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Alpine Electronics, Inc.
Successful Implementation of Thermo-Fluid Analysis in Car Navigation System Design

 

Alpine develops vehicle navigation systems and audio devices. CFD simulation of car navigation casings is performed by Alpine designers in order to optimize thermal design. The software has been introduced for more than ten years, and has become familiar within the company, as thermal simulations are conducted actively by Alpine engineers while still undertaking marketing targetted at car manufacturers. We asked the background behind such achievement.

Fig.1: ALPINE BIGX (VIE-X088)
8-inch car navigation system

Holding upgrade seminars and skill sessions with the developers


When HEAT Designer was upgraded, For the upgrading of HEAT Designer, Ms. Iwasaki examines the accuracy of the software and checks whether the new features can be applied to analyses in her department. Then, in cooperation with Software Cradle, she upgrades the rules to use the analysis tools, modifies the system, and receives the texts for training courses. In the 2009 upgrade, multiblock function was the major upgrade. The function makes meshes dense in a specified area, reduces the number of mesh elements, and improves the calculation convergence. This function helped Alpine reduce the analysis time by 60%.

When HEAT Designer was upgraded, design team representatives attended the seminars, learned new features, and exchanged opinions with Cradle engineers in skill sessions. Ms Iwasaki says, "To meet with software developers is a valuable opportunity, it helps design engineers understand and utilize the tool effectively."

Fig.2: VIE-X08S (back side)
Protective cover is on the motor fan.

Improving analysis accuracy and enhancing library data


Improving analysis accuracy is one of the destined themes for someone trying to spread an analysis tool. Alpine conducts own research on input information such as material properties necessary for an analysis and shares it among the design engineers. Especially, characteristics of fan motors significantly affect the analysis accuracy. Alpine introduced a fractional  ow rate measurement system manufactured by Tsukuba Rika Seiki Co., Ltd., and created a library of fan motor characteristics. The system enables them to accurately understand fan motors' characteristics varying depending on usage (Fig.2). This created an environment where accurate input information can be collected immediately, and greatly encouraged design engineers to use the analysis tool.

Contributions to decreasing thermal problems / Impact on cost reduction


As a result of Ms. Iwasaki's efforts, CFD analysis is firmly established and applied to all products in her department. The analysis is used from the stage of preliminary discussions with their clients worrying about heat and noise through fans. For heat generation, a wire harness wired along a car navigation system has an upper temperature limit so that the thermal analysis tool is used first to check the temperature is within the limit presented by their clients. This not only prevents production rework before mass production, but also allows design engineers to have a wild model change during the early stage of design to meet requested performance of a product.

The number of analyses performed in her department has grown to 2000 cases a year. Especially after they have started parametric studies for optimizing geometries, the number of analyses has grown by repeating computations with different parameters. Thanks to an optimization tool of Cybernet Systems; however, a series of operations is automated from CAD shape modification to postprocessing, their labor work is minimalized even though the number of analyses has grown. "In this automation processing, macro functions of HEAT Designer have been extremely useful," says Ms. Iwasaki.

In addition to optimizing products' performance, parametric studies reduce material cost. In recent years, there have been increased demands from automakers to develop lightweight products. Heat sinks tend to be the weight reduction target because they are chunks of aluminum. Heat sinks have an affinity to parametric studies and is studied frequently in Alpine with the analysis tool. Through parametric studies, both weights and material cost are reduced by 10- 20 % in average. Also, there was a case where one of the two fans in a chassis could be removed by optimizing air circulation and operation point of the fan. This was a great cost-cutter.

Reducing the labor and increasing the research time for designing


Work after an analysis is already organized for design engineers, so Ms. Iwasaki wants to cut the analysis preparation time by simplifying preparations before analysis. For many years, HEAT Designer has only been used in simulation-dedicated computers, but now she is considering changing the license option from "node-locked" to "floating" in parallel with enhanced computer performance. Although she hopes for the design engineers to work on analyses smoothly, design engineers have been busy especially in recent years. They can hardly make time to study heat dissipation mechanisms using HEAT Designer so that Ms. Iwasaki's group has been receiving lots of requests for simulations. She cannot help the change in the design engineers' circumstances moving with the times, but she wants to give design engineers time to research thermal designs by improving the usage environment of the analysis tool and reducing the operation time. It is a consistent goal that she has been working to reach, but she is aiming for an environment that encourages generations of new design ideas, not merely aiming for a user-friendly system with simple and automated operations.

Also, design engineers in her office started using new analysis functions such as Particle (dust) and Solidification/Melting analysis. These functions are in scSTREAM. She has not decided to use scSTREAM in her group yet, but she is planning to incorporate design methods applicable to HEAT Designer into the training program.

Ms. Iwasaki has succeeded in radicating thermo-fluid analysis tool in Alpine by establishing an environment for busy engineers to use tools effectively and accurately. The successful achievement of training projects in Alpine will be helpful for those companies considering introducing a new system or having a hard time of radicating one after the introduction.

* All product and service names mentioned are registered trademarks or trademarks of respectable companies.
* Contents and specifications of products are as of March 1, 2011 and subject to change without notice. We shall not be held liable for any errors in figures and pictures, or any typographical errors.

Company Details

 

Alpine Electronics, Inc.
Date of Establishment May. 10th, 1967
Description of Business In-car Audio Products/In-car Information & Communication Products
President & CEO Toru Usami
Headquarters Tokyo, Japan
Paid-in Capital ¥25,920 million

 

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