Max Verstappen’s victory in the Formula 1 Belgian GP was not only a win, but also further confirmation of the Red Bull Racing driver's new position as the hottest name in the F1 circus. The Verstappen era began last December, with the Belgian-Dutch driver claiming his first world championship after a nine-calendar-month-long 2021 season, with races in virtually every part of the world.
One factor that makes the events in Formula 1 hyper-interesting when it comes to PLM and product development is the racing industry's role as a high-tech and production-wise peak for automotive industrial operations. The development of Formula 1 cars is a continuous process at an incredibly high-pressured pace, where all teams, year-round, design and re-design their own chassis. In many cases, this is done with the help of the best industrial IT systems that the PLM industry can offer. In this regard, Formula 1 is a technology-driven fight to develop the most technically outstanding and efficient car—with lightweight materials, optimized suspension, weight distribution and aerodynamics—as it is a competition on the track.
When it comes to PLM, the Red Bull Racing team is equipped with Siemens Digital Industries Software's software solutions. But they also use Ansys CFD for internal and external aerodynamics, Ansys Granta MI for materials data management and materials information and Ansys LS Dyna for virtual impact testing.
Change management is of particular importance as the volume of design changes can involve up to 1,000 changes per week between races. This requires razor-sharp infrastructure. Red Bull Racing's CIO, Matt Cadieux, believes they have "the right foundation" with Siemens' cPDm program Teamcenter as the backbone.
On the CAD side, Red Bull Racing works with Siemens NX as well as a range of Siemens software in the CAE area, such as Fibersim for composite analysis.
Tough Sporting and Technical Challenges
Formula 1 is known for offering one of the toughest sporting challenges and is considered the crowning glory of motorsport. But as I said above, the sport is also a place where engineers can compete in innovation, which happens through a process of continuous evaluation, development and optimization.
In Formula 1, each team largely develops its own car, from concept to finished chassis, with a minimum of standardized components. Here, Siemens' NX CAD program plays a key role, but what has become increasingly important in F1 is simulation.
Before the 2022 season, the technical regulations drastically changed—particularly in terms of aerodynamics. This brought simulation into the spotlight. The idea behind the regulation changes was to dramatically increase the intensity of events on the racetracks with, for example, more overtaking. For Oracle Red Bull Racing and other teams, these rule changes created new challenges.
“With cost caps in place we’ll still adjust the car throughout the season, but we will need to be more selective about the number and nature of changes, use simulation even more and rigorously manage our burn rate,” said Matt Cadieux, chief information officer (CIO), in a case study published by Siemens. “Fortunately, we have the infrastructure in place so that we can make effective data-driven decisions.”
High Quality PLM Platform
This infrastructure, using Teamcenter and NX—both of which are part of the Xcelerator PLM portfolio—provides a comprehensive and integrated portfolio of software and services from Siemens Digital Industries Software. The collaboration was already established in 2005 when Red Bull Racing entered into a partnership with Siemens, making Siemens one of the oldest partners of the famous racing team.
“Because we have a small IT team, we originally wanted a high-quality platform with excellent technical support,” continued Cadieux. “With access to Siemens leadership and expertise, we have developed flexible yet streamlined workflows and ironed out bottlenecks. As a result, we have clear visibility into the development process, we manufacture directly from digital models and can easily make changes in order to improve performance in the factory and on the racetrack.”
Event-Specific BOM’s For Each Race
An interesting angle on Formula 1 vehicles is that there is not really a finished product. A car is more of a prototype that is continuously evolving and undergoes as many as 1,000 design changes every week.
Sharpened technology throughput can therefore create a real advantage on the track if the envisioned innovations can be implemented quickly.
In order to quickly implement these innovations, Red Bull Racing is dependent on a world-class digital PLM backbone. These tools are in place to design new components, test them virtually, arrange manufacturing with as few mouse clicks as possible and then install them in a car at destinations all over the world.
Teamcenter data is used, among other things, to generate event-specific BOMs (Bill of Materials) for each race, in addition to a master BOM for the entire season's design work.
The latter BOMs list all the components and parts designed for the car during the year, while the other event or track-specific BOMs take information from this and describe all the items and components required to set the car up for a specific competition.
Maintaining fresh information in the BOMs means that the Red Bull Racing team works in real-time, to ensure that parts are handled correctly throughout the manufacturing process, and later where and when the car is used for racing.
30,000 Design Changes in One Season
The Red Bull Racing team has a flexible pool of engineers that performs some of its work based on the BOMs. They work within different groups that focus on different things, such as composites, suspension, hydraulics, transmission and system design. These specialists look at performance, vehicle dynamics, fluid dynamics (CFD) and stress analysis.
With Teamcenter, all parts of the car can be brought together in a single collaborative environment. Users have all interfaces related to their own group's and other groups' activities available in real time.
One result of this is that all problems can be identified early and then followed in parallel as they are remedied. And these capabilities are needed given the tough tasks the Red Bull Racing team faces during the season: They have five complete fully-equipped vehicle sets, run 22 races worldwide, have 7,500 unique components in each car, make upwards of 30,000 design changes in a season and send 40,000 kilos of air and sea freight to each race location. Formula 1 racing is undeniably a world of dizzying numbers and logistical challenges.
Ansys and HPE Complement on the Simulation Side
But there are more companies developing PLM-related solutions used by the Red Bull team. Before each race, thousands of scenarios are evaluated and simulated, from pit stops to tire strategy and what set-up the car should have.
During each race, on-site personnel then collect tons of data that enables them to better react to events in the current race, but which will also be used for continued development of the car. This data is also forwarded to the headquarters in Milton Keynes, England.
As well as the Siemens Xcelerator apps, when it comes to aerodynamics the Red Bull Racing team benefits from HPE's Apollo solutions for virtual performance testing and evaluation of refinements to existing parts. Something similar also applies to new components before they are wind tunnel-tested in scale models of 60 percent size.
Worth mentioning is that the costly wind tunnel testing is limited in the regulations, which is why precise simulations are of the utmost importance. Data from the wind tunnel is handled using HPE Nimble, while data from race weekends is handled by HPE SimpliVity among other tools as part of the stable's mobile data center.
As mentioned at the beginning, Ansys LS Dyna is used for simulation of crash tests. But Red Bull also has an agreement with team sponsor Oracle concerning data-heavy and demanding areas such as simulation and analysis.
The Winds of Change are Blowing in Formula 1
All in all, it must be said that the winds of change are blowing in motorsport, and especially in Formula 1. This is not only in terms of drivers and their performances, but also in how the technology behind the F1 cars' progress is managed. This type of combination between glamor and top technology has a very special attraction for PLM developers with tangential IT and data management-related technology.
Here, the Red Bull Racing team can now boast that in terms of their digital process setup, they have come a long way in their setup—and right now, probably the furthest of all.