There was a time when you were most likely to come across a driving simulator in an arcade or at a theme park. But in recent years, the world’s top automotive manufacturers and racing teams have been increasingly relying on them to train drivers, as well as to enhance the ride experience in the car design process. The simulators that Dynisma has built are so advanced and have pushed the boundaries of driving simulation so much, that more traditional simulators just don’t cut it anymore. It’s all to do with an obsessive attention to detail, engineering, and experience so that the human body and the human mind find it very difficult to tell the difference from the real thing.
Dynisma develops driving simulators for automotive and motorsport markets. A driving simulator is a tool that is used predominantly to develop a car, whether that’s a road car or a race car. For Formula One drivers, every split-second counts. And so, by reducing the latency of the simulator to just a few milliseconds, they can perfect their reaction speeds and access the impact of upgrades to keep one step ahead of the competition. This is just one of the ways in which Dynisma is changing the face of simulation and has no doubt helped some of the biggest names in motor racing onto the podium.
“Ultimately, what we’re trying to do is to recreate the experience of being in a real car as accurately as possible. Critically, a simulator can adapt. One minute or in one incarnation it could be an SUV, then it could be an EV, then it could be a saloon, and then it can be a race car. This is ultimately what their value is – to be able to try things out without having to go and build the physical thing and build a prototype. You’re able to take an idea directly from a piece of paper into a mathematical model that encapsulates what’s going on, put it in the simulator, and the driver can drive it, or in an autonomous vehicle scenario to provide feedback to the developer, whether they are an automotive manufacturer or a motorsport company. And of course, the environment is all simulated, so you can quickly go from the glamorous location of driving around Monaco to being stuck in traffic on the M40.
“What really drove me to leave the world of F1 and set up my own business was really the desire to create something. I had many ideas, and I could visualise what was possible, but I wasn’t always able to go and do that within the confines of a large business of a team, for example. I struck out in 2017, and founded Dynisma. I had a vision of what should be possible in terms of the capabilities of the technology that weren’t there and weren’t being offered by competing products at the time. So I set about modelling, designing, and within a year had come up with a prototype that demonstrated all of the unique capabilities that we still see in our products today.”
It's a regular racing car monocoque that is supported by six arms, which gives six degrees of freedom. That is in turn mounted on a table, a plinth, which is also able to move in an additional three degrees, so that gives nine degrees of freedom. Wrapped around that is a huge screen, with five projectors projecting the full field of view for the driver in fantastic reality – not just of the scenery and everything else, but the inside of the vehicle. It’s a very, very complex environment. But it all comes together to provide an unbelievably realistic driving experience. Aston Martin racing driver Tom Canning worked with Dynisma on the development side. He said, “During my racing career, I’ve driven quite a lot of simulators. There’s nothing else out there that compares to this. It’s the closest to real life you can get without going out and tracking a car.”
One of the unique things about driving simulators is the fact that they are firstly very complex systems. There are tens of computers and CPUs and graphics cards all working together to produce a cohesive simulated environment. But it’s also the sheer number of cues and stimuli. The idea is to convince probably the most complex thing in the universe, i.e., the human, that they’re engaged in some other activity. And they’re doing that in a very serious fashion and giving accurate feedback to steer the development of road cars and race cars. It’s important that we model what the person sees, what they feel, and what they hear as well.
“Our unique selling points really focus on the high bandwidth and the low latency and the smoothness of our simulators,” says Warne. “These correspond to bandwidth – the amount of information that you can get through the system. If the analogy was television, then we’re 8K whereas other simulators are standard definition. It’s about putting higher fidelity, higher frequencies through the motion generator, as we call it. To put some numbers on it, many of our competitors have a bandwidth of 20 hertz, whereas we are 50, and even in excess of 100 hertz.” What this means is the vibrations and movements that you feel in a real car are able to be accurately transmitted through the motion generator, and therefore given to the participant in the simulator study. In other simulators, they tend to feel muffled and filtered.
Warne explains, “We have a latency of between three and five milliseconds,” explained Warne. “What this means is that within three to five milliseconds of the vehicle model calculating some movement that needs to be transmitted to the driver, we can measure it using an accelerometer on our motion platform that that movement has happened. So this is, again, an order of magnitude better than many of our competitors – and the motorsport example is really what sets us apart because it allows the driver to drive the car on the limit as they’re able to in reality, whereas in other simulators you find that if you try to correlate the balance of the car, i.e. how understeering or oversteering it is, you end up with a car that its back end slides out, but you can’t catch it because the simulator doesn’t respond quickly enough, and therefore the driver gets the cue to correct too late – they’ve already spun out.”
The final USP is the smoothness of the Dynisma motion systems, which drivers have described as feeling a lot more like the real car. Warne says, “That’s no mistake, really – we took design cues from how vehicle suspension worked in developing motion simulators. Whereas typically, other technologies are based on perhaps flight simulators, where high frequency really isn’t as important.” A Varjo head-mounted display replaces the projectors and allows you to feel a far greater sense of immersion. Warne explains, “You can see your hands and steering wheel augmented with the graphical environment around you. Uniquely, what we’ve been able to do is get the system working in a motion simulator. Despite the fact that the chassis is moving and shaking around to provide you all of those cues of what the vehicle is doing, we’re still able to keep track of where the headset is and correctly present to you both the graphical world and the real world within the cockpit.”
“Our systems are very responsive, high bandwidth, as I’ve mentioned, and this requires a great deal of stiffness. In simulator parlance, ‘nothing moves that shouldn’t move’ would be ‘eliminating miscues’. We’re in the business of creating cues, feelings, for the driver, for the passenger, that correspond to the situation that you’re trying to simulate. And what we’re doing, and I think what we specialize in, and I think we do better than our competitors, is eliminating those miscues – the bangs, cracks, whistles and grinds that often appear on other simulators.
More simulation means fewer prototypes, which means fewer prototype miles. The more that can be done virtually, the fewer emissions are being generated. One of the big contributors is having to take prototypes all over the world in order to assess them in different environments. And the more that can be virtualized and simulated offline, the fewer prototypes there are shipping around the world to all of these extreme environments for example.
PTC’s EVP Jon Hirschtick spent time at Dynisma. He said, “The first thing that struck me was the sheer size of the simulators on offer. I’ve seen a number of simulators offering the nine degrees of freedom movement, which is typical today, but never one that was capable of carrying such a high payload – anything up to 750 kilograms.” This means that they can simulate the whole vehicle cabin with multiple participants, not just the single driver monocoque that are often seen with racing simulators. Because of that, the Dynisma offering is in high demand – not just from the world of motorsport, but also some of the world’s biggest car makers who are now keen to use the simulators to test-drive concept cars before they enter production. They needed a design and a PLM solution that could scale up quickly and were compelled to switch to PTC’s cloud native Onshape and Arena Connection.
Onshape and Arena together provide unique value to Dynisma, and many other companies around the world, because it is the only cloud-native CAD PDM and PLM solution in the world. And what this means is it helps companies deploy agile process to design, test, produce and manufacture products on a faster, more agile basis than they could ever do before. This comes from several key aspects of the unique cloud native Onshape and Arena CAD, PDM, PLM solution. First, they’re connected in the cloud. This means that the connection will synchronise the CAD, PDM and PLM across engineers, manufacturers, suppliers – instantaneous sharing of product design information, so that there’s essentially a global, real-time single source of truth.
All internal teams and manufacturing partners are perfectly in sync. And when it comes time to add a new partner, that happens instantly. Much like the responsiveness of a Dynisma simulator, when you’re adding a new supplier or a new team member with Arena PLM, you don’t have to wait hours or days for them to be onboarded and installed and what have you – you click a few buttons for instant access to the cloud. Collaboration is vital, it’s the name of the game in today’s world of modern product development, and it’s vital to Dynisma. Their designers and engineers need to be able to see what each other is doing, to run through different ideas, tweak them in real time, so they can see in moments what the other team members are working on. Being in the cloud, not just in the cloud, or using cloud, but cloud-native, means that everyone involved can get the information they need, anywhere in the world – it’s an extremely efficient way of logging any changes.
Dynisma is pushing the boundaries of innovation in terms of simulators, and to achieve their level of performance – the level of state-of-the-art, down to the millisecond Formula One – we feel they need a state-of-the-art, high-performance, CAD PDM and PLM that Arena and Onshape offer. It’s robust, usable out of the box, and can be tailored to meet specific requirements very easily. And when you make modifications, everyone in the world, as you customise your system, it happens instantly for everyone around the globe. Hirschtick says, “I’m delighted to have Dynisma as a customer of cloud-native Arena and Onshape from PTC. I see an exciting analogue between Dynisma simulating the twists and turns of modern racing at the highest possible speed and Arena and Onshape, giving them the PLM CAD and PDM tools, so their team can work at the highest possible speed and take the turns fast as they come up in product development.”
Huge thanks to Ash for showing us round their facility, and helping make a boyhood dream, virtually, come true. And to Jon for helping us to understand the deployment of Onshape and Arena Connected.
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This is an 18Sixty production for PTC. Executive producer is Jacqui Cook. Sound design and editing by Ollie Guillou. Recording by Clarissa Maycock. And music by Rowan Bishop.