For over 12 years, Altair has sponsored the University of Michigan Solar Car Team, and its HyperWorks products enable the team to develop the lightest, safest, strongest solar vehicles possible.
Altair is among the most supportive of our sponsors, granting the team unlimited access to its software suite of tools and educational resources. Any individual on the team can take advantage of this valuable resource. The main tools UM Solar utilizes include HyperMesh, HyperView, and OptiStruct. Having this software at the team’s disposal was crucial when designing Aurum, the car that won Michigan its sixth consecutive American Solar Challenge title this past summer.
Altair’s software meets the team’s needs for meshing, model setup, analysis, optimization, and lightweighting. "Altair's Hyperworks Suite allows us to optimize our vehicle to the absolute limit, whether it’s analyzing the structural composites that keep the driver safe or determining the best suspension geometry to keep the driver on the road; we can iterate quickly and find the optimal solution,” 2015 Engineering Director Arnold Kadiu says. “Altair’s software allows us to optimize each part to make a solar car that is greater than the sum of it's parts.”
With HyperWorks, the team’s engineers analyze composites, create ply schedules in CAD, and apply forces to the car to visualize what parts of it are put under stress or strain; in essence, HyperWorks enables Michigan’s engineers to determine that the parts they design will not fail under certain conditions. Michigan analyzed the roll cage, for example, for rollover conditions. Michigan took a risk with the roll cage; the team had never built a carbon fiber roll cage before, but we were determined to have Aurum sport one. A carbon fiber roll cage would yield significant aerodynamic gains by reducing the frontal area of the canopy, greatly increasing speed. Since the carbon fiber roll cage was a first and thus a risk, the team had to be absolutely certain the roll cage would not fail. HyperWorks gave Michigan that degree of certainty, providing it the best platform with which to do something it had never done before.
Altair’s influence during this design process extends further than its HyperWorks software. The company also supported Michigan with training and access to local application specialists for technical support. And Altair’s willingness to help the team explore other software tools yielded quicker, more accurate solutions.
In the 2015 design phase, HyperWorks made it possible for UM Solar to build a competitive car, Aurum. In 2016, HyperWorks made it possible for UM Solar to adjust Aurum’s specifications to meet ASC regulations while remaining a formidable, competitive car.
When Aurum was first built, it met all the regulations for the 2015 World Solar Challenge, but the 2016 American Solar Challenge had its own set of regulations, and there wasn’t always overlap; in order to even compete in the race it would later win, Aurum had to first undergo some reconfigurations.
It was crucial that Michigan not compromise Aurum’s effective design while making these necessary reconfigurations, and HyperWorks made that possible. ASC safety regulations called for the addition of a crush zone six inches out on the driver’s side, so UM Solar designed a crush zone “wing” that complied with the regulations while minimizing aerodynamic setbacks. As UM Solar geared up to compete in the ASC, its engineers also used HyperWorks to revisit Aurum’s suspension models and analyze its chassis for side impact and front collision. Since Altair’s software helped the team ensure its car was safe, robust, and met all regulations, Michigan was able to finish the scrutineering, or inspection, phase of the race first. This set the team up for success, because it consequently started the qualifying track race from pole position.
Altair’s software, trainings, and technical specialists helped make Aurum the formidable solar vehicle it is. Thank you, Altair.