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How OEMs are Now Able to Optimize Durability and Lifetime of Systems and Components

As we continue to explore the concept of Durability (or, “Lifetime”), we have examined how advanced OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers are using new technologies to reliably predict the durability of their parts, components, systems and vehicles.

Now that we know lifetime is predictable, the question turns to, “How can we optimize that durability so that lifetime is most efficiently maximized?”

Predicting is one thing...protecting, on the other hand, is taking lifetime/durability to an entirely new level.

How to Optimize Durability through Thermal Analysis and Management

Manufacturers that are working to optimize the durability of a component, system or design, generally have very specific goals:

1.)   improve or extend the lifetime of that component, system or design; and/or

2.)   avoid the degradation in durability

Achieving these two goals has a very positive effect on the vehicle’s warranty conditions — if the vehicle reaches the warranty milestone without a recall or repair, dramatic savings are realized. As a result, the motivation to not only predict — but protect — durability is clear and compelling.

Obviously, thermal management plays a significant role in how a component holds up to real-world driving conditions. Understanding and managing temperature tolerance is critical. Using TAITherm, any component in a vehicle can be monitored and analyzed to see when it will exceed temperature tolerances during transient conditions (as opposed to simple steady-state analysis).

Once we know the effect that real-world thermal conditions will have on the component’s lifetime, we can optimize the vehicle geometry by implementing heat protection mechanisms. This is done by increasing the cooling flow or reducing the radiation exposure. Common heat protection mechanisms that might be integrated include vents, heat shields, or ramps to channel the airflow into a region/compartment of the vehicle geometry.

But such mechanisms come at a cost. If a team remediates thermal issues in the physical world — building a prototype, testing it, modifying the prototype, re-testing, etc. — costs and time start to add up in a hurry. However, doing so in a simulation environment is not only quicker and far less costly, it’s remarkably accurate. With each design modification simulated, you can measure if the improved design increases lifetime or reduces degradation. Then you can repeat this cycle over and over until the design is optimized. Such iteration is impractical when prototypes need to be built, tested and rebuilt...but is entirely accessible via simulation.

The advanced teams that use sophisticated technology to optimize in the virtual world have managed to dramatically accelerate production timelines. Furthermore, they are even able to test for scenarios that simply aren't — or can’t be efficiently — tested in the physical environment.

For example, a given manufacturer may have some 2-3% of its market share represented in regions of the world that are impractical to test in. Extreme climates in the far north or Middle East, for example. Prototypes or finished vehicles need to be shipped to those locales, along with testing teams, to examine in person how they withstand climate conditions. In the past, it might be tempting to chalk up this 2-3% as acceptable variance.

But in the present, and in the virtual world, we can now represent conditions with simulation, so OEMs can virtually test their products all around the world, without ever leaving the confines of the simulation environment. TAITherm allows the design team to arrive at powerful conclusions: Should we design and manufacture one universal model for all markets, or come up with market-specific models based on what the simulation now shows us with respect to thermal management and durability? In doing so, OEMs are now able to front load design iterations to accelerate the development of the model and dramatically save on labor, material, transportation and other production costs.

It’s not difficult to imagine the reduced cost and improved efficiency inherent in that calculus. But if you're not simulating the profiles from around the world, you run the risk of introducing a product into a market region that might be compromised from the very outset. This also comes at a cost. Better to account for the 2-3% in advance than accept the potential loss as a cost of doing business globally.

It’s Easier (and More Important) than You Think!

The best part is, OEMs do not need to disrupt the technologies they are already using to perform CAE analysis in order to optimize their designs through simulation. Another product, CoTherm, automates transient profiles as well as steady state profiles. As we’ve demonstrated, when looking at lifetime it’s critical to perform both transient analysis and steady state analysis to reliably predict real-world scenarios, actual driving cycles and conditions, as well as geographical climate variances. CoTherm was designed to make this entire process easier and automatic. CoTherm performs the transient analysis, while the optimizer searches for most efficient design — and by using CoTherm, the user can run these analyses in tandem.

Last key point: Optimization will not only save costs and improve the efficiency of the components, systems and will not only help you better predict and manage durability....but there is one significant benefit we haven’t even mentioned yet: It will improve the quality of the product as well.

Improved quality. Lower costs. Shortened production cycles. Higher efficiencies. Longer lifetimes. The benefits are clear. Which is why now is the time to take this technology out of the exclusivity of “advanced OEMs” and make them commonplace! If you’d like to further discuss how, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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Kristian Haehndel
Manager, Business Development & Thermal Modeling

Dr. Haehndel comes to ThermoAnalytics after working several years for the BMW Group, where his goal was to “push the simulation boundaries through... Read More

December 21, 2016