2012 South India Special: India set to be Altair’s largest market by 2020

Off-highway vehicle OEMs have also sourced engineering inputs from Altair.

Autocar Pro News DeskBy Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 31 Jul 2012 Views icon2930 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
2012 South India Special: India set to be Altair’s largest market by 2020
The automotive industry may be concerned with rising development costs and falling volumes, especially in the West. But the Detroit-based Altair is upbeat, because there is an increase in the application of computer aided engineering (CAE), even as there may be a fall in the number of engineers. “Last year we saw an 18 percent growth in our business from the automotive sector due to increasing use of CAE. I can see a continuing trend of applying CAE in automotive despite the fact the global production numbers is down,” says Anthony J Norton, senior director, Altair.

One such example is the shrinking of the crash process and its analysis with the help of CAE. Altair, together with Ford Motor Company, reduced the time take for a crash test analysis drastically. The process that typically took four to six weeks was reduced to 24 hours. The CAD2CRASH24 Challenge brought this change. This initiative compressed the time required to mesh, assemble and simulate a full-vehicle crash finite-element model – directly from OEM-native CAD data – to just 24 hours. According to an Altair official, each physical test can cost anywhere between US $250,000 to a million. Performing virtual crashworthiness tests can reduce costs by approximately 75 percent, according to some estimates. It also cuts time to compliance as manufacturers contend with meeting an ever-increasing number of safety regulations. What’s more, simulation reduces overall time to market.

“Then there is the lightweighting part. We are working on composites. We are working with Force India (F1 team), Dallara and Swift Engineering,” says Anthony. Less than a year ago, Altair launched what it claims as the world’s first series hydraulic hybrid bus developed with a focus on minimising weight to maximise fuel economy. The drive for minimising weight went far beyond the aluminium frame, incorporating thin profile seats and composite stanchions programme installed along with balsa-core laminate floor/roof material and lightweight tyres, to name just a few of the design considerations. Anthony says Altair is trying to get an OEM interested in serial production of the bus.

Unlike electric hybrid technology, the LCO-140H bus uses hydraulic pressure instead of electricity to propel the vehicle. Through combination hydraulic pump/motor units, it captures braking energy to pressurise fluid, which is then re-used to accelerate the bus. The engine runs only on demand and has periods when it is off and the bus relies solely on the stored hydraulic pressure for propulsion. So how much energy efficient is the bus? Altair claims that compared to a leading diesel-electric hybrid bus, the LCO-140H offers 30 percent better mileage and 30 percent lower cost of ownership.

According to Anthony, the bus may not find application in India, but Altair’s expertise in various areas of ‘concept to production’ are available for OEMs here. Its chassis architecture has been applied in a Ford SUV (in the US) also, resulting in weight reduction, increase in torsion performance at a marginal cost penalty. In another project with Volkswagen, Altair’s software OptiStruct helped the OEM design a powertrain bracket which can host the AC compressor, alternator, and power steering pump. The result was a 23 percent reduction in material usage, which translates to cost reduction for a VW commercial van in Europe.

Chrysler and Mercedes-Benz have also used Altair software and their global R&D centres in India use various Altair products for their product development and design.

The company also has Indian two-wheeler OEMs Hero MotoCorp, Bajaj Auto and TVS Motor in its client list. “Some are driven by reducing time to market, others want to cut costs and for others, the focus is on quality enhancement. We can deliver all this at one time but it depends on the customer’s individual focus,” says Anthony.

Off-highway vehicle OEMs have also sourced engineering inputs from Altair. “We have done 3 to 4 complete product designs. From an Indian context, we have delivered quite a few off-highway equipment where customers wanted to introduce an India spec product,” says Pavan Kumar, MD, Altair India.

With Indian OEMs putting extra and consistent efforts in building their R&D capabilities, Altair and other software have good prospects for business here.

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