siemens is a highly advanced software for automotive applications including styling, manufacturing and design. We leverage Siemens' design and manufacturing capabilities to offer the perfect final solution.

Multiple prototypes are needed to adjudicate the feasibility of electrical integration in mechanical components and parts, and create a digital twin of a body part. This helps create a workable prototype, which can then be tested to operate in real world conditions. NX offers an efficient, fast, and flexible product design option. One can work fast and in a highly efficient manner using full design range functionalities. This includes 2D layouts, 3D modelling, drafting, documentation, and assembly design.

Users can use data from different CAD systems and work seamlessly without difficulty. The use of synchronous technology in NX gives scope for utilisation of models coming from other CAD sources. It helps to modify and import CAD geometry using any source with efficiency, ease and high speeds. For collaborative and multi-CAD designs, NX has emerged as the best choice.

What would you say are the key highlights of NX, which make it a really useful piece of software for Siemens?

Siemens has optimised the NX software to offer higher capacity and more power for complex product requirements. These design assembly tools are ready for dealing with the most complicated of assemblies. It can easily resolve issues for complex assemblies that come with thousand or more parts. Creating full digital multi-CAD mock-ups using NX is possible today. This helps in the quick identification of different issues besides helping to resolve problems.

NX also offers design validations in an integrated format, which can be easily integrated further in the system. This allows the user to fulfil both engineering and customer requirements without any time lag. These integrated and automated designs come with total validation capabilities. Users can opt for continued design monitoring for dealing with compliance issues related to industry standards. This helps to produce designs more easily in a way that helps to meet customer specifications and varied company goals.

The presence of visual analytics in NX ensures improvements in decision-making capabilities. Such analytics and visual reporting help gather process and product information instantly. Besides, it is also possible to visualise the impact of such products and processes in relation to 3D design in real-time. PLM data visual synthesis accelerates design processes while improving decision-making in tandem.

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How does convergence technology help Siemens' manufacturing process?

It is a very unique technology for Siemens as convergence modelling is highly important for additive manufacturing. It allows a designer to combine faceted modelling with precise modelling. Parts in additive manufacturing tend to appear more organic and this is where convergence technology helps in creating more natural design themes for automobile companies.

The key challenge is to understand the data flow between systems. When do we use the routed path and when does it lose electrical efficiency, are equally challenging issues to understand and prioritise accordingly. These complexities go down to the design of the internal combustion (IC) engine.

In the next five or six years, we will see the development and implementation of integrated circuits directly within products, with additive manufacturing with multiple materials. With a single part having multiple materials integrated with electrical components in the same part, it opens up many new avenues for innovation in automotive design.

How and in what ways does ongoing software development affect Siemens' manufacturing prowess?

Siemens provides complete support during manufacturing plan, defining process and while taking it to the shop floors. We also offer expansive manufacturing solutions including computer-aided manufacturing (CAM), controller of machine tools, and design software for tooling.

PLM software from Siemens provides an expansive suite of NX software related to CMM, CAD, CAM, and CAE programming applications. This single system supports the full range of engineering manufacturing needs. Siemens' Sinumerik machine tool controller helps deal with the requirements of production automation related to manufacturing at shop floors and production of large batches.

The Teamcenter software at Siemens provides process and data management allowing production teams to work with manufacturing engineering department using single information source. There is no longer any need for multiple databases, tooling management, reuse of proven methods, and direct work package connection to execution point.

The planning and production management software can directly connect PLM and production systems, and access planning data related to manufacturing from the shop floor. Through Teamcenter's integration with the system and shop floor, designers can manage and direct numerical control (DNC) units. It is possible to send information on the tool list and machining data for a CNC machine directly.

Please tell us more about the company's simulation software and how it helps with prototyping

Creating a digital twin is successful only if it can simulate with the same accuracy as is expected from the production model. Our simulation capabilities are quite robust and we have achieved near 100 % success rate in creating the digital twin at par with the final production-ready models one sees on the roads.

We have the right expertise and tools to create a digital twin through the factory floor. This is the reason why Siemens is the preferred partner for major OEMs globally, as they bank upon our precision and success rate. Also, our operations across all major international markets have provided us an edge in terms of quality control and standardisation requirements, hence we can match out prototyping tools effectively with local necessities.

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Changing tracks, how do you see connected car technology evolving globally?

The Internet of Things (IoT) will be a key element in connected car technology augmentation. Companies today are pouring money into the development of IoT, and one area of particular interest to investors is IoT connected cars. In the last several years, connected cars have exploded in popularity thanks to the IoT. Currently, automakers are connecting their vehicles in two ways: embedded and tethered. Embedded cars use a built-in antenna and chipset, while tethered connections use hardware to allow drivers to connect to their cars via their smartphones.

Adding to this is app integration, which is becoming commonplace in today's vehicles. Google Maps and other navigation tools have begun to replace built-in GPS systems. Similarly, in car music apps have helped remove the need for traditional music playing options or even a satellite radio. With this integration, designers are now able to calculate, optimise, adapt and validate design options at the same time by running multiple scenarios, seamlessly adding force application points and load cases.

How will connected cars change the way auto OEMs work? Will they have to adapt and improvise?

Automakers are ramping up their connected car efforts for several reasons. Internet connectivity in vehicles allows car companies to release software updates in real time, which is extremely important during a recall. Automotive companies can use data from the car to analyse its performance and obtain valuable data on how drivers use their cars. Finally, more connectivity provides more ways for automakers to cross-sell their products and services to customers.

The IoT platform will become increasingly important in transportation and logistics in the next several years, especially as self-driving cars hit the road in increasing numbers. But this is just one area that the IoT will totally transform. We see IoT also being used within the CAD software as a teaching tool. While it is important to release new software and technology in the market, it is equally important to have the users being able to use them. It is only then that the software can be termed a complete success. We are working on this aspect of making the users understand how to use software seamlessly across regions and nationalities.

What are the key challenges you face in emerging markets like India?

Cost remains the biggest challenge in the developing regions of the world today. Having interacted with major Indian OEMs, it is certain that the software requirements and applications are similar to their global counterparts. While the cost pressures do exist, it is heartening to see the willingness to adopt cutting-edge technology across vehicle platforms and segments.

I am confident that as technology penetrates further in cars, more OEMs will open up to the advantages offered by a robust technological framework for vehicles, and this will surely bring down costs in the long run. In fact, this has been a priority for our team in Pune. We are working closely with our automotive partners in order to understand their macro and micro requirements. To complement their knowledge base, our team in India is part of almost all the projects we undertake globally. This helps them gain a broader perspective of the direction in which markets are heading.

TEXT: Anwesh Koley

PHOTO: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay

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