Building on more than 20 years of automotive experience and the power of its market-leading ADAMS® functional virtual prototyping software, Mechanical Dynamics, Inc. (Nasdaq: MDII - news) has developed the Functional Digital Car(TM) concept, offering automotive manufacturers and suppliers the ability to reduce the costs, time, and risks associated with vehicle product development.

Vehicle performance can then be simulated in a virtual test lab environment or on a virtual test track to replicate real-world behavior. The vehicle can also be integrated with hardware-in-the-loop simulations to investigate the real-time behavior of the vehicle with real subsystems such as anti-lock brakes and traction control systems. Design attributes can be evaluated and optimized, and the results shared among engineering teams globally.

"This is the technology that will drive the improvements all vehicle manufacturers are striving to meet -- shorter development cycles, enhanced performance, innovation, managed risk, and lower costs,'' said Robert R. Ryan, president of Mechanical Dynamics. "We see the Functional Digital Car as the common framework for integrating various computer-aided engineering technologies across the development process at all levels of management, within both the OEM and the supply chain. We've taken Mechanical Dynamics' expertise in automotive functional virtual prototyping, partnered with industry leaders in other areas of computer-aided design, and developed a technological approach that stands ready to meet the challenges of this rapidly changing industry.''

Using the current BMW 3 series as an example, Ryan pointed out that this much-heralded car required five-and-a-half years, 2.6 million man-hours, 130 handmade system-level prototypes created at a cost of roughly $350,000 per vehicle, and some 2,400 new components.

"But with the pace of change in this industry, most people believe the standard of excellence set by the BMW 3 series will be surpassed in just a few years,'' Ryan said. "Vehicles will ride smoother, handle better, operate with less noise, and offer more comfort and safety. And yet industry experts say that these upcoming vehicles will be produced to meet those requirements in roughly half the time. How can this be accomplished? It can only be done with functional virtual prototyping at the core of vehicle development.''

Ryan noted that ADAMS is already the de facto standard for functional virtual prototyping in the automotive industry, used by every major automotive manufacturer and an increasing number of their suppliers. "Bringing OEMs and suppliers together to work from a common model and shared data is a critical component of the Functional Digital Car concept,'' he said. "Integrating the technology used by both groups is absolutely necessary to speed development while gaining improvements in the quality of the finished product.''

At a recent "Smarter to Market'' Executive Forum sponsored by Mechanical Dynamics in Novi, Mich., representatives from OEMs and suppliers discussed the role of functional virtual prototyping in their companies and the industry.

Glen Moore, supervisor of CAE methods at Ford Motor Company, Advanced Engineering Center, said, "The development process needs to be retooled. It needs to be re-outfitted and focused more toward the virtual prototype instead of a hardware-based system. Physical prototypes must be replaced by virtual prototypes. That's the way the industry is headed.''

Paul Riehle, director of NVH and CAE at Roush Industries, said, "We've implemented the functional virtual prototype to accelerate the development process, ultimately trying to produce a more functional concept car. That's helped improve the quality of the vehicle.''

"Reducing cost is a major objective for auto manufacturers and all Tier One companies such as Visteon,'' said Rohintan Deputy, director, Advanced Manufacturing, Engineering Tools and Process Development, Visteon Corporation. "We want to be faster to market. We want to have fewer and fewer prototypes, but at the same time we do not want to sacrifice quality at Job One. That's why virtual prototyping and computer-aided engineering comes in very handy. We want to have better products.''