Design as Design can be …

All is not well with modern design of premium cars. But it has to be said that Jaguar Land Rover are doing an outstanding job. Quite rightly, therefore, the phenomenal designer Ian Callum, in his present function Jaguar Design Director, has been honoured with the President’s Trophy, awarded by the Guild of Motoring Writers. The reason? Outstanding achievement in the field of international automobilism.

Guild President Nick Mason (left) with the honoured designer Ian Callum.

Susanne Roeder


PS: A beauty of the 1990s… a DAIMLER, a real Brit. A little snapshot in the dark.

A beauty indeed. In spite of the poor quality of the snapshot, it still conveys a first impression of sheer elegance and luxury.

A beauty indeed. In spite of the poor quality of the snapshot, it still conveys a first impression of sheer elegance and luxury.



Big Data for Cars’n all

There is a better way to fly... According to Altair engineers, the company had significant involvement with both the A380 and 787 programs, helping to reduce the weight of both aircrafts.

There is a better way to fly… According to Altair engineers, they had significant involvement with both the A380 and 787 programmes, helping to reduce the weight of both aircrafts.

Aesthetics of Lightweight: Dallara, Airbus & Art

It is our vision to radically change the way in which companies design products and reach decisions.” Mere waffle? Far from it. The man who said it has a solid engineering background as consultant to the automotive industry, beginning his career with the Ford Motor Company in 1978. Seven years later, together with two partners he, James R. Scapa, better known as Jim Scapa, founded Altair engineering. What started out as a small scale consultancy in Troy, Michigan, in the then new field of computer-aided-engineering (CAE), has become a global player indeed, with more than 2,000 employees in 19 countries. Added to which the Altair portfolio of clients reads like an impressive who’s who of the  producing industry. For a first impression of how digitalisation works in an engineering process, this is what CEO Scapa has to say about innovation intelligence:

Digitalisation is omnipresent. And apart from being a most valuable tool for engineers in the production industry, even artists have become infatuated with the clever Altair software.

The making of ...

Design to the Xtreme or: The making of …

So what could the above turn out to be? The result of the rapid simulation process is a sculpture by the London based designer and author of the famous trouser chair Assa Ashuach. And thus it happened, Altair as a software company has entered the London Design Museum – as part of the show Future is Here. Further proof that this company is avantgarde and anything but antiquated. The Israeli, whose work focuses on progressive design and manufacturing, relied on Altair’s programmes solidThinking Inspire and OptiStruct to model his futuristic Femur stool. The stool is exhibited in the Design Museum till the end of October 2013.

3D print of the stool.

3D print of the stool.

Here is the animated version of the genesis, an unusual piece of seating furniture based on the human anatomy: Its creator Ashuach claims that 3D design starts with zero and that it is all about materialising one’s thoughts. This is precisely how Altair would like to see industry employ the software, because only starting from scratch, on a white sheet of paper, makes one reach the best results in weight reduction and durability. However, most use the software as a tool to improve existing design with the aim of reducing weight by removing material where possible.

The making of the Femur stool relied on the same work process as designing cars, parts of cars, parts of aeroplanes, trains and other industrial objects. As the artist explains: “In this project we used a new algorithm that removes any redundant material according to stress zones on the object’s surface. An optimisation of the exterior and material use was made to achieve a light and economical form.” What is unusual for the arts, has become widespread practice in industry, where saving time for production, weight and material means saving money and energy.

Less is more – Learning from Nature

The stool elegantly demonstrates Altair’s capabilities in the field of lightweight design, optimisation and additive layer manufacturing. The name Femur stool indicates that like the human pelvis and femur, this piece of art follows the human bone structure. Meaning, this shaping is driven by the mathematical intelligence of human bone formation. Bionics, i.e. analogies from nature, is much acclaimed in the car manufacturing industry for mimicking human nature, as it helps to reduce the drag coefficient. The difference with Altair’s software OptiStruct is that it does not simply copy nature as a static process. Rather, the company meticulously collects data, be it from the human ossification, from the structure of cobwebs, leaves or trees. This data allows fast and detailed calculations for industrial constructions, resulting in significantly reduced weight and a simultaneously increased lifespan..

For the artist, the looks of an object and perhaps its lifespan are of paramount importance, industry is keen on reducing weight, saving energy and improving the entire lifecycle. Drastic reductions in the CO2 emissions from passenger cars have been ordained by the European Commission and due to the global climate protection agreement of Kyoto will also be introduced worldwide sooner of later. The OEMs are therefore under enormous pressure to reach these goals. In Europe the fleet average to be achieved by all new cars is 130 grams of CO2 per kilometre (g/km) by 2015 and the hotly debated 95g/km

CO2 curse of modern times

Curse of modern times: CO2

by 2020. The 2015 and 2020 targets represent reductions of 18% and 40% respectively compared with the 2007 fleet average of 158.7g/km. These goals are not only extremely ambitious, they are highly unrealistic, a typical example of the green ivory tower of the EU.

Weightwatching is the Watchword

The experts all agree that there is still enormous potential for improvements and increased efficiency regarding vehicles with combustion engines. No stone is left unturned on the search for greater efficiency. Apart from building ever more efficient engines and recuperating energy while driving, one of the most important aspects is saving weight. Each gram gained translates directly into less CO2 per kilometre. Rule of thumb: On an average, 100 kilograms less weight lead to about half a litre of fuel saved.

Holistic design of a vehicle concept with OptiStruct.

Holistic design of a vehicle concept with OptiStruct.

Slimline is beautiful” could be the motto for the car industry. And this does not only imply using lighter materials in the intelligent material mix. The secret lies in an efficient change of shape, in other words in innovative lightweight construction. Altair is certainly a leading global provider of technology that strengthens client innovation. It therefore comes as little surprise that in the automotive sphere all the OEMs, be it Audi, BMW, Chrysler, Dallara, Daimler, Ferrari, Fiat, Ford, GM, Honda, HWA, Hyundai, McLaren, Nissan, Opel, Peugeot, Porsche, Renault, Tata, Tesla, Volvo or VW, plus the suppliers all use Altair software one way or another to make their products more efficient. With over 3,000 clients, Altair serves the automotive, aerospace, government and defense, heavy equipment industry sectors as well as the consumer products, ship building, energy, electronics, life sciences, and architectural engineering and construction markets.

Time is money 

Efficiency in the workflow and designing process is crucial in a cost-intensive production industry. This is why Altair wants to revolutionise the whole process. In the automotive industry, the established development process puts priority on the fulfilment of functional targets such as crash safety, fatigue as well as comfort and noise. As a result, weight

Single item designed by OptiStruct: Steps towards optimised VW engine mount for dynamo, A/C compressor and control pump.

Single item designed by OptiStruct: Steps towards optimised VW engine mount for dynamo, A/C compressor and control pump.

targets are frequently not fulfilled early in the development process, which leads to late weight firefighting and often unfavourable compromises between weight and functional targets. The introduction of numerical optimisation methods has improved the possibility to find better compromises. Still, as long as the usage of numerical optimisation is focused on component based, on-demand firefighting, large weight saving potential is left unused. It must be a goal in vehicle development to better utilise the potential that numerical optimization methods provide to help saving mass. The Altair engineers will not grow tired

McLaren takes advantage of Altair' advanced material modelling for its Formular 1 racing-car.

McLaren takes advantage of Altair’s advanced material modelling for its Formular 1 racing-car.

of emphasising how important it is to approach lightweight construction holistically. “We want to give the designer a tool with which he can come up with better solutions right from the beginning.” This means the designer will no longer start with the “white sheet” in front of him.

The old time-consuming and expensive approach.

The old time-consuming and expensive approach.

Thanks to frequently repeatable and fast simulation he can fall back on design suggestions which deliver the most efficient structures within any given framework, before he gets down to work. Real tests become replaced by virtual tests. And ideally, the Altair engineers use their methods and programmes for optimisation to collaborate with the respective OEM from the very outset. As in the case of Opel where the optimisation process concerns the development process of a passenger car.

Simulation – Inspiration – Innovation

Ideally, the Altair team would suggest using design optimisation techniques on every single component in a product, in order to ensure the entire structure is as lightweight as possible. In reality however, this is rarely possible as development schedules need to be

Optimised wheel suspension at the racing-car builder Dallara. (photo: Dallara.)

Optimised wheel suspension at the racing-car builder Dallara. (photo: Dallara.)

met with a limited amount of resources. So when faced with an existing design and often hundreds of components that could potentially be optimised, the challenge is to find out which ones could yield the biggest weight savings. The answer is to screen a product’s components during the early stage of the development process. The screening process helps to answer several vital questions when assessing where to focus time and energy such as:

  • Which steps are necessary to enhance the product?
  • What does this mean economically?
  • How large is the economic and technical potential of an optimisation project?
  • How much will it cost and how much effort will be required for an optimisation project compared to its benefit?
  • What are the consequence-, synergy- or interdependency-effects which may come up during the optimisation project?
  • What are convenient or realistic development targets?
The Altair vision ... massive weight reduction through CAE by means of cloud computing coupled with high-performance computing.

The Altair vision … massive weight reduction through CAE by means of cloud computing coupled with high-performance computing.

Be it on isolated issues such as weight reduction of an aluminium frame at Ferrari, the concept design of a cross car beam at Fiat Group, or a more comprehensive approach, as in the case of Porsche, with virtual vehicle development under the constraints of changing products and processes – Altair HyperWorks, OptiStruct, HyperStudy, HyperMesh and all the sub-programmes will help to produce viable solutions fast. Thus,

The Altair Way: Revolution of the design process as simulation-driven innovation.

The Altair Way: Revolution of the design process as simulation-driven innovation.

Daimler uses HyperMesh for Brake Disc Morphing and to check the durability of the Brake System in specific cars. OptiStruct comes in for multibody dynamic simulation, because it is all about how to best shape the brake discs in order to avoid brake noise and vibration issues. Many more examples can be given from the car industry.

In essence, Jim Scapa and his company focus on two main areas. In the analytics realm it is advanced material modeling, including composites, in business analytics it is solutions provided to analyse massive amounts of data for rapid descision-making.   

Is Sebastian Vettel's "Hungry Heidi" partly designed with the help of Altair software? Most of the time this remains a secret. Not so in the case of the F 1 Sauber Team which does cooperate with Altair Germany.

Sebastian Vettel’s “Hungry Heidi” was constructed without the aid of Altair. But as costs for Formula 1 continue to be cut who knows what the future will bring.

Susanne Roeder


And here is a printed version in German:

Altair: Not a Heavy Metal fan...

Altair: Not a Heavy Metal fan…


Alternatives to Heavy Metal - by Altair

Alternatives to Heavy Metal – by Altair

1234yf und kein Ende – Eine amerikanische Saga

Der Streit um das Kältemittel R 1234yf geht in die nächste Runde.

Okay, man kann verstehen, dass Opel andere Sorgen hat, als Forschungsgelder in die Entwicklung eines alternativen Kältemittels zu stecken. Aber der Sache haben die Tests im Schulterschluss mit dem TÜV – es findet sich meist einer, der seinen Gütestempel drunter setzt, diesmal also der TÜV Rheinland – letztlich geschadet. Denn dass Daimler sich ursprünglich daran machte, Tests unter Realbedingungen durchzuführen, um dann einer unsicheren Zukunft in Sachen Klimaanlagen entgegenzusehen und um viel Forschungsgelder für die Entwicklung einer Alternative, einer umweltfreundlichen CO2-Klimaanlage, in den Hand nehmen zu müssen; diese Vorstellung ist ebenso bizarr wie unlogisch.

Der neuerliche Vorgang hat ein Geschmäckle: Opel wird von General Motors gegängelt, könnte ohne die amerikanische Konzernmutter besser dastehen, durfte Modelle nicht auf den Markt bringen, macht letztlich gute Miene zum bösen Schließungsspiel.

In Amerika ist das Kältemittel R 1234yf als Lösung aller Probleme begrüßt. Alleinige Lieferanten des Mittels sind die beiden amerikanischen (!) Chemiekonzerne Dupont und Honeywell.

Caution! R1234yf

Caution! R 1234yf

Auch wenn ihr Kältemittel formal umweltverträglicher ist als das bisherige Kältemittel R134a, so ist es doch viermal zu schädlich wie CO2. Deshalb: Premium Hersteller deutscher Landen vereinigt euch und bleibt dran an der Entwicklung einer CO2 Klimaanlage. Und Politiker in Brüssel: Gewährt den OEMs die dazu nötige Entwicklungszeit. In der Zwischenzeit sehe jeder, mit welchem Kältemittel er’s treibe und wie sich die Käufer entscheiden.

Es kann nicht angehen, dass der TÜV Rheinland am Ende noch das Umweltbundesamt aussticht. Zur Erinnerung. Untersuchungen der Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und –prüfung (BAM) hatten das Kühlmittel als gefährlich eingestuft: “Die Untersuchungen der BAM zeigen, dass mit dem Einsatz von 1234yf Gefahren verbunden sind. Die Gefahren ergeben sich aus dem beim Brandfall und bei hohen Temperaturen bereits ohne Brand aus dem Kältemittel 1234yf entstehenden Fluorwasserstoff.”

Da entsteht schon mal die Frage nach der wahren Motivation für die Tests von Opel – wohlgemerkt mit General Motors als ständigem Aufpasser bedrohlich im Nacken. Ob es wirklich um die Sicherheit der Insassen geht und nicht eher um einen Persilschein für den Verkauf der Autos, die das Kühlmittel 1234yf an Bord haben? Denn klar ist: Der Opel Mokka muss ein Erfolg werden. Und er klimatisiert nun mal nach „bester“ amerikanischer Manier mit 1234yf. Ein Schelm, der Böses dabei denkt?

Susanne Roeder


PS: See also a lengthy article by Doug Bolduc

PPS: Auch in Deutschland hat jetzt, am 6. Mai 2013, endlich ein weiteres Online-Medium sich des wichtigen Themas angenommen – unter dem Titel: Jetzt beginnt die Schlammschlacht ums Kältemittel. Dazu ist anzumerken: Die Schlammschlacht beginnt freilich nicht erst jetzt – nur wurde die Diskussion in den Medien bisher fast verschlafen. Ist nun mal nicht so sexy wie Fahrzeugpräsentationen…



What’s up with Daimler?

Wo Du wolle…. – Heilix Blechle, what happened to you?

Who can understand the strategy and machinations of Daimler, once an outstandinglyGullwing_450x340 sparkling diamond in the automobile sky? This is what increasingly more journalists, clients, experts ask themselves.

Daimler has lost its way. It happened many years ago, i.e. a long time before the present CEO reached the echelons of power. But things have not improved dramatically since. And as much as Dieter Zetsche reveals a sharp intellect and good qualities as a person, he seems unable to guide this super tanker. Okay, Schrempp before him is unspeakable, having burnt billions, a man without any worthwhile vision. Zetsche took over a messed-up global player and premium OEM.

Super tankers are slow, inefficient, sometimes incompetent and unfortunately arrogant – when they can least afford it. So, please, Daimler, wake up to reality!

Audi and BMW have long surpassed the “starry-eyed” company. This is the lamentable story of the threatening decline of the inventor of the automobile.

There are so many good aspects to this company. But they run the risk of getting obliterated due to fundamental dissatisfaction both on the side of the employees and on the side of the customers.

In recent times just think of Daimler as forerunner in exposing mortal dangers in certain collisions with cars equipped with the new refrigerant R1234yf. However, it is precisely this refrigerant that has become legally binding by Brussels authorities with their questionable understanding of the matter.

Here, Daimler for once has shown stamina. It is to be hoped and expected that the other OEMs will join in and support Daimler for their findings in real life test scenarios.

Daimler’s stance is adamant and correct: “Due to the high safety demands at Mercedes-Benz, this chemical will not be used in its products. The company therefore wishes to continue to use the proven and safe R134a refrigerant in its vehicles. Daimler has already informed the relevant authorities of these facts and will also make the results of this investigation available to all relevant associations as well as to other vehicle manufacturers.”

However, as far as vision, brand image and popularity are concerned, Daimler has lost track. It is high time for a change toward a company with well-founded passionate visions.   Susanne RoederGullwing


SL Gullwing, Heroic times of racing with Neubauer… Those were the unforgettable days – of yore…

PS: Here is a recent view on the “refrigerant case”: