Scania – a very large and well-known Swedish automotive company – establishes a partnership with PDC Center for High Performance Computing at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology to further improve the efficiency and performance of its vehicles using state of the art simulation and testing techniques.
Simulation and testing are critical components of the product development process at Scania. Before the use of high performance computing technologies, developing new vehicle components and designs was a time-consuming and costly process as prototypes of new ideas had to be built and then tested to simulate their real-world performance. However, the advent of high performance computing made it possible to perform multiple complex calculations fast enough for it to be feasible to create mathematical models of new vehicle designs and to simulate their performance using supercomputers. Utilising high performance computing resources for simulation-based product development has enabled Scania to shorten lead times in their development process while building fewer physical prototypes and improving both the quality and properties of their products.
To this end, Scania has been in a strategic partnership with PDC since 2010. Thanks to the collaboration with PDC, Scania has access to world-class HPC resources and an HPC environment where they can perform benchmarking tests on HPC resources, share and discuss their experience with other experts in the area and thus promote knowledge transfer, and also balance their peak load in-house needs for computer resources. With assistance from PDC’s computational fluid dynamics (CFD) experts, Scania’s researchers and developers have been running simulations that cover all aspects of processing and productions at Scania – ranging from engine combustion simulations, structure and strength analysis, and cabin thermal and road aerodynamic simulations. Currently Scania is co-funding 10% of the Cray XC40 supercomputer system, Beskow, at PDC and has a commensurate time allocation on Beskow of 2 million core hours per month for performing their research. At present, Scania is using several software applications at PDC, including PowerFLOW, STAR-CCM+ and OpenFOAM.
Irregular utilization complicates efficient use of HPC resources
As a manufacturer of heavy commercial vehicles, Scania has their own computing environments which have the computational resources to carry out various forms of Finite element method (FEM) and CFD simulations. However, while such simulations are an increasingly important part of the automotive development process, they also require a very large computing capacity, which continues to grow as models and simulation methods become even more accurate and hence more complex. One of the characteristics of this type of computational industrial research work is that it is project-driven and may consequently vary significantly over time in its intensity. This makes it hard for a company to make efficient use of their own HPC resources if they provide all their own computational resources, as there will be periods when the systems are not being fully utilised. It is therefore more efficient for such industrial research to be at least partially undertaken on HPC resources external to the company. In this respect PDC provides Scania with resources for elastic off-loading, as well as the possibility of larger scale simulation –primarily on PDC’s Cray XC40 system, Beskow. It is worth noting that, for reasons of industrial security, Scania requires a higher level of verifiable confidentiality than most of the academic researchers using PDC’s systems. Under the joint collaboration agreement, PDC provides Scania with a suitably secure computer environment, and PDC can also provide the required level of security for other industrial research concerns that enter into collaboration agreements with PDC.
In light of the benefits of their collaboration to date, Scania and PDC have agreed to continue their cooperation in the area of “High Performance Computing” focusing on the following areas:
- making computing capacity at PDC available to Scania,
- implementing related research and development projects focusing on solving technical problems, developing methods and so forth,
- exchanging relevant HPC skills and knowledge, and
- implementing thesis work and support of postgraduate education in the HPC area.
The aim of EXCELLERAT is to leverage this partnership combining its efforts with the efforts of similar partnerships and interest groups in order to amplify and deepen the impact of this work. The sharing of advanced research results with the wider engineering community will allow to achieve sufficient methodological base for engineers to overcome their challenges one step at a time, one step faster.