“Using Creo Elements/Pro we are able to optimize our product designs at an early stage in the development cycle, avoiding expensive and time consuming rework phases late in our projects.” Simon Dobson, Chief Mechanical Engineer, Axeon, Dundee, Scotland
Axeon is Europe’s biggest independent lithium-ion battery systems providers. They process in excess of 70 million cells per year and supply large volume productions of cells for international markets. The enterprise creates large-scale automotive grade battery systems for the use in vehicles- both electric and hybrid-electric. In addition, Axeon has created a market-leading Battery Management System, which has been proven to have warranted performance that is both reliable and safe. Axeon also supplies cell solutions for other uses, such as power tools.
The proposition for Axeon: create a powerful, yet lightweight cell for electrical vehicles
Recently, Axeon have been able to grow in the market for electrical vehicles as a result of increased interest in creating electrical vehicles. Before this growth, the main priority was on mobile objects, for example battery backs and also AA cells. As a result of increased environment interest, Axeon is able to place more focus on larger scale vehicle Battery Management Systems. Yet, creating larger cells, with increase weight etc., it is necessary to perform more in-depth analytics.
Axeon create a variety of batteries for their expanding customer base, and, new customer in particular, regularly require time to fully appreciate how the technology can be applied to their product. As a result of the current battery technology, in the past Axeon has relied on weighty and large cells to ensure there is enough energy in the application. Axeon’s challenge was to create a powerful, yet lightweight battery for the expanding electric vehicle market, and importantly be confident they could fully test and analyse the product before putting it into production.
The answer: create the optimised solution using both Creo Elements/Pro and Windchill PDMLink
Axeon adopted the PTC 3D product design software solution Creo Pro to design and create the different parts of their battery. In particular, they used the Routed Systems Designer to create all the electrical and wiring schematics, Creo Elements/Pro for their mechanical design, the Cabling Extension to route cable directly on the Creo Elements/Pro model, and Creo Elements/Pro Mechanica to test and analyse before building the product. By using Creo Elements/ Pro, Axeon was able to use virtual prototyping to re-create a real-world test environment. Additionally, using Windchill PDMLink, ensured that Axeon was fully able to control the development.
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Outcome: decreased time in product development resulting in reduced design costs
Axeon created a design that maximised the power of the battery, while maintaining a lightweight form, an enhancement on earlier designs, which were larger, more bulky and require more materials. By utilising Creo Elements/Pro, Axeon was able to look at the designs they created and analyse their design potential at an early stage. Previous to Creo Elements/Pro, it would be necessary for the engineers to make models of all the separate parts and then create a physical prototype, so that they could uncover any design flaws or issues. Now it is possible to create and analyse the whole battery system using a virtual prototype, which allows them to take decisions early in the design process on the viability of the design.
Simon Dobson, Chief Mechanical Engineer at Axeon explains, “The biggest challenge we have is providing sufficient energy density in our systems. Current cell technologies require us to utilize many heavy and bulky cells to achieve the required power capacity.”
Typical vehicle batteries deliver 300 volts and require approximately 90 cells to create the battery system. Axeon’s engineers have a modular approach to the way the cells are packaged, partly for material handling within the plant, and partly to help make subassemblies that can be dropped into the larger battery system. The engineers can test the modules offline to make sure they meet the quality standard, work with the electronics, and then install the modules into a final Battery System.
Choosing Creo Elements/Pro for modeling and design
“Using Creo Elements/Pro for modeling and design helps us to meet the challenge of making a structure that carries all this battery power strong and light, so that we minimize the payload of the vehicles,” says Dobson. “Without an optimized design, you could potentially add quite a considerable weight to an existing vehicle.”
“One of the reasons we use Creo Elements/Pro is to be able to design the system and subject it to a real-world environment that simulate actual conditions. Using Creo Elements/Pro we can look at long-term effects of vibration on the individual components, using fatigue advisor. So instead of having to go through the entire development cycle and then finding out that the design will fail, we can run the simulation virtually without having to make that initial physical prototype.”
Creo Elements/Pro enables Axeon to create multiple iterations to fine-tune and improve the design long before they’ve had to develop it or spend the money to produce it.
“So basically, if we hadn’t done a simulation, and the final product didn’t work, we could have lost two months of project time. Incorporating Creo Elements/Pro into the design process makes us much more confident of our designs,” finished Dobson.
Windchill helps control and share the documentation
Axeon uses Windchill PDMLink to control their computer aided design (CAD) documentation allowing them to get all of the specifications and design documentation into one environment. Within Windchill, the Axeon engineers can create template models to drive new product structures to the rest of the organization. The engineers are able to share this BoM detail with the procurement team, so they can review the reports and begin to understand the product under development.
The integral change management functionality in Windchill allows Axeon Engineering to keep accurate revision control of all components and assemblies as modifications are made.
Dobson continues, “One of the difficulties in design is the integrity of your data. Knowing that you have the right component, the right path, the right version of anything is quite a challenge. If you get it wrong it can be an expensive mistake. One of the great things about Windchill PDMLink is that there is ‘one truth.’ It certainly takes a lot of stress away by making sure that you’ve got the right parts in your assembly.”
Enabling electric vehicles
As increasingly more companies intend to use electric batteries in their vehicles, they are looking to Axeon to provide the solutions for their precise requirements. By utilising PTC’s Creo Elements/Pro design tool, Axeon can examine and analyse the design of a battery before it is manufactured, reducing product development time and costs. In addition, by using PTC’s Windchill PDMLink Axeon is able to manage and share data throughout the product development for increased collaboration within the company.
Dobson concludes, “Creo Elements/Pro is a kind of ‘warranty protection’ for our battery systems. We get a chance to explore multiple iterations to improve our design long before our customers get the product.”
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