Ralph Sundermeier - Volkswagen, Germany
Dr. Ralph Sundermeier grew up in Northrhine-Westfalia in Germany, went to school there as well as in Teheran / Iran. Later he studied at the Technical University Braunschweig and finished his PhD in Electrical Engineering in 1991 with works in the field of design and calculation of electromagnetic levitation.
Since then Dr. Sundermeier has been working for Volkswagen. He started in the department of engine production and was responsible for various projects in Germany. Working from 1996 to 1998 in China he was responsible to build up the engine plant and to start the local engine production. After that he was leading the department of Plastic Parts Manufacturing of the Volkswagen Group in Braunschweig. In 2003 Dr. Sundermeier became Managing Director of the "Centre for Mechatronics" at the Technical University Braunschweig, to help advance the transfer of scientific expertise to industry.
From 2005, Dr. Sundermeier has been working in the Technical Design Department of Volkswagen, where he is responsible for the interior calculation within car projects and mainly for the development of calculation methods. The methods developed by his team are integrated in the operative departments of Technical Design. His team also recommends yearly the software and hardware to be adopted for the calculations.
Frontloading by calculation - evolution or revolution?
During the last years – even in those with crisis - Volkswagen has been successful in delivering an increasing number of cars to their customers. An increasing amount of derivate may be one reason for this success, the adaption to local markets in combination with local development and production another reason. All those cars have been developed by a team, which has changed its size over the years only very moderately. Beside the “module” and “platform”-strategy of Volkswagen there was only one chance to handle that raising volume of car projects: more and more use of virtual methods.The chance for more virtual technics is given by the development of hardware. Moore’s law still seems to be true – for the same amount of money you will get every 18 months twice the calculation power on the hardware side.
More calculation within the car development process does mean: more calculation runs in established disciplines (using optimization tools, tolerance calculation etc.), new additional calculation methods, and more frontloading, calculation in an earlier phase of the project development.This leads to the chicken / egg problem: what has to be there first? First calculation runs are supposed to lead to reasonable design ideas, which in turn the calculation is based on. In other words: Frontloading means calculation without data, or with only a few data of parts being constructed and a lot of “best guess”. This will change calculation methods and calculation processes deeply. Time for a revolution?
During the execution it is shown, where new calculation methods were involved successfully and where there are still open issues. It is shown, what real frontloading means for the software in process, and where first successes are already achieved. And there will be an answer, whether evolution or revolution is needed.