The average cost of the connective wiring system in a car is £300. Electrical problems account for an estimated 20% to 25% of warranty costs. So if software could be used to optimise these systems to reduce their cost as well as iron out many of their potential failings, it would be a valuable design tool.

At the heart of just such a design tool for the automotive industry is knowledge-based engineering software called ICAD. ICAD lets a manufacturing organisation capture geometric CAD definitions and combine them with an expert knowledge base of product rules, performance data, legislative and safety codes and design and manufacturing best practice.

Part of the Integrated Car Engineer software suite from Concentra, ICE Electrical Systems Design avoids some of the pitfalls of the past: 2D CAD systems to record electrical connectivity, 3D CAD to package the physical electrical system; databases which pass data between the tools and a variety of diagnostic packages which can validate aspects of the design. All of which add to the fragmentation of the design process.

The Concentra tool, on the other hand, redefines the electrical design process as two interlocking parts: high level design specifications and routine, rule-driven detail. It automates the routine detail, allowing the engineer to work with the high level specifications. Because the software supports the full design cycle from concept through to manufacture, and the correct design rules are already captured in the KBE system, an error-free design with schematics, geometry, parts, connectivity, cost and weight, can be generated extremely fast, sometimes in less than an hour.

Engineers can then explore a whole range of design options before they decide on the most suitable one.

Figure 1: Top left: 3D vehicle; top right; analysis of main beam circuit; bottom left: conduit installation showing occupied paths; bottom right: full circuit schematic

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