Mechanical Technology Archive

When Alstom in Spain wanted to improve the design of an existing cast rail component, the company employed HyperWorks as well as solidThinking Inspire® and Evolve® for design optimisation.

While investigation a component used in Alstom's Metropolis train bogies to support the anti-roll system, it was found that the first design of the part seemed much too strong for the occurring workloads, and the finite element (FE) model revealed that the safety factor was high.

Alstom Altair topology optimisation solidThinking InspireAs a first step, an analysis with solidThinking Inspire was carried out, providing the same results. To improve the overall design while at the same time optimising material use, the optimisation options were extended by increasing the design volume of the part, followed by a topology optimisation.

As a result of several iterations with Inspire, a customised solution was found; the exterior shape was refined and fixed with solidThinking Evolve.

The final geometry was then again verified with a detailed FE analysis. For the next step, which was already in progress, the team began preparing and analysing the part to be additively manufactured. For this Alstom collaborated with local 3D printing companies.

Alstom a world leader in integrated railway systems

As a promoter of sustainable mobility, Alstom develops and markets systems, equipment and services for the railway sector. The company manages the widest range of solutions in the market – from high-speed trains to metros and tramways – offering customised services such as maintenance, modernisation, infrastructure and signalling solutions.

Alstom optimisation highlights

Industry: Transportation/railway.

Challenge: Optimisation of an existing component design to be manufactured using casting or, alternatively, using additive manufacturing technologies.

Altair solution: Simulation driven design approach with solidThinking Inspire for topology optimisation; Evolve for shape refinements; and HyperWorks for FE analysis.


• Reduced development time.
• Improved components with less weight and increased stiffness.
• Detailed insights into new additive manufacturing production options.

Alstom recorded sales of €6.9-billion and booked €10.6-billion in orders in the 2015/16 fiscal year. Headquartered in France, Alstom is present in over 60 countries and employs 31 000 people.

The component optimisation project described here was carried out by the Bodyshell and Calculation department in Barcelona, which is regularly designing and verifying the different train structures Alstom develops as the consultant to other Alstom departments on technical matters.

Heading the project was Juan Manuel Romero a structures and calculation lead engineer at Alstom, Barcelona.

The challenge

In every industry development engineers strive for the best manufacturing and development processes in order to create the finest possible products. When searching for the perfect structural design solutions, they have to consider technical and economical aspects. Simulation enables them to achieve their goal and supports them in the entire product creation process. At Alstom in Barcelona the engineers usually receive several inputs, (strength, volume constraints, thermal, and others) to study the geometry, the material, and the mountings.

Then they check the solutions they came up with and generate graphical representations. Usually, the Alstom engineers handle several simulations per week, helping them to overcome any development obstacles that might occur. To address these challenges Alstom has to use sophisticated software tools allowing them to handle all related development tasks and to support the product creation process as a whole.

The solution

To handle their simulation tasks, Alstom Barcelona applies HyperWorks for meshing tasks and to perform static FE analyses. For optimisation and design tasks the engineers rely on solidThinking's products, Inspire and Evolve, in particular. These tools allow them to address issues such as material questions, geometries and compatibilities between manufacturing processes and the designs.

Before the engineers started with the re-design of the component to support the anti-roll system, the existing design had been analysed. Since the FEM model showed that the safety factor was a too high, an analysis with solidThinking Inspire was carried out, which returned the same result. With the aim of improving the overall design while optimising material usage, the design volume of the part was increased in order to expand the optimisation options.

For the subsequent topology optimisation the engineers first created a design space, then applied loads and other boundary conditions, and finally ran the optimisation based on this input. Following several iterations with Inspire, in which the design space was changed and the team applied various different
load cases and boundary conditions, a customised solution was developed.

Finally the exterior shape was refined and fixed with solidThinking Evolve and the compliance of this final geometry was again verified with a detailed FEM analysis.

With the HyperWorks and solidThinking solutions, Alstom has achieved very good results. The use of Altair's solutions allows the design engineers to complete the process and support structural tests. With their simulation driven design approach, which is enabled and supported by solidThinking Inspire and the HyperWorks products, engineers can drastically change the way products are developed. As a result, better products are developed in much shorter development cycles. Additionally, the redesign of the part resulted in overall weight savings of about 70%.

Alstom has been working with Altair and solidThinking products for 4-5 years, having established an exclusively Altair product-based development process for structural optimisation and simulation. The engineers at Alstom have a sound expertise in structural design and are now combining simulation, tests and the predicted behaviour in common situations to achieve the best possible results.


The use of Altair's solutions in the development processes at Alstom resulted in better, stiffer and lighter products. Depending on the manufacturing method, weight savings of up to 70% have been achieved.

In addition to improving the design of an existing cast part by making it stiffer and lighter, the software also enabled Alstom's engineers to study the benefits
of additive manufacturing, offering them new expertise in this area and the ability to implement this manufacturing method as soon as it is approved for series production.

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