Pan Asia Automotive Technology Center

Building an Efficient CAE Simulation Platform at the Pan Asia Automotive Technology Center (PATAC)

Designing and developing vehicles and automotive systems has historically required a repetitive cycle of design, trial production, and iterative improvements — a lengthy and expensive undertaking. Today, with computer-aided engineering (CAE) simulation technology, automotive companies like the Pan Asian Automotive Technology Center (PATAC), a joint venture between General Motors and SAIC Motor, can avoid that cycle, reduce costs, and improve quality and efficiency.

With advancing technology and increasing competition, the speed of automotive innovation is constantly accelerating, and vehicle designers face new challenges in applying and managing CAE simulation technology. PATAC found that, as its analytical technology improved, the volume of its CAE analysis tasks increased, just as subject and application fields were expanding. Engineers in various fields needed to store, reuse, and share models, and the iterative design schemes in different simulation fields needed to be synchronized so they could collaborate.

At the same time, PATAC was promoting the digital transformation of its research and development system. According to Qiu Rongying, senior manager of PATAC vehicle virtual technology, “The simulation itself is in a digital environment, and the simulation process is an important part of the company's product digitization. A simulation management platform was needed to effectively manage daily analysis work, structure CAE data systematically, improve visualization of results and processes, track analysis cases more easily, and more.”

Building and Implementing the Simulation Platform

PATAC found that because simulation models and processes vary so greatly among different enterprises, no mature simulation management platform solution existed. The company decided to create a platform that would cover all areas of vehicle and subsystem analysis — a feat that wouldn’t be easy to achieve.

After a nearly two-year strategy, screening, and selection process, PATAC selected Altair as its technology partner for the platform’s development and implementation.

"Considering that PATAC has been using Altair products since Altair entered the Chinese market, it has accumulated a lot of experience in the application of Altair HyperWorks®, Altair PBS Works™, and other products,” said Rongying. “At the same time, Altair products have good openness and can be integrated with other business systems in the company." She also cited the need for customization and long-term maintenance.

Construction of PATAC’s CAE simulation management platform began in 2017. The framework design and first phase of construction were completed during the second half of 2018, and the system was put into practical application in areas including vehicle safety, NVH, vehicle dynamics, and structural and fluid analysis.

The project included customizing templates to improve the CAE user experience, a process during which Altair carried out several rounds of iteration and optimization, responding to user feedback along the way. Altair HyperMesh™ and its Part Browser interface were customized in depth to fit PATAC’s requirements for multi-person collaborative modeling. The Altair team quickly got up to speed on PATAC’s project management system, which was integrated with the new CAE simulation platform.
"In the process of building the simulation management platform, PATAC and Altair often needed to collaborate on strategies to find the best solution because there was no precedent. Altair has shown us its professional understanding of the CAE business and its ability to customize products."

– Qiu Rongying
Senior Manager of PATAC Vehicle Virtual Technology
There are five main modules in the platform:

1. HWI – full-vehicle rapid modeling module:
    Key functions include component classification, automatic meshing, and component information mapping.
2. Model Builder – master model management module:
    Key functions include master model management, mesh model reuse, and revised model collaboration.
3. Simulation Manager – CAE data and load case management module:
    Key functions include managing all CAE load cases and models, improving visualization of analysis iteration and tracking, linking model and analysis results, and centralizing management of all CAE data on one server.
4. Process Manager – CAE project management module:
    Key functions include analysis planning, automation creation and distribution of CAE jobs, and analysis process visualization.
5. Dashboard – collaborative statistical data dashboard:
    Key functions include real-time collaboration, online reporting, and evaluation results summary.
In addition, HPC integration functionality means the platform seamlessly integrates with PBS Professional. Key functions include unified user authentication, job submission inside CAE tasks, job status, and results of automatic returns.

Since the platform was a first-of-its-kind endeavor, the road ahead wasn’t always clear. According to Rongying, "In the process of building the simulation management platform, PATAC and Altair often needed to collaborate on strategies to find the best solution because there was no precedent. Altair has shown us its professional understanding of the CAE business and its ability to customize products."

Ongoing Collaboration and Development

Today, PATAC’s custom CAE simulation management platform includes modules for fullvehicle rapid modeling, model management, load case data management, and analysis plan management, plus a collaborative statistics dashboard. It accommodates a wide variety of users and efficiently enables the company’s CAE simulations.

The value of simulation data is going up as the volume of simulation analysis increases, and as increasingly synergistic needs between different simulation fields emerge. PATAC and Altair have noted this trend and, with PATAC’s simulation platform, have made an innovative start in addressing those needs and bringing simulation management to the next level.

“In the long run,” said Rongying, “the establishment of the Pan Asia CAE simulation management platform will be advantageous not only for the efficiency of the simulation business, but also for the digital transformation of the entire company." PATAC is now planning the second phase of the project, working with Altair to continually improve and optimize the simulation management platform.