Design tools tackle big-data challenge

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Mazda used MathWorks tools to design and calibrate its Skyactiv engine.

Design and validation processes that include modeling, simulation, and hardware-in-the-loop testing are creating larger and larger volumes of data, making it more challenging for engineers to analyze and understand the nuances of their designs. Tool providers are ramping up their efforts to help these designers manage data.

Understanding the growing amount of data was an issue that popped up in many areas during the recent 2012 SAE Convergence conference. Even a keynote speech on IBM’s Watson computer that gained fame by beating humans in “Jeopardy” included a comment about the vast amount of data that’s being generated today.

“Ninety percent of the data available now has been created in the last two years,” said Rob High, CTO of IBM’s Watson computer program.

Tool providers on the show floor demonstrated technologies designed to help engineers get the most from the data they create. For example, dSpace showed off its Synect data management tools for model-based design.

“Complexity is rising, so there’s a greater need to manage data at the back end,” said Mahendra Muli, New Business Development Director at dSpace. “There’s a big tool chain around model-based design, so there are a lot of data types. We’re making it easier for users to find and manage data.”

At Convergence, Mazda divulged that it used The MathWorks tools to develop and calibrate its Skyactiv engine technology. The company said it couldn’t achieve the performance and fuel economy ratings without using model-based design.

“Finding an optimal calibration setting in a search space of five or more dimensions is difficult even for experienced engineers, so we could never be certain that we had found the best possible settings,” said Shingo Harada, Assistant Manager at Mazda.

“Models let Mazda see more of what was happening inside the engine,” added Wensi Jin, Transportation Industry Manager at The MathWorks. “Once they collected the data, Mazda needed to calibrate the system with a model-based calibration toolbox.”

Other companies are also beefing up their efforts to help engineers manage the huge volume of data that is created when complex systems are run through many iterations of tests and simulations.

“Our latest version adds a lot to help engineers search through data,” said Marcella Haghooie, Senior Field Applications Engineer at Applied Dynamics International. “There are new ways to compare results and compare results from different runs.”

Some companies are partnering to ensure that users will have compatible tools that complement each other and help engineers do more tasks in compatible environments. That can eliminate some of the challenges that come when tools create data in different formats.

“We are working with IBM, including our test products with their Rational software development platform, so users can have end-to-end quality management,” said Noah Reding, Automotive Product Manager at National Instruments.

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