The automotive industry, a cornerstone of modern society, has undergone a remarkable transformation in recent decades, and at the heart of this revolution are two powerful acronyms: CAD (Computer-Aided Design) and CAE (Computer-Aided Engineering). These cutting-edge technologies have ushered in an era of innovation and efficiency, propelling the auto industry to new heights.
CAD has revolutionized the way vehicles are conceived and visualized. It allows designers and engineers to translate ideas into intricate 3D models with unprecedented precision, fostering a realm where imagination knows no bounds. From concept cars that push the boundaries of design aesthetics to streamlined manufacturing processes, CAD has reshaped the automotive landscape in India and elsewhere.
CAD has its roots in the mid-20th century when computers began to be used for engineering and design tasks. The early CAD systems were simple and mainly used for drafting and 2D design. The development of 3D CAD systems and their widespread adoption in the 1980s marked a significant milestone in CAD history. Today, CAD is used for product design and development, architectural design and drafting, automotive design and manufacturing, and in many other fields.
Complementing CAD, CAE steps in as the analytical tool. It empowers engineers to simulate, analyze, and optimize every aspect of an automobile's performance, from crash tests to fuel efficiency, without the need for physical prototypes. This ability to test and refine designs in a digital realm has not only expedited development cycles but also enhanced vehicle safety and environmental sustainability.
CAE has its roots in the aerospace and automotive industries, where it was initially developed to address the complex engineering challenges associated with designing aircraft and automobiles. The first CAE systems emerged in the 1960s, primarily as numerical analysis tools for solving structural and fluid mechanics problems. Over the years, CAE has evolved and expanded into various other engineering domains, including civil engineering, electronics, and materials science. A few engineering domains where CAE is indispensable today include structural analysis, fluid dynamics, thermal Analysis, electromagnetic analysis, product simulation and optimization, all of which are needed in the automobile engineering sector.
Here are specific examples of how CAD and CAE have revolutionized the automotive sector:
- Vehicle Design and Styling: CAD allows for the creation of highly detailed 3D models, facilitating complex and innovative vehicle designs. For example, CAD tools were instrumental in designing the sleek shape of a leading electric vehicle (EV) automobile manufacturer in India.
- Crash Testing and Safety: CAE simulations enable engineers to conduct virtual crash tests, improving vehicle safety. Indian automobile companies routinely use it to significantly enhance passenger safety during collisions.
- Lightweighting and Fuel Efficiency: CAD and CAE have enabled automakers to design vehicles with optimized lightweight structures. 3D printing further helps reduce their weight.
- Aerodynamics: CAD and CAE are used extensively to optimize vehicle aerodynamics. Most of the sleek and ergonomic sports cars of today are developed using CAD and CAE software.
- Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Development: CAD and CAE have been instrumental in the development of electric and hybrid vehicles. From design and size to engine and battery design, EVs of today are shaped by CAD and CAE.
- Interior Comfort and Ergonomics: CAD is used to design comfortable and ergonomic vehicle interiors. Manufacturers of premium cars use CAD to create intuitive dashboard layouts and seating arrangements that enhance driver and passenger comfort.
- Manufacturing and Assembly: CAD helps optimize manufacturing processes, improving efficiency and reducing costs. CAD models are used for visualizing designs, conducting simulations, and generating manufacturing drawings.CAE tools then analyze CAD models to assess structural integrity, thermal performance, aerodynamics, and other engineering aspects. This in turn results in faster production times.
- Sustainability: Key aspects of sustainability in the automobile sector include reducing emissions, improving fuel efficiency, minimizing waste, and adopting eco-friendly materials and manufacturing processes. CAD and CAE tools help in design optimization, material selection, emissions reduction and improving energy efficiency.
- Customization: CAD enables automakers to offer customizable options to consumers. Today’s CAD-driven approach allows buyers to customize their vehicles by choosing from a variety of features and finishes, fostering a sense of individuality among customers.
- Global Collaboration: CAD facilitates global collaboration among design and engineering teams. It makes possible remote collaboration, real-time updates, version control, multi-language support and provides centralized data that ensures all team members have access to the same project data regardless of their location.
CAD and CAE Tools
There are lots of CAD and CAE tools that engineers use. The most popular CAD tools are AutoCAD, NX, CATIA, Solid Works and Solid Edge, but of course there are others. A few software tools for CAE include:
- Finite Element Analysis (FEA) Software: FEA is one of the most common CAE techniques, used for structural and thermal analysis. Altair HyperMesh and HyperWorks are prime examples of popular FEA software.
- Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) Software: CFD tools are used to simulate fluid flow and heat transfer.AcuSolve from Altair is a renowned name in CFD software.
- Electromagnetic Simulation Software: It is used to study and optimize the behaviour of electromagnetic fields. It involves using computational tools and simulations to understand how electric and magnetic fields interact with materials, components, and structures. Altair Feko is a comprehensive electromagnetic simulation tool designed to provide a wide range of capabilities for analyzing and solving electromagnetic problems.
- Multibody Dynamics Software: These tools simulate the motion and behaviour of mechanical systems. MotionSolve from Altair is widely used for multibody dynamics analysis.
- Topology Optimization Software: This involves optimizing the shape and material distribution within a structure to meet specific performance criteria while minimizing weight or material usage. Altair OptiStruct can help companies conduct product design optimization.
- System Simulation Software: It allows for the analysis and testing of how various components within a system interact with each other and how the system responds to different inputs or conditions.
In the automobile industry, engineers use CAE and CAD tools to create initial vehicle design concepts, for developing detailed 3D models of vehicle components, such as engines, chassis, and body panels, for simulation and analysis, prototyping, supply chain integration and even for lifecycle management through PLM. Used properly – taking the help of an established engineering services company if needed - CAD and CAE help identify and correct design issues early, companies reduce costly design changes late in the development cycle.Time and again, CAD and CAE tools have proven their utility in the automobile sector. Today, they are a valuable tool for designing, analyzing, and optimizing vehicles. They enable automobile companies to create safer, more efficient, and innovative automobiles while reducing development time and costs.