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In conversation with Steven Child – Senior Resident Engineer with IPG


Hi Steven, what is your role in ViVID?

I am the IPG Automotive resident. It means that I am responsible for the customer relationship between Ford and IPG automotive UK. I work within the Ford Dunton campus, where I manage our IPG Automotive UK team. The team delivers innovative simulation solutions using CarMaker’s virtual environment, supporting Ford's vehicle development process.

Can you briefly explain what part of ViVID you are working on and how it has developed over time?

I’m involved in three workstreams: Simulation, XiL and Model Build Process (you can see the workstreams here).

I’ll start from the XiL as it is the area that had the biggest impact on Ford. My focus is on the Hardware-In-the-Loop (HiL) activities. Within it, we are moving from traditional hardware testing of powertrain, integrating CarMaker in the HiL rig environment that allows fully automated test set up.

For powertrain, we are running tests 12 months earlier than would have been achieved with a physical test vehicle

An example is the powertrain team that wants to calibrate the torque response from the powertrain against the Autonomous Driving features. Usually, 3 engineers would jump into the vehicle and drive along the roads trying to find the exact gradient conditions for testing the Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), for example. Through ViVID, we can transfer the knowledge acquired by the Software-in-the-Loop team (SiL) and import the scenarios into the HiL configuration to run hundreds of virtual tests, from basic function to full calibration in a complete automatised way. Instead of driving the real vehicle, the engineers are driving a virtual vehicle on the HiL rig. For powertrain, we are running tests 12 months earlier than would have been achieved with a physical test vehicle. This approach is particularly useful to test features update on the Electronic Control Unit (ECU) that governs the Autonomous Driving Advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS). The updates could inadvertently have a negative impact on ACC, for example. Now we can capture that effect safely and resolve the issue promptly. This activity has started as a proof-of-concept into Ford, but as it has matured and proven its value for a specific application, now the company wants to extend the methodology to more features, for example parking scenario. I would say that from a first polite interest, now the engineers are fully embracing this methodology. They are now preparing presentations and showing their colleagues, in North America in particular, what they have done. They are justifiably proud and enthusiast on what we have achieved through ViVID.

On the Simulation side: Ford has an established portfolio of engineering test procedures in their product development, as you can imagine. We have put lot of shared effort through ViVID between IPG and Ford engineers to generate a virtual library of CarMaker scenarios that can be reused for new vehicle programs.

We have also created a Model Build Process to convert chassis vehicle model from a commercial software used by Ford into CarMaker. This has enabled us to generate models of the Transit, and by extension to future vehicle programs, very quickly and efficiently. This activity was previously outsourced while now it has become a solid capability in the Ford UK team that is offered to the other Ford sites.

To recap, within the Simulation workstream we have an enormous library of CarMaker scenarios that are fully documented. Ford engineers would use them in combination with the digital models equivalent to physical prototypes produced within the Model Build Process to confidently develop their solution. Finally, they’ll use the HiL where they can safely test for final validation. And that can be done from vehicle program to vehicle program!

Last but not least, IPG has also delivered virtual engineering awareness training to the Ford engineers as part of the Skills and Training workstream. And when engineers see the scale of model reusability that they can straightaway make use of, that’s a powerful message!

carmaker software

How do you think ViVID is helping IPG Automotive?

ViVID has certainly created my job, first of all! But I think that the IPG Automotive UK office exists in large part because of the ViVID project. And ViVID has enabled us to build a strong relationship with Ford that has been strengthened further in a commercial partnership.

ViVID has also afforded me the freedom to network within Ford of Britain and to identify new opportunities where virtual engineering can support the vehicle development activities of those new teams.

What has been your main challenge so far?

This one really comes back to my background. My background has been the management of traditional CAE teams: FEA, CFD and the 1D modelling that complements that area of FEA and CFD simulation, hence creating the boundary conditions for the FEA and CFD models. And this was very much a background role, very analytical but never on the front line with the customer.

My current role is predominantly a customer facing one. And it has been a step change in my career. I also did not have previous experience of systems engineering, for example vehicle architecture network, that I have learnt on the job.

If I could summarise my challenge, it has been learning from and learning with my customers. I learned how to adapt, react, change, and challenge my understanding to meet their expectations and deliver results. It has been a massive learning curve and a hell of a journey, actually!

I believe the work that we are doing through ViVID is helping to ensure that Ford of Britain remains abreast of the latest advances and developments in the automotive industry

What has been your biggest reward so far working on ViVID?

When you see some of these solutions being used not only as a proof-of-concept but to deliver tangible results, that’s nice!

The other part that I really liked about my job is building constructive relationships with my colleagues and customers alike, that has been one of the highlights of this year. Ford networking has taken me around the world, mainly virtually: Europe, North America, Australia…and I have used my experience of managing and maintaining professional relationships to build a rapport with my IPG and Ford colleagues that has facilitated the transfer of knowledge and opportunities in support of the business.

I believe the work that we are doing through ViVID is helping to ensure that Ford of Britain remains abreast of the latest advances and developments in the automotive industry and, hence, stay competitive in the global landscape.

It is encouraging to see how much simulation there is already through the development stage

If someone would ask you for an interesting thing that you learned as part of ViVID, what would you say?

For me, getting exposure to the way a global OEM creates its next generation of vehicles has been very exciting.

My previous roles involved working for automotive suppliers where you are aware of how that product is developed but you never see the full process. In this role, I have had an insight into the bigger picture, and I have found this to be very interesting. For example, the next generation of Ford Transit, I’ve seen the very very early phases of how Ford thinks about it, how long it is going to be… fundamental questions like that which the true 1D style simulation and CarMaker helps with that, as well all the way the development matures through the guys that do the HiL test and the Vehicle-in-the-loop testing, too.

It is encouraging to see how much simulation there is already through the development stages; and it is moving from traditional CAE to the vehicle network architecture and the System Engineering that is stitching all together. This has the potential of happening organically.

If you were to suggest a set of skills for your future colleagues coming from university and joining the Automotive industry, what would you suggest? And why?

I have to have a bit of a think about this…my answer is born out of experience, really. But it sounds a little bit strange…so I would say to you: purpose driven fidelity! What I mean is: we need to understand the capabilities and limitations of virtual engineering technologies – Yes, you should learn FEA. Yes, you should learn 1D. Yes, you should learn programming languages. All the usual things that one would tell you. But what I want to say is something like: learn why you are using them and how you are using them.

There is always a general agreement and acceptance that simulation should be used. But there is never the clarity of why and how to use them. The risk is that the solution becomes overly complicated and inefficient, missing the opportunity to deliver the promised value.

What question would you like to be asked?

The question I’d like to be asked, really – and I’m still using my IPG / Ford/ ViVID hat - is new teams within Dunton, having seen the success, benefits and efficiency gains that their Dunton colleagues are enjoying from using virtual engineering, coming to me and saying: “How to do we use virtual engineering - and CarMaker in particular - to benefit from these same efficiencies?”


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