Spark Minda, Ashok Minda Group recently inaugurated the Spark Minda Technical Centre (SMIT) – the group R&D centre – at Chakan, Pune. We spoke to the company to learn about the various initiatives that will be undertaken at this facility. Suresh D, Group CTO and CEO, Spark Minda Technical Centre provided us with insights about its future course of action.
SMIT intends to provide technological assistance to its existing group businesses and serve as a catalyst for their electronification initiatives. The centre will initially focus on strengthening and expanding the group’s presence in the automotive systems domain as a complete system solution provider. Suresh said that the centre will harness innovations to create breakthrough solutions tailored to address the market requirements.
The centre has been designed and conceptualised to pursue opportunities in the areas of new generation technologies like connected, autonomous, electrified mobility solutions, body control and multi-function controllers, smart security and vehicle access solutions. It would also explore incubation of future technologies like deep learning, artificial intelligence, internet of things, smart vehicles technologies, prognosis and diagnosis. The centre has already started working on electric scooters, electric three-wheelers and electric cars.
The purpose of setting up SMIT was to enable and increase advanced engineering technologies in existing and future business ventures, as well as support the growing need for future mobility requirements, said Suresh. The centre will also establish EMC as well as HIL testing, proto shop along with reliability engineering to increase the quality and efficiency of R&D.
The R&D centre is equipped with latest test & measurement equipment, development tool chains & environment and a fully operational laboratory for supporting the development of embedded software and hardware. The engineering and design office covers an office space of around 40,000 sq ft, which is designed to accommodate up to 400 employees. The centre has 75 engineers from Europe, North America and Japan.
Set up with an investment of Rs 60 crore, SMIT is equipped with a full-fledged semi anechoic EMI/EMC (electromagnetic interference & electromagnetic compatibility) test laboratory for automotive component level testing. There is an advanced software testing environment to enable software product quality through HIL (hardware-in-the-loop testing). The centre also has a dedicated test and measurement laboratory for hardware and software testing, including endurance tests. The centre boasts of fully loaded application life cycle (ALM) management tools and environment to ensure process compliance.
SMIT will serve as the R&D backbone for the Spark Minda Group with contemporary infrastructure for automotive electronics and mechatronics. The centre supports skilled manpower with ample industry exposure and impressive track record in the field of automotive electronics. Rendering its services to all group companies, SMIT has been positioned as a one-stop destination for all research needs for the component major.
EMC/EMI SIMULATION CAPABILITIES AT SMIT
The simulation process at SMIT starts with the antenna design, followed by RF matching and system interference analysis. This is followed by EMC & EMI analysis and signal integrity testing, finally culminating in cable simulations. The antenna design depends on the various input requirements based on the frequency range, bandwidth, beam width and gain of the antenna. Once the antennas are designed, due to the limitation in size of PCB or space constraints in the product, the process may or may not be able to obtain 50 ohms impedance. To obtain 50 ohms, the circuit needs to be tuned accordingly.
In order to carry out tuning operations seamlessly, the operator needs to use a PI filter, LC filter or T filter configuration. The operator will also need to get the right components from the vendor, which matches the theoretical calculations. Typically, it is hardbound or requires the use of a Smith Chart, and is a time-consuming process. Simulations enable the operator to significantly reduce time simultaneously being spent on this analysis.
The next step is system interference simulations, which tries to identify the right position for the antenna placement on the car for maximum reception. It is also additionally used to check the antenna-to-antenna coupling.
Before running 3D simulations, the operator can use rule-based check to find if there could be any potential violations done by the PCB designer, which could lead to higher emissions by fixing the checklist rules. One of the tests performed is to check whether stitching capacitors are placed when the trace was crossing the split to avoid emissions.
A key challenge in automotive product design is to comply with the electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) and interference (EMI) requirements in a cost-driven project environment. Traditionally, EMC and EMI issues are solved at the EMC lab, often without getting a full understanding of the underlying effects. The adoption of 3D field simulation provides an insight into the root causes of electromagnetic resonance effects occurring in the product, enabling fast design cycles and high product quality.
The advanced simulation techniques at SMIT eliminate the need to save a manufactured prototype. These techniques offer field visualisation and easy parametric changes, also enabling design comparison and troubleshooting.
EMC/EMI PERFORMANCE & SOFTWARE COMPLIANCE
Failure in EMI/EMC chamber tests generally leads to costly and lengthy design modifications/ iterations. SMIT will help board designers to detect and correct EMI/EMC-related design flaws early in the life cycle when their PCB and schematic design are ready on computer.
The soft-compliance is based on a simulation-driven approach, where a 3D solver evaluates the EMI/EMC performance of various circuit blocks/PCB nets. This highlights the faulty nets, which may require PCB rerouting/ hardware design fine-tuning in respective CAD files. This, therefore, leads to faster design iteration enhancing the EMI/EMC performance early in the design cycle, in a more cost-effective way.
BULK CURRENT INJECTION PROCESS
Designers often face problems in anticipating EMI/EMC performance of their units during bulk current injection (BCI) tests. This is due to the impact of various external factors involved in such tests like electrically long wire harnesses, multi-wire bundles, impedance mismatch at terminations and probe-loading effects.
The conventional approach involves physical testing to expose required design improvements, leading to lengthy and costly design iterations. To expedite identification or corrections of design flaws, which otherwise would lead to non-compliance during a BCI test, early in a design cycle, the centre offers soft compliance services based on a simulation approach. The designer can share with the operators the target test-norms, outlining details of the target test set-up, to avail soft compliance services. This also requires prior discussions with the design teams.
IMPORTANCE OF SIMULATION TECHNIQUES
Simulation helps design innovative electrical and electronic products faster and more cost-effectively. In accordance with the requirements for high performance electronics and advanced electrification systems, the effects of electromagnetic fields on circuits and systems are gaining importance across sectors.
The team at SMIT has expertise in both simulations and measurement techniques and can simulate electromagnetic performance across components, circuits and system designs, along with evaluating the performance of the device under test. This electromagnetic-centric design centre at SMIT helps achieve first-pass system design success for advanced communication systems, high-speed electronic devices, electromechanical components and power electronics systems and new generation hybrid vehicles.
The Spark Minda Group intends to further expand SMIT over the next 3-4 years to enhance its R&D initiatives across product segments and also to bring global products faster to the market, backed by a strong technical setup. The centre also plans to chart out a technology roadmap in line with technology expectations of futuristic vehicles.
Suresh said that the idea was to address the global megatrends in automotive subsystems and innovations in the field of connected, autonomous, shared and electrified mobility. SMIT will sit among the Spark Minda Group’s fully integrated state-of-the-art in-house product designing cell, tool manufacturing, manufacturing engineering and test labs facilities located across the globe.
TEXT: Anwesh Koley
PHOTO: Spark Minda