Issue: May 2012


Process Integration and Design Optimization (PIDO) tools



Ai interview - Carlo Poloni, president of ESTECO and professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Trieste

by Tony Davidson

The Italian software company, ESTECO SpA, is a world leader in the field of Process Integration and Design Optimization (PIDO) tools. Founded in 1999, the company is a strategic supplier of integration, simulation and optimization technology as well as consulting services to engineers and researchers in the automotive, aerospace, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, petrochemical and life science industry. The company describes itself as one of the front runners in multi-disciplinary and multi-objective design optimization technology, offering a world-class product: modeFRONTIER.

modeFRONTIER is a multidisciplinary and multi-objective optimization platform designed for an easy coupling with numerous computer aided engineering (CAE) tool, whether commercial or in-house." Using a variety of state-of-the-art optimization techniques, ranging from gradient-based methods to genetic algorithms, users can optimize their process or design by specifying objectives and defining variables that affect factors such as geometric shape and operating conditions.

modeFRONTIER® becomes a wrapper around the CAE tool, performing the optimization by modifying the value assigned to the input variables, and monitoring the outputs.

modeFRONTIER has been widely used in CAE applications for the automotive industry. The accomplishments involve all the automotive engineering fields, like car dynamics, engine CFD, crash issues, electronics, etc, taking full advantage of modeFRONTIER’s capabilities in finding solutions for the automotive design challenges.

modeFRONTIER® integration with NX takes parametric CAD modeling automation and optimization to the next level. Any complex project involving multi-disciplinary tools can be streamlined by our easy-to-use process flow integration while enhancing the engineers’ and the decision makers’ capabilities by filtering only useful information and automating frequent tasks.

“In the last 20 years computer simulation has become an indispensable tool in automotive development. Tremendous progress in software and computer technology make it possible today to assess product and process performance before physical prototypes have been built. Applications of computer simulation cover nearly all aspects of product and process design from crashworthiness to manufacturability. Despite significant progress in simulation technology and impressive results in industrial application a number of problems (challenges) remain which prevent a 100 per cent digital prototyping,” says the company.

ESTECO was founded in 1999 by three Italian engineers, Carlo Poloni, Luka Onesti and Enrico Nobile, who were seeking to transfer the knowledge acquired working on a European Union funded project on design optimization called ‘Frontier’ into a successful commercial product. The original EU project started in 1996, involving international partners such as British Aerospace (UK), Parallab (Norway), Università di Trieste (Italy), University of Newcastle (UK), Daimler-Benz Aerospace (Germany), Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (UK), Electrolux-Zanussi (Italy) and Calortecnica (Italy), with the aim of developing a technology able to drive industrial competition throughout Europe for years to come. In the last year of the project Enginsoft S.p.A. was appointed as sub-contractor for the evaluation of the commercial potential of "Frontier", the software. After achieving positive results, Enginsoft and the three researchers decided to found a new company acquiring the IP of the project.
ESTECO expanded internationally with Enginsoft S.p.A. in Europe, CDAJ in Japan and in 2004 opened its own branch in the USA - ESTECO North America. “Our staff’s competences embrace all technological components needed for integrating design and simulation tools into a single IT environment, including the application of computational tools for analysis and business process purposes. The technology we develop is considered an ideal benchmark for multidisciplinary integration in any CAE environment. Our products and services are designed to serve decision making processes pertaining to a variety of fields: from manufacturing design to the electrical engineering market, from chemical to biomedical to business analysis,” says the company.

ESTECO was selected as one of the successful innovators from the North East of Italy in March 2012 at the Festival CittàImpresa for being a visionary ‘Ideas Factory’. This initiative aims at promoting the culture of innovation spotlighting the best practices both in the profit and no-profit sectors integrating workcraft traditions and creativity contributing to the economic and social growth of the region. On May 21st this year, ESTECO will be highlighting its strong ties with universities and research institutes at the 2012 edition of the Users’ Meeting with its round table entitled “Future educational challenges for scientific and technical professions”. One of the most distinguished guests expected to attend this round table, along with Carlo Poloni, president of ESTECO is the world’s leading expert in genetic algorithms, David Goldberg, who will present his views and work on structuring the engineering curricula for the future as co-founder and co-director of iFoundry.

Automotive Industries spoke to Carlo Poloni, president of ESTECO and professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Trieste.

AI: Tell us a little about how modeFRONTIER has been used to design improved efficiencies of engines.

All car manufacturers aim at reducing manufacturing costs and development time, and this is particularly valid for the engine and its parts. The main challenge here is to find the optimum as fast as possible, ensuring at the same time its accuracy and limiting costs. modeFRONTIER has been an important instrument for reaching these goals in a number of cases, for example in the calibration of an internal combustion engine, multi-objective optimization of engine design and increasing the energy efficiency of a gasoline direct injection engine. The latter is particularly significant in view of the environmental concerns and the need to reduce fuel consumption, thus increasing general engine performance.

AI: How does it work in the design of electric vehicles?

The application of modeFRONTIER in the design of electric vehicle is even more important that in the design of traditional vehicle: the electric motor, the batteries and the role of the traditional engine in case of hybrids are all aspects that can be simulated and coupled in a design process schematized with our software. Finding the right compromise on cost/performance in the case of new engineering concepts is therefore a must.
Several manufactures have in fact adopted our software in the R&D department and in particular for electric vehicle design.

AI: What makes modeFRONTIER easy to use by automotive engineers in a variety of applications from car dynamics to crash issues?

An intuitive interface and the definition of a “common designer language” that promote the focusing of the specialist on global goals. As a matter of fact, the use of our product helps focus on the objectives of the design and promote collaboration between experts who should exchange models instead of specs allowing in the end the adoption of better decisions.

AI: When do you expect to launch version 5 of modeFRONTIER?

Our software architects work always very hard on the development of new software versions, keeping up with emerging and existing market trends and taking constantly into account clients’ requirements so we try to come out with a new software version (minor or major) every 6 months. With our version 5 we are prioritizing product usability, flexibility and performance and we are planning to offer modeFRONTIER v5 in the early months of next year.

AI: How closely does ESTECO work with automotive manufacturers? Please give us some case studies.

From the beginning we recognized the automotive industries as one of the main application fields of optimization technologies and many important companies, such as BMW, Ducati, Ferrari, Fiat, Ford, Jaguar Land Rover, Honda, Toyota and Volvo, soon became enthusiastic users of modeFRONTIER. Not by chance the automotive sector currently represents our chief market, accounting for approximately 50% of installed software, even though other markets are taking off as well with much success. modeFRONTIER has been used to optimize a number of different vehicle aspects: from restraint systems and impact design, aerodynamics of both passenger and race cars, to engine design, fuel consumption and emissions and overall cost-effectiveness.

AI: Your company works closely with educational and research institutions – please tell us a little about the symbiotic relationship ESTECO shares with such organizations?

The company’s strength lies in its strong orientation and reliance on research and continuous investments in young, highly educated and skilled staff. We’ve managed to maintain our prominent position in the world of engineering technology and science by closely following current and emerging trends and exploring the new frontiers of application of optimization tools. In fact, ESTECO’s philosophy is reflected in its cooperation with some of the world’s most prestigious research institutes and universities, such as the FIAT Research Center, Stanford University, Georgia Institute of Technology and Yokohama National University, just to name some of them.

AI: Tell us a little about the Users Conference being held on May 21st this year – what are some of the issues that you personally will be focusing on?

This year we are celebrating the fifth edition of our modeFRONTIER Users’ Meeting, which ESTECO has been organizing every two years since 2004. Our speakers and participants are active modeFRONTIER users coming from every corner of the world to share their experience and knowledge with other users, address some of the most relevant issues of the sector and learn about the enormous potential and new uses of our software. I am particularly interested to learn how modeFRONTIER has been used in new or innovative applications since this will allows us to explore those fields even further, the automotive sector being no exception to this.

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