What’s the difference between e-motor pre-design and design?

Vincent Marché

Positioning pre-design and design in the development process

What’s difference between pre-design and design? Shall we differentiate pre-design from design or even post design? Or should we assimilate it in the holistic product development cycle? The questions may seem trivial, but actually with increasing complexity of the projects and shrinking decision-making time, the designers working on those two different project phases may have different needs and expectations. Let’s try to better understand the major differences between the two.

The design advantages are relatively well known and understood in the different engineering offices of big companies, reducing development costs, costly prototypes while accelerating the design process. CAE is progressively replacing old CAD based engineering methods, making companies processes more efficient.

Nevertheless, many players in the industry – especially technical sales departments – need to make early technical choices considering the impact on equipment cost, and can’t afford long engineering processes in the early stages. Therefore, efficient dedicated tools ideally address those tasks linked to pre-design.

The expectations of the different engineering offices vary.

The pre-design phase obviously occurs before the design phase is engaged or validated but after the definition of the problem, once the high-level specifications are available.  The goal of this pre-design phase is to analyze the requirements main issues depending on the constraints – including budget, which has a strong impact across all the design process, applications environment, production or sourcing capabilities, to explore and analyze a series of investigations.

All those strategic choices are obviously dependent on the company strategy, and may require iterations with the customer. Successful validation of the different pre-design phases will progressively allow the technical project scheduling and budgeting to continue with further advancements, developments and constructions.

Pre-design phase addresses many different disciplines, such as structural, dynamics or mass estimation. In this post, we’ll focus on electrical aspects of electric motors.

The different designer’s needs are fulfilled with a series of complementary software offering easy model exchange and advanced couplings.

Modern dedicated pre-design tools are replacing empirical methods

For preliminary studies, some companies still use empirical or statistical methods, based on internal tools, often using spreadsheets for machine pre-design to estimation their main characteristics. These methods may be reliable and relatively accurate when manipulated by experienced engineers and are regularly updated, measurements integrated with different configurations over the years.

For advanced concepts, however, such method tends to be archaic and not robust enough.  People updating the tool cannot be compared to industrial simulation software. Moreover, there are numerous cases of internal experts retiring, taking with them 30 years of knowledge and company core competences.

Furthermore, the lack of a statistical database for new better performing and complex configurations can hardly consolidate the tool.

In comparison, modern pre-design industrial software like FluxMotor offers the advantage of integrated dedicated solutions. Its dedicated and intuitive interface simplifies the handling of the data and offers an unequaled level of customization to adapt from existing components to company specific devices. Intuitively using numerical methods (analytical, FEA, embedded optimization), it offers both quick studies and accurate results to investigate concepts and integrates the post-processing environment, enabling explored concepts to be compared.

Far from CAD or meshing constrains, FluxMotor assist the designers to quickly drive them to the best technico-economical solution, in a pure Simulation Driven Design Altair spirit.

For some other applications or specific configurations, Flux 2D and integrated dedicated tools such as Overlays or specific macros will simplify the designer’s research, generating the geometry from dialog box rather than geometry information, meshing it with a single meshing factor and offering a preset series of tests.

FluxMotor dedicated tools offer clear and intuitive interfaces with straightforward workflow through to concepts comparison

Toward more sophisticated tools

Once the fast pre-sales conceptual design has been documented and validated, the model can be further studied and exported to more specific tools.

Working in Flux 2D with advanced studies allows the amount of studies to be increased and addresses most of the design challenges in a reasonable time. Static / transient / harmonic studies, advanced losses modeling, motor eccentricity, linking electromagnetic to thermal analysis, focusing on local computation: detailed analysis are unlimited depending on the designer’s wishes. He, who should run them manually, when Flux multi-parametric unique capabilities won’t be able to compute them in one run.

Project export from FluxMotor to Flux environment is not limited to CAD data, but also contains physical data, mesh information, static & transient pre-set tests information

Then, investigating with Flux 3D will often enable innovative local solutions and designs to be explored and validated, thus facilitating the integration and compactness of systems for instance.

Nowadays, most Flux users are working in both 2D and 3D complementary environments, specially to model “invisible” phenomena in 2D. Flux integrates its own powerful unified environment ensuring the easily handing of 2D and 3D models, using similar methods and tools. For instance, it avoids approximations, allowing for more accurate results, while still taking into account “border effects” when completing the initial 2D computations. Here are a few examples:

Flux 3D efficient tools also enable direct use of 3D geometries from mechanical CAD files, with post-processing context to carry out analysis on adapted supports enabling specific studies like 3D paths, cut planes, 2D and 3D grids.

A platform to validate and optimize the holistic equipment design

Finally, the Altair suite allows the possibility of multi-physics studies to deal with thermal constraints, coupling Flux with AcuSolve, Altair’s CFD solver, or to look at the vibrations generated by the machine, coupling Flux with OptiStruct for NVH analysis. Within Flux or using HyperStudy, parametric analysis, sensitivity studies and optimizations can be easily performed to reach the best performance within the system requirements.

Last but not least, from the study of load impact to the design of complex drives, coupling Flux with solidThinking Activate will be extremely useful. Users can combine the two tools to check compare the interactions between electromagnetic devices with the system, and allow the design of efficient drive and control strategies of electric machines.

Pre-design, virtual prototyping, design, validation, qualification:
Altair offer a platform for electric motor design fostering multidisciplinary team work

When early optimization revolutionizes the process

Intentionally uncorrelated from CAD, but wisely intruding between pre-design and design, Simulation-Driven Innovation has been the main catalyst for innovative product development in the last decade. However, it is a very wide concept and contains many aspects of using simulations to drive design.

It is expected that the concept of developing automotive components, systems and complete vehicles will become increasing important over the next few years.

Altair simulation driven design on a vehicle is defined by Altair as “the strategic and systematic usage of optimization to generate design alternatives, trade-off information, design sensitivities and best balance designs to actively support the vehicle design process throughout the complete vehicle development timeline”. The Altair simulation driven design processes are intended to be used on complete vehicle, platform and BiW structures rather than on component level.

Altair Simulation Driven Design Processes: focusing efforts on early design stage enables the maximum leverage effect on costs and project organization

The two most significant Altair simulation driven design processes for vehicle, platform and BiW development are the simulation driven concept development process (C123) and the Altair Multi-Disciplinary Optimization process (Altair MDO).

Altair Vehicle Level Simulation Driven Design Processes

Pre-design & Design – In brief

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Vincent Marché

About Vincent Marché

Vincent Marché graduated first in electronics, and then went on to refine his skills at business school. After more than 10 years in the industry, working on product marketing and sales of sensors, switches and electronic devices, he fell into a melting pot called electrical engineering simulation. Supporting FluxTM electromagnetic simulation software since 2009, he is passionate about the large fields of applications addressed by simulation tools and the application expertise of the users. He is constantly looking for solutions that address the innovation needs of electrical engineers. Since the recent acquisition of Cedrat by Altair, he manages the promotion of electromagnetic applications, electrical engineering and e-Mobility.