Peggy Aycinena is a freelance journalist and Editor of EDA Confidential at www.aycinena.com. She can be reached at peggy at aycinena dot com.
Zuken: Going Meta on Automotive Design
November 26th, 2014 by Peggy Aycinena
Things are really heating up in automotive design and innovation. Last week, the Bosch ICCAD keynote about self-driving cars was covered here, and this week it’s Zuken’s latest automotive-related announcement regarding the launch of E3.HarnessAnalyzer and the acquisition of software IP from Intedis.
Per the company: “E3.HarnessAnalyzer complements Zuken’s automotive technology portfolio formed around the E3.series [Electrical wiring, control systems and fluid engineering software] and Cabling Designer. E3.HarnessAnalyzer, based on an existing Intedis product, is a powerful tool for viewing and analyzing harness drawings in the standard HCV container data format, which combines KBL (physical data model) and SVG (vector graphics) data. The tool supports efficient collaboration through powerful analysis, redlining, and version-compare functionality [and] provides ease-of-use for sharing comprehensive harness design models and documents with internal or external project teams.”
When I spoke to Zuken reps in Germany about all of this during a phone call in early November, my first questions were about Bosch, having just heard the ICCAD keynote that week, and Mentor Graphics, a company that’s had a foot in the auto-harness market for many years.
Reinhold Blank, Zuken Business Director for Automotive, responded promptly.
“Yes,” he said, “designers must be aware of the CPUs, for which Bosch is using Zuken tools. An ECU in a car is like a small computer consisting of chips on a board and the software, but EDA alone cannot solve the challenges of automotive systems because EDA is [only] a component issue.
“For automotive systems, where development is extremely complex [and involves] a network of 80 or 100 different computers, thousands of wires and thousands of components – to have all of this in one development process presents a much bigger challenge.
“If you look at real design processes in the automotive world you will see there are a lot of stakeholders involved. If everything was developed by one company in one location, it would be much easier. But in reality, the electrical systems in a car, of which there are about 200 different systems today, are being developed in up to 200 different locations. Just imagine how complex this development is!
“Quite some time ago, Zuken realized the need here and started talking about automotive and electronics [together]. We recognized the need and have now concentrated all of our activities in the automotive market, even though they represent different domains. We have been able to successfully connect these issues and are now bringing additional tools to our tool suite.”
Blank referenced my earlier comment: “You mentioned Mentor Graphics. Yes, they are a big player in the transportation area, but more than 40 percent of the cars produced today worldwide are designed by companies using Zuken tools in the schematic area. We are [in fact] at the same level in the market as Mentor.
“The rest of the market may see us as a niche player, but they would be totally wrong. Big customers in the Western market – everyone from Ford to Chrysler, Mercedes and BMW, plus the complete Japanese market of automotive manufacturers – have brought us more than 40 percent of the market worldwide.”
Blank said this is part of the motivation for Zuken’s recent purchase of Intedis IP and the E3.HarnessAnalyzer launch: “It’s actually positioned for OEMs to use the data created by other players in the harness [design chain]. And it’s targeted at the designers to help them understand their harnesses better.
“[In our experience] an automotive harness requires over a year of distributed development, that special combination of several hundred wires being engineered by companies like Delphi and Leoni, etc. But as harness suppliers are doing this development, OEMs also want to use the data for their own internal development. It’s exactly to cover these needs the E3.HarnessAnalyzer was developed.”
I asked Blank if the new tool will change how automotive systems are developed; will it sharply improve collaborative design of complex automotive systems?
He said, “From my point of view, this product is not necessarily changing the world, but it is one important piece in the bigger battle which we are working on, to bring additional products to the market, step-by-step, to cover the needs of automotive customers.”
“And,” he added, “our work is being functionally driven by the German OEMs. They have very specific ways for handling the logistics of design, how to organize the harness and the [associated] data structures. Of course, their point of view also works for the American OEMs.”
Blank elaborated briefly on the new tool: “A simple summary would include: a comprehensive view of the harness analyzer, a Google-like search function across all technical elements in the design, excellent performance with big harness schematics, the support of modular structures for the German automotive OEMs, and support for customer-specific harness designs.
“In addition, whereas previously, design required that the [tool suite] be all Zuken or all Mentor, etc., now there are standards for interoperability which mean that all data can be [ported] between the tools. At the end of the day, this is what the automotive OEMs really need – a tool to use the design data, not to create it.
“At an earlier time, the issue for designers was one of sending paper drawings up to 50 meters long and 1 meter wide around the design team for analysis, or a TIF file without any logical data behind it. Redlining with a pen was the only way to indicate ‘change this’ or ‘change that’.
“Now E3.HarnessAnalyzer is not only replacing paper, it’s providing logical data and also enabling a distributed design process and seamless [interaction] between harness suppliers and the OEMs, development partners who are totally different, yet share common needs for data.”
Zuken announces plans to extend global competencies in transportation, and to provide electronic architecture and wiring harness tools to meet future challenges of OEMs and their suppliers. The expansion is underpinned by a new technology competence center for transportation in Erlangen, Germany, within the IGZ Innovation and Incubation Center. The Zuken center is composed of an established team, several members of which have more than 12 years’ experience in automotive electrical/electronic engineering.
Reinhold Blank has been appointed Business Director Automotive there, and is responsible for spearheading the development of dedicated solutions for automotive, special vehicles, and the wider transportation market, work that will be enabled by an ongoing exchange of expertise between Zuken’s technical experts in established automotive and transportation bases across Asia, Europe and the U.S.
Blank has more than 25 years of experience in ECAD, with recent positions at Leoni and Intedis. His technical expertise lies in developing electronic architecture and wiring-harness tool solutions. He brings global market experience, most recently within China as General Manager for Intedis in Shanghai.