Thank you, Altair!


Altair software and technical support was crucial to the construction of the University of Michigan’s newest solar car, Novum. A staunch supporter of UM Solar Car, Altair provided the team with generous access to its HyperWorks® software suite and Inspire®, as well as with technical advice. Composites Lead Bennet McGlade says that "Through the use of Altair's powerful analysis and optimization software package and with help from their fantastic technical and engineering support, we were able to build the fastest and safest car possible."

The HyperWorks suite was particularly useful for composite analysis, allowing our engineers to determine whether aspects of the design would fail under specific conditions.

Our engineers assigned material properties to the geometry of Novum’s CAD designs, and then applied loads using HyperMesh®, which illustrated the stress and strain values throughout the structure. This not only allowed us to see where the parts were most likely to fail or how much they might deform, but also allowed us to decide where to add more layers or plies to the structure, decisions that our Race Crew executed during the carbon manufacturing process, when we constructed Novum’s carbon fiber aerobody.

Altair’s OptiStruct® solver also aided in composite analysis, running optimizations that our engineers could base on certain criteria that they assigned. These optimizations told our engineers which were the lightest, safest designs; they then interpreted these results into a manufacturable layout and stacking pattern, which also aided our Race Crew during carbon manufacturing. Our engineers began with setting up the model with the geometry from CAD and with an initial analysis before beginning the three-step optimization process. The first step, free size, gives a continuous distribution of material thickness; the second, size, accounts for the individual thickness of each ply; and the third, shuffling, recommends the order in which each ply should be laid. Once the optimization process is completed, UM Solar engineers polish it and make the model manufacturable before again checking the analysis for all the different load cases.

“It’s a fairly complicated task,” Bennet says of composites analysis. “But HyperWorks is both versatile and powerful, which helps a lot. More importantly, though, it has fairly specialized tools and options specifically for composite analysis.”

Altair’s HyperWorks streamlined the composite analysis process, and its Inspire software was similarly crucial during the metal parts optimization process. Mechanical Lead Perry Benson explains that this is both a powerful design tool in the hands of experienced team members and a powerful instructional tool for newer team members.

“For the more experienced members, it lets the team squeeze every last ounce of unnecessary weight out of our components,” Perry details. Lightweighting was a main endeavor during the design process as the team strove towards its vision of the lightest, most aerodynamic car possible, so this was very important. We also had the ability to run assembly analysis to confirm that these optimized parts would coordinate properly as a system, ensuring that we had a car greater than the sum of its parts.

And for newer members of the team, Perry elaborates, Inspire helps teach newer members how to properly load and constrain parts and assemblies, gaining them a better overall understanding of the importance of design constraints. The software enables UM Solar engineers to visualize where on a given part the material is important; this visualization means they can better know how stress and load “flow” through the part.

“And being able to consider manufacturability during optimization also reduces the number of steps and time required from initial design to final part,” Perry concludes. In the end, this all yields the creation of more superior parts.

From creating ply schedules in CAD to applying forces to the car, Altair’s sophisticated software tools empowered UM Solar Car to optimize Novum to the maximum. And from composite analysis to metal parts optimization, it was all crucial to our mission, because the safer and sturdier our car is, the more reliable it is for our drivers on the road when racing, and the surer we are that we comply with regulations on safety and other things. And, ultimately, the faster Novum moved through the scrutineering phase of the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, when officials inspect each team’s solar car to verify that all regulations are met and the vehicle is ready to hit the road.

Between its software and engineering support, Altair played a key role in getting Novum race-ready, and when the time came, Novum performed spectacularly, securing a second-place finish with Altair’s help. And now, as we look to the American Solar Challenge this summer, we are excited to continuing work with Altair to ensure Novum meets regulations. Thank you, Altair!

Thank you, Altair

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.