Aurum, the solar car that won the University of Michigan its ninth American Solar Challenge title this year, was designed using Siemens NX CAD and Teamcenter software.
Siemens gave us a generous number of licenses to use these products, enough for everyone on the team. This is crucial for team communication and consistency across and between divisions during the build cycle.
Siemens NX software is particularly useful when designing solar cars because it allows UM Solar’s aerodynamics engineers to create shapes with G2 continuity. Operating with this higher level of geometric continuity means the team’s Aerodynamic division can avoid sharp corners, making continuous curvature and smoother connections between objects. When the team runs CFD simulations on the car’s design, this gives the Aerodynamic division a more accurate idea of the designed car’s drag coefficient. This is crucial when designing a solar car, because more than typical electric cars, solar cars must be as aerodynamic as possible, since their source of power, the sun, is never a certainty.
Aurum was able to win the 2016 ASC because it was better designed than the other cars, because it was more aerodynamic. The 2016 ASC was a solar race characterized by lousy weather, cloudy days and numerous difficult storms; it was rough for any solar car. But Aurum’s overall race time suffered less because its aerodynamic body consumed less power. Siemens NX made such a capable design possible. Siemens NX is sophisticated and offers our engineers a full range of flexibility; they exercise the full extent of their imaginations without having to worry about technology limiting them.
Teamcenter also played an important role in Aurum’s design. Teamcenter aids with interaction between different divisions on the team. It allows the Mechanical and Aerodynamics divisions, for example, to work on the solar car simultaneously and to stay up to date with design changes made by one another. When you operate on a crunched timeline and the work of each division relies heavily on the work of the others, it is indispensable to have a system that fosters collaboration and facilitates coordination between these distinct groups that each have different priorities. For the University of Michigan Solar Car team, that system is Teamcenter.
A solar race may be won on the road, but it starts on the computer, with a gruelling design period that must be fruitful, because it determines whether the solar car even has a chance on that road. UM Solar’s engineers design more effectively with tools like NX and Teamcenter. Thanks to Siemens, UM Solar continues to put its best foot forward before it even hits the road.