Volvo Construction Equipment uses multiple simulation packages in their product development process. They have a 50 person virtual product development team that design loaders, pavers, graders and even simulation devices for training drivers. In this episode, Verdi Ogewell from Verkstads Forum interviews Dr. Reno Filla, product development specialist at Volvo CE.
Virtual simulation has been growing in importance for Volvo CE because it lets them iterate more designs faster. And of course, physical prototypes for such huge machines are really expensive, so there is a compelling case for computer simulation. Computer simulation even lets the team simulate things that are hard to test in real life, like robustness of the construction equipment.
But computer simulation isn’t easy. Reno gives the example of a wheel loader. There are so many different forces acting on the machine that building the simulation scenarios is time consuming and complex. For example, they have to consider the different properties of materials that might be lifted, such as soil, wet clay or gravel. Even with lots of computing power the Volvo team can expect to spend 5-8 hours of analysis to understand a loader’s bucket geometry before they begin optimizing.
Reno brings up the point that you still need to know your engineering and physics to work with the simulation software packages. But difficult things, like modeling fuel flow, are now possible with software. That can save a tremendous amount of time compared to the previous approach of building physical prototypes and testing in various environments.
Volvo uses numerous different software packages to simulate product development. And even with all their technology and human resources, Reno doesn’t see Volvo CE getting to a point where they don’t build physical prototypes.