Going from real engines to digital ones – trying the job as virtual test engineer

In the third job swap we start in Gothenburg, Sweden, where machining supervisor Tobias Ahlander tries Neda Nickmehr's job as virtual test engineer. To go from the engine plant to programming by the computer is a big step. Also learn more about the virtual test engineer profession.


Watch Episode 6 where Neda Nickmehr goes to Skövde to work as a machining operator here.


Virtual test engineer – Creators of the most advanced simulators

A car engine is a super sophisticated piece of machinery, made up of numerous parts. Imagine every airflow, every fuel flow, every temperature change – everything happening in an engine – being simulated to an accurate level, making it possible to run efficient tests. This virtual environment is created by virtual test engineers.

Car manufacturers have always had various ways to test everything in the cars, in order to make sure the best possible solutions are what ends up in the final product. In recent years, digital development has increased these testing capabilities massively. About ten years ago we could start testing engines in advanced rigs called Hardware-In-the-Loop (HIL), where simulations of engines, brakes, and all electronic hardware could be connected to the rig and tested 24/7.

The next step was Software-In-the-Loop (SIL), where the whole environment is recreated in computers, adding amazing amounts of opportunities for simulations.
“We can run a test that would take several days in real life in a few minutes, but we can also slow things down and do a set section in slow motion to really be able to analyse things up close, says Erik Abrahamsson, Manager Virtual Test Environments.

The main benefits with SIL is the time it saves and the improved quality we can achieve. All the tests are still done with hardware and actual engines and cars, but with the virtual testing we can perform far more tests in a much shorter time.

A virtual test environment.

The virtual test engineers working with the engine software testing do an incredibly complicated job. Between the engine and the gas pedal you find an Electronic Control Unit (ECU), and what the virtual test engineer do is to translate all the physical information that goes in to this, to virtual data. They programme an accurate simulation environment of all Volvo engines.
“What I love most about my job, which also is the main challenge, is that I work with and need to understand the whole picture of the engines, and all types of them. We get a very wide knowledge,” says virtual test engineer Neda Nickmehr.

Manager Erik Abrahamsson also stress the fact that the virtual test engineers need to have a natural curiosity, and be real problem solvers:
“You’ll encounter a lot of different types of problems, that you need to find solutions to.”
In the department now, most people working with the SIL environments have M. Sc. in Mechatronics or similar, and the team is looking to expand with more software engineers.

Last year the propulsion SIL programme that the Virtual Test Environments department developed  won the internal Volvo Cars Technology Awards, and virtual testing is an area that the company is aiming at developing further.
“We are one of the carmakers that have come relatively far within this segment, and we are working on a wide scale, where all our engines are included. And the pace of new things and new opportunities that’s happening in this field is amazing,” Erik Abrahamsson says.

Facts: Virtual test engineer
– Software engineers who develop the virtual environment used for Software-In-the-Loop (SIL) testing.
– The virtual environment is based on data from existing cars and/or engine rigs.
– Several computers can work simultaneously on various tests, making simulation very efficient.


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