Increasing wind tunnel performance

High volume data transfer enables streamlined communications

Development never stops in motorsport; engineers work night and day, seeking even seemingly minor details that can translate to performance and efficiency advantages on track. Finding those improvements can ultimately lead teams such as McLaren to look beyond its core infrastructure, relying on facilities and engineers operating around the world to find a design solution that unlocks more speed. Now thanks to high-bandwidth and reliable data transfers from NTT Communications, McLaren staff working across Europe can communicate and share terabytes with colleagues with the same ease as if they were in the same building.

Increasing the flow, reducing drag for data transfer

Car aerodynamics is the one key critical area of performance focus for F1 design engineers They constantly evolve their designs during the racing season. With on-track testing now extremely limited, wind tunnels provide a controlled environment to process hundreds of iterations of aerodynamic updates to F1 body parts such as wings, sidepods and floors.

In a fast-moving environment such as F1, it’s unsurprising that wind tunnel technology is also evolving. They have transitioned over the past decade from a steady state, where the car model ran at a constant car set-up in a straight line, to today’s fully dynamic continuous set ups - capable of running hundreds of sensors and recording vast amounts of data across the operating envelope of the car.

With F1’s rule makers controlling tunnel usage, including wind speed, wind on time, the number of runs and even the model scale size, McLaren opted to move the bulk of its development from its own tunnel to one that could run greater flexibility and output higher accuracy. The team’s choice was the TMG wind tunnel in Cologne, Germany, 400 miles away. With this decision, McLaren needed a data transfer solution that would minimise the effect of having design and manufacturing teams working in different countries. For the solution, it turned to NTT Communications to maximise the precious time allowance.

“We run six days a week, two shifts per day at the wind tunnel in Cologne,” says David Emery, Head of Racing Solutions at McLaren. “We needed a robust and reliable way of sending data and video, in real-time between the factory in the UK and the tunnel in Germany. With many terabytes a month being transferred back and forth, we needed high bandwidth and delay of latency wasn’t an option. The solution from NTT Communications ticked every box.”

NTT Communications has one of the most advanced portfolios of network services providing robust, rapid and reliable solutions to a range of businesses. With coverage in over 190 countries and more than 140 data centers worldwide, it continually rates highly for customer service. Against a backdrop of increasing complexity, new business models and desire for more flexible networks, NTT Communications has been recognised as a global leader in Gartner’s 2018 Magic Quadrant for Network Services, Global, for the past four consecutive years. This expertise enabled it to specify the optimum package to match McLaren’s current requirements with options to expand in the future.

Real time data reaps rewards

McLaren aerodynamicists regularly undertake 20 experiments per day. Throughout each working shift, live intercom and video stream enable engineers in the UK to see and interact in real time with the tunnel. Sharing live data with both design and assembly teams ensures that minimal time is lost between experiments, and crucially, designs deemed successful from that day’s run can be scheduled into full size car designs immediately. “As our wind tunnel use is closely monitored and audited, we can’t afford to lose even ten minutes,” adds Emery. “Being able to assess the output of hundreds of sensors via the NTT Communications link, provides the level of insight to visualise data, create reports and make quick decisions that can be fed directly into our continual improvement process. Thus, reducing lead times and integrating all relevant teams with obvious cost and communication benefits.”

Saving time and resources

Having instant access to the data can also prevent engineers from losing time when an idea doesn’t work. “Of course, not everything we try in the tunnel works and any delays in receiving the data to analyse could see us continuing along a development path that leads us nowhere,” suggests Emery. “The engineers in the UK can even manipulate the video stream to look around the car. It is imperative that experiment data is transferred quickly so we can correlate it to our predefined expectations in, and if we aren’t seeing performance improvements, stop the run at the earliest point. Again, saving us from burning time.”

The link also provides sufficient bandwidth to monitor the health of the tunnel, making use of sensors and systems to check that the tunnel is performing as it should with class-leading automated alerts of any issues. “We want to extract as much quality data as we can from each run,” claims Emery. “Errors in either the tunnel performance or data logging means we will always struggle to gain that time back and thus not meet our productivity experiment limit in any eight-week reporting period. The pace in F1 is relentless; NTT Communications keeps us on track.”

Improved team co-operation through communication

With engineers working across two sites, the importance of communication isn’t lost on Emery who believes the NTT Communications link ensures engineers stationed in Germany feel part of the team. “The engineers in Germany are in constant and real-time contact with colleagues in the UK,” says Emery. “We are able to communicate and share ideas with no lag, just as if we were in the same building. We race and work as a team.”

The future is flexible and fast

The benefits of seamless integration and a secure and reliable data transfer have enabled NTT Communications to become a leader in delivering MPLS networks to a range of industries and businesses of all sizes across 190 countries. Service grades span mission critical networks in multiple countries with 100 per cent service level guarantees through to options suitable for small offices. All offer connectivity to public cloud services such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Oracle® Cloud and can be optimised with SD-WAN to deliver the most optimal network connectivity and path diversity.

Mirroring the pace in F1, NTT Communications is continually developing and increasing performance of its networks. “We are set to receive a further upgrade, underlining the scalability of the NTT Communications offerings,” adds Emery. “It will increase transfer speeds and enable higher quality video, enabling us to do more, such as the ability for engineers in the UK to see higher quality video with improved zoom clarity, and for us to deploy higher resolution sensors to get more data to analyse. The NTT Communications MPLS network is vital in extracting every opportunity for future performance.”

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