There aren’t many instances where you can convince people to stand in line and wait for hours on end in return for a two-minute experience, but a rollercoaster ride is one of them. Thrill seekers have been known to queue for as long as 10 hours in anticipation of the adrenaline rush that comes with hurtling through tight turns and loops and plunging down vertical drops. And theme park operators show no signs of holding back in their quest to create even more extreme and extravagant rides that will entice more visitors to their parks.
But creating these thrills comes at a high price. Considering that it can cost as much as US$300 million to develop a rollercoaster, amusement park owners must be sure about a new design before committing to building it. Indeed, the substantial level of capital investment is one of the biggest barriers to creating bigger, faster and more imaginative rides. But change is on the horizon.
Simone Bernardini is CEO of the Italian amusement parks and rides engineering company Extreme Analyzes Engineering. He believes that simulation combined with additive manufacturing holds the key to dramatically reducing rollercoaster development and running costs. And he’s using the 3DEXPERIENCE platform to make it happen.
“Using virtual twin experiences, we can clearly define a new concept and virtually create and test a prototype to determine exactly how a ride will behave before physically building it,” he said. “Our simulations accurately recreate real conditions to support decision making. And while additive manufacturing is a new technology and requires a great deal of experience and expertise to ensure the rides work as they should, the result could significantly improve operational performance. Parts are produced in a different way and are made from composites, which are much lighter. Without traditional manufacturing limitations, we are completely free to create new geometries and reduce the material we use without impacting structural integrity. This is imperative for meeting safety standards.”
Our methods for topological design and production with additive manufacturing are patented. The platform is key here as it delivers a supervised method of control for design and production management of structural components with additive manufacturing.
In 2019, Bernardini contacted the Design Tools And Methods in Industrial Engineering Laboratory at Padua University in Italy to help bring his vision to life. The aim was to develop a new additive manufacturing process and methodology to determine its potential for efficiently creating a rollercoaster part that would meet industry safety standards. The team at Padua University was involved into the design of the parts with the innovative methodology.
First, Extreme Analyses Engineering needed to determine which technology to use to support the project. The startup consulted its trusted technology provider Exemplar, a Dassault Systèmes business partner, specifying the need for a platform that would bring all required functionality together in one place.
“We didn’t want to have to transfer data between applications, risking losing information and intelligence along the way,” Bernardini said. “We wanted to manage all communication in a single place and that’s where the 3DEXPERIENCE platform came up. We were already using SOLIDWORKS for design and had begun to explore the capabilities in SIMULIA for simulation. Our aim was to achieve process automation and take away the time-consuming nature of running analyses.”
Today, Extreme Analyses Engineering uses the 3DEXPERIENCE platform on the cloud with SOLIDWORKS, SIMULIA and ENOVIA to bring its additive manufacturing vision to life.
“The team at the University of Padua were involved in part design and checking the quality of the additive manufacturing process,” Bernardini said. “They tested how the 3DEXPERIENCE platform fitted with our processes, determined whether it would suit our needs.
This team has also adopted the platform as standard environment for training in its laboratory.
The Technologic and Scientific Park of Verona is another key partner in Simone Bernardini project: they have supported the validation process for the printed prototype.
Extreme Analyzes Engineering opted for a cloud version of the 3DEXPERIENCE platform for three key reasons: cost, flexibility and scale.
“We chose the cloud for the cost savings, especially at the beginning,” Bernardini said. “We only wanted to have a small upfront investment, so it didn’t feel like such a risk. Plus, the cloud platform is more flexible and delivers the high-performance computing requirements we need, scaling up as and when we require.”
Working closely with the university, Exemplar and Dassault Systèmes, Extreme Analyses Engineering succeeded in making the 3DEXPERIENCE platform work for its business.
“Our partnership with the university opened up our minds and pushed us to innovate,” Bernardini said. “Together, we increased the quality of the product and brought in an engineering student with the software expertise and technical skills we needed. Exemplar played a key role too. The platform is a very rich application and they helped us to understand how to use it for our specific needs. We’re in daily contact with their technical office. They have allowed us to reduce development time and improve our system.”
Using simulation and additive manufacturing, Bernardini and his team succeeded in halving the time it takes to develop new rollercoaster parts while optimizing the performance of a ride.
“With simulation and additive manufacturing, it takes around three to four months to create a train,” Bernardini said. “It takes double that with the traditional approach and uses far more energy. We estimate that our clients can save around 30% in development and running costs. From ideation to production, we are much faster.”
The team began by using the 3DEXPERIENCE platform to design and 3D print the seat on a rollercoaster train.
“If you reduce the weight of individual components, you reduce the weight of the entire ride and that leads to energy and cost savings,” Bernardini explained. “You don’t need as big a motor to power the train and it’s easier to brake as well. Compared to a standard seat model, we reduced the weight by 30%. With this approach, we can achieve a 65% mass reduction of moving parts on the train and a 30% mass reduction of the supporting structure.”
By virtually developing an entire car for an anti-gravity rollercoaster, Extreme Analyses Engineering has proven just how light parts can be with this new approach.
“We modeled all the geometric and dimensional constraints,” Bernardini said. “The 3DEXPERIENCE platform gave us the design space to create each part in context, taking into account parts that already exist and won’t change, and carry out topological optimization. Then we created a scenario for the physics aspect, such as load and speed. We also used the platform to validate stiffness before creating the final model. We got the 'bogie' down from 95.7 kilograms to just 24.3 kilograms.”
Having lighter weight moving parts on the rollercoaster will lead to reduced maintenance costs too.
“The weight on each wheel is far less, so you need to replace parts less often,” Bernardini said. “And with the ability to 3D print components quickly, you can remove faulty parts and easily replace them without having to change the entire train.”
International safety standards are critical for ensuring that rollercoaster designers and manufacturers deliver the highest design, engineering and production quality. These standards require them to carry out finite element analysis (FEA), dynamic analysis and risk and hazard calculations. They must also design for maintenance to optimize the durability of the rollercoaster over its expected lifetime.
“Exemplar helped us to define the FKM methodology [a guideline for analyzing the strength of mechanical components set by the German Research Association of Mechanical Engineering] in the 3DEXPERIENCE platform to ensure that all the work at every stage of product development is done according to industry best practices,” Bernardini said. “Our process is as follows: model creation in CAD, finite element method (FEM) optimization, model reconstruction, FEA validation and final model.
“Typically, a client presents us with a 2D drawing and we use SOLIDWORKS to turn it into a 3D model,” Bernardini added. “ENOVIA's POWER’BY capabilities allows us to quickly and easily connect SOLIDWORKS to the 3DEXPERIENCE platform. It’s a great application. If we modify something in SOLIDWORKS, it updates automatically in the platform.”
Extreme Analyses Engineering then optimizes the design using SIMULIA.
“We create the preliminary validation and check the frame using the robust simulation capabilities in SIMULIA,” Bernardini said. “The final 3D model comes from us after optimization, reconstruction and a lot of validation. There’s a lot we do in the platform, including photographic analyses. We also virtually tested different materials and decided to go with the aluminum alloy AISi10Mg and steel. It’s a proven material and much lighter.”
Extreme Analyses Engineering has three patents related directly to its additive manufacturing project – one for design, one for the special shape of the ride seat, and one for the production methodology aligned with quality standards, all managed within the 3DEXPERIENCE platform.
“Our methods for topological design and production with additive manufacturing are patented,” Bernardini said. “The platform is key here as it delivers a supervised method of control for design and production management of structural components with additive manufacturing.”
Bernardini explained in more detail what the production patent covers: “In our manufacturing workflow, each process must meet set criteria, including minimum requirements and machine operator competence. In the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, we define what the 3D printing machine will do and ensure that production exactly follows the simulation. We also have set post-processing checks related to production and topology, such as testing the density and porosity of the parts.”
Extreme Analyzes Engineering also manages all safety certification documents within the 3DEXPERIENCE platform with ENOVIA.
“Every part we make has all its certification documentation attached to it, documenting every step,” Bernardini said. “The 3DEXPERIENCE platform hosts the production system information, recording all of the 3D printed layers, slice by slice. All information exchanged between the platform and printer is logged.”
Until now, 3D printing has largely been used for prototype production rather than for making final products. But Bernardini believes it has the potential to do both.
“Additive manufacturing always tends to be used for prototyping, but it’s ready for full production,” he said. “The technology is improving all the time and the more advanced 3D printers will be able to produce faster and bring down costs.”
Plans are afoot to set up a new company within Extreme Analyses Engineering to explore innovative production methods.
“The company will focus on additive manufacturing,” Bernardini said. “We will use the 3DEXPERIENCE platform to manage new production processes that embrace Industry 4.0 concepts, creating completely connected workflows from 3D model design to production. Our aim is to create the final rollercoaster parts and assemble them ourselves.”
As he looks to the future, Bernardini is excited about how much additive manufacturing could transform the way rollercoasters are made.
“The first phase is already done,” he said. “I’ve created the methodology. The next step is to create more 3D printed components and put them on a real rollercoaster. We plan to have additive manufacturing parts running on a live rollercoaster in 2023. It’s a revolutionary approach, but we believe in it. That’s why we’re putting all the time, money and effort in now, so that when the industry is ready, the technology is available. We just need to convince everyone that this is the way forward.”
Extreme Analyses Engineering was founded in 2015 by Simone Bernardini. The company is built on his experience and expertise in the design and structural calculations of structures and machines in the industrial sector (such as elevating work platforms, cranes and special equipment) and, in particular amusement parks and rides.
For more information: www.extraengineering.com/
Based in Italy, Exemplar is a certified Platinum Dassault Systèmes partner. The Exemplar team has extensive multidisciplinary experience in the field of virtual simulation and stands out for its constant innovation in search of the latest software tools and methodologies. Exemplar’s deep knowledge about CAE applications and software development allows it to create dedicated solutions that optimize business processes and support companies’ evolving needs.