The concept of the magnetic levitation train, or Maglev, is a revolutionary idea first proposed by inventor Robert H. Goddard more than 100 years ago and depicted in science fiction tales ever since. The concept began to emerge from the realm of science fiction, however, when Elon Musk launched an international, open source research project around what Musk and his colleagues at SpaceX then termed the “Hyperloop” concept in 2013. As initially conceived by Musk, the Hyperloop is a vactrain that consists of a double elevated tube containing moving pods that carry passengers and goods.
In true open source fashion, Musk encouraged others to take the idea and run with it, sparking the imagination and entrepreneurial spirit of Sébastien Gendron, an engineer with a background in the aerospace industry. Based in Toronto, Canada, he founded TransPod with Ryan Janzen, chief engineer. With a team of about 20, the startup aims to develop a new generation of affordable and environmentally friendly high- speed transportation.
“Most of our energy supply comes from non-renewable sources,” Janzen said. “The transport sector is one of the biggest consumers of these resources. We need to fundamentally change vehicles themselves. At TransPod, we are designing a system that goes beyond the traditional Hyperloop concept and uses new technology to develop a reliable and sustainable means of transportation.”
Equipped with a solar energy supply system, TransPod aims to improve the traveler’s experience, and address the issue of congestion in cities.
“From a traveler experience perspective, TransPod is more flexible than a train or plane,” explained Augustin Boisleux, design director at TransPod. “If we start from scratch for the infrastructure and try to design a transportation with the traveler at the center, then we can go beyond the limitations of existing systems.”
The TransPod system is based on a network of low-pressure tubes in which pods are magnetically levitated and monitored by a computer. Electrically controlled linear induction engines provide fossil fuel-free propulsion for the pods. With low aerodynamic resistance, the pods can reach a top speed of 1,200 km/h and are optimized to cover route of 100 up to 1,000 km, with departures every 80 seconds.
The implementation of the system involves various technical challenges. In particular, the very high speed and the proximity of the capsules to the walls require the tubes to be precisely aligned to the millimeter to avoid aerodynamic friction. The partitioning of the tube as well as the restricted dimensions of the pods must preserve passenger comfort and safety. Fixed on pylons, the tubes must resist stress, expansions and contractions due to temperature variations that have to be strictly controlled. Finally, the design of the system has to ensure that turbulence and vibrations generated by the air flow are limited during travel.
To meet these challenges, TransPod chose the 3DEXPERIENCE® platform to design the system, the infrastructure and the pod. The platform enables all TransPod stakeholders spread around Europe and North America to use a common set of functional requirements, 3D designs, simulation models and related results to make highly informed, collaborative decisions.
“We need to manage complex systems with limited human resources,” said Sébastien Gendron, founder and CEO of TransPod. “The advantage of our startup is the energy and creativity of our teams,” Boisleux added. “The 3DEXPERIENCE platform allows us to keep and maintain this momentum.”
The 3DEXPERIENCE platform on the cloud allows us to set solid foundations now for the future of our company.
The deployment of the first work sites is planned in Canada and France, with the implementation and operation of a demonstrator model of the system. An initial link between the Canadian cities of Calgary and Edmonton, 300 km away, is scheduled and will begin with the construction and operation of a 20 km test section. In parallel, a 3 km test site will be built in France, at Droux near Limoges, to validate several design options. TransPod also is exploring a variety of routes in the United States (Texas) and the Middle East (United Arab Emirates) to test its concept.
“The 3DEXPERIENCE platform ensures the proper execution of the project,” Gendron said. ”Exchanging in real time on a single cloud-based model is essential. Especially with the development of the Canadian infrastructure project for the Calgary-Edmonton link, new international employees will be joining the company. And with jet lag and a remote work scenarios to take into account, the cloud is a must to accelerate our development.”
“The platform is a comprehensive and easy to use solution,” Boisleux added. “Updates are done automatically and transparently, allowing us to benefit from the latest improvements without disrupting our activities.”
The 3DEXPERIENCE cloud platform promotes a coordinated approach, eliminating the need for teams to work in siloes. Boisleux particularly appreciates the smooth exchanges among the different domains within the platform.
“I don’t have all the skills of a 3D modeler,” he explained. “However, I don’t need to go through or change the model created by an engineer. I don’t need to wonder if it’s up to date or complete. I can open the 3D model to check the details and virtually test new proposals, at any time and from anywhere. A simple graphics tablet or laptop is all it takes. This is one of the benefits of 3DEXPERIENCE. It’s a really new way of working for me. I find it very efficient for my daily tasks.”
Today, the 3DEXPERIENCE platform is mainly used by TransPod’s mechanical engineers for the infrastructure optimization, and designers in charge of the passenger experience. Everyone agrees that data management and collaborative communication capabilities are the primary benefits of the platform since it provides all members with the same level of information in an integrated, instant and open manner.
“Before 3DEXPERIENCE, everyone was working with files on their own computer and then shared them with the team with all the updates, versioning and consistency issues that it entails,” Gendron explained. “Coordination is key during the concept phase of our demonstrator. It will be even more critical when the vehicle is being finalized.”
With the platform, TransPod has simplified data management.
Its engineers are able to break down the siloes among design, modeling and simulation disciplines, and quickly gain the efficiencies and quality benefits that an integrated development process can bring. By designing the structure and modules in CATIA, incorporating all standard requirements, and then performing virtual tests and simulations with SIMULIA to make appropriate modification decisions, the 3DEXPERIENCE platform ensures seamless operational continuity throughout the overall product development of the machine.
With ENOVIA, the information generated on the platform can be used to ensure product regulatory compliance and certification. With the platform, all TransPod stakeholders have a common understanding, in real time, of the products being manufactured, and can intervene more quickly to correct any non-compliance issues that are identified.
“The 3DEXPERIENCE platform will simplify the certification process since the dedicated requirements are integrated and tracked on the platform,” Gendron said.
The advantage of our startup is the energy and creativity of our teams. The 3DEXPERIENCE platform allows us to maintain this momentum.
With an eye toward the future, the scalability aspect inherent to the 3DEXPERIENCE cloud platform is an asset for TransPod. As its needs evolve, the company will incorporate more features of the platform into its processes such as the simulation of electromagnetic fields and aerodynamics at ultra- low pressure.
“The ability of the platform to associate our future partners to the design of the vehicle, and share data and concepts was an important consideration,” Gendron said. ”For me, it’s clearly a factor of efficiency and a competitive advantage.”
TransPod’s roadmap is ambitious. Within five years, the company hopes to launch its first train of the future. For Sébastien Gendron, Dassault Systèmes’ role is essential to support the company’s growth.
“Agility and rigorous processes are not incompatible for a startup,” he concluded. ”I appreciate structured approaches and the 3DEXPERIENCE platform on the cloud allows us to set solid foundations now for the future of our company.”
Founded in 2015, the company based in France and Canada is designing and developing a new generation of transportation inspired by Hyperloop technology and capable to reach 1,200 km/h speed. Powered with solar energy, the TransPod system is designed to enable passengers and goods transportation at a lower cost with frequent departures.