AirShaper: Making aerodynamics easy.

Trusted and used by Redbull it gives you wings!

Aerodynamics has always been something I have ahad an interest in and how it works exactly. Since I love everything to do with cars so much I decided to do more research into it, throught the research I found this company called AirShaper a company I didn't hear of before but you can bet I was going to find out more!

I connected with Wouter Remmerie the CEO of AirShaper and asked him some questions about wha AirShaper has to offer and what exactly it is!

Sarah: Hi Wouter, can you tell us what exacty AirShaper is?

Wouter: Hi Sarah, yes, sure!

AirShaper is an online platform where designers & engineers can upload a 3D model of their design to have the aerodynamics analyzed. They can then either interpret the results themselves or ask us for advice on how to translate the results into an improved design.

Sarah: Is the software used for anything other than cars?

Wouter: Yes, it is. When you look around, there are dozens of applications where aerodynamics play a crucial role, far beyond cars. In sports, for example, aerodynamics play a decisive role in cycling, where aerodynamic drag accounts for over 80% of the energy the athletes put out. Or skiing, where aerodynamic forces are by far the dominant form of resistance as they go up to and beyond 100 km/h.

But aerodynamics are also crucial in entirely different areas, like fuel or battery energy consumption of (electric) vehicles, the efficiency & flight range of planes and drones, the wind comfort around tall buildings, and so on. So in general, aerodynamics is a key aspect in terms of performance & efficiency for many applications.

Sarah: What has AirShaper designed & developed so far?

The first thing we did was to create a platform to make it super easy to run aerodynamic simulations.

After having worked at an engineering agency doing wind tunnel tests & running simulations for 6 years, I had learned all of the typical pains like setting up & iterating on the right parameters for a simulation, trying to fix dirty 3D models (gaps & holes in 3D models are quite common), scheduling simulations on expensive hardware, processing results into reports, and so on and so on.

So, the first thing we did at AirShaper was to create a platform to remove all these barriers so that anyone can run aerodynamic simulations. It runs in the cloud, so no hardware & software costs, it’s compatible with dirty 3D models and it is fully automated – so no need to be an expert. Once a simulation is done, users can simply view the results in their browser, download the simulation report or even work on the raw simulation data to do their own post-processing.

Or even work on the raw simulation data to do their own post-processing. This 2 minute video will explain it!

The second thing we did, something we launched recently, was to also automate the aerodynamic optimization process. Instead of manually interpreting flow results & redesigning a 3D shape, the software will now automatically morph the 3D model towards a certain goal. For example: if a user wants less drag, he or she can simply select “drag reduction” as a goal, point to the area where the car or other can be changed, and the software will automatically morph the model to achieve that! Other goals the user can select include more downforce for racecars and more lift for drones and planes.

Sarah: does AirShaper have a mission going forward

Wouter: The dream is to make AirShaper the default name people think of when you say “Aerodynamics”. We’d like to make aerodynamic simulations accessible to everyone so that it gets included much earlier & much more often in the design process of all products related to aerodynamics.

Sarah: I guess you could say that AirShaper is revolutionary?

Wouter: Yes, and complementary as well. The default, high-end industry standard is to run very detailed simulations & highly accurate but expensive wind tunnel tests. That’s fantastic, we fully support both, but it prevents users from tackling aerodynamics in the early stages of design, when there is still lots room to play. By automating everything in the form of an affordable & accurate cloud solution, we’ve made it much more realistic to take aerodynamics into account right from the start of a project!

Running dozens of simulations on AirShaper will steer people in the right direction from the start, so that the much more expensive simulations & wind tunnel tests further down the line are spot on and cost much less, with serious cuts in development time as a bonus.

Sarah: Why do you think aerodynamic simulations are so important?

Wouter: The pressure on car manufacturers and race teams is massive: OEMs are looking to gain every bit of efficiency to cut emissions or increase range, and race teams would do anything to gain a few tenths around the track. Building a real prototype of every idea is impossible: it takes ages and huge budgets to build, instrument & test them all in a wind tunnel. So simulations are the way to go in the majority of the design process. Also when it comes to modifying race cars we’ve had a lot of fun for example on this Porsche GT4, analyzing the aerodynamics of wider fenders!

Sarah: So you can analyze aerodynamics on AirShaper, what else can you do?

Wouter: As briefly mentioned before, you can also optimize aerodynamics automatically. Historically, it has been very expensive to have the computer explore different shapes, as it required a full aerodynamic simulation to know the impact of each local change on the surface of a 3D model. With a technique called “adjoint”, it’s become much “cheaper” in terms of computational cost to learn for the software where & how to morph a model into a more aerodynamic shape, something reflected in what is called a “sensitivity map”. After morphing, it will again run an aerodynamic simulation, again run the sensitivity analysis and again morph the model. With each such cycle, the aerodynamics of the design improve. For those who like technical details or for those who don’t and need something to fall asleep, the video below will explain it!

Sarah: It sounds complicated! How long have you worked in aerodynamics?

Wouter: It may be a bit worrying to some customers, but I didn’t study aerodynamics. I’m a mechanical engineer and first spent years designing gearboxes for wind turbines at ZF. It’s only when I designed a sports car based on an aerodynamics principle in my free time that I got into the world of aerodynamics. The concept I worked on got patented and I got to talk to Ferrari about it who referenced to my patent in theirs and even got to visit Pagani in Italy!

That really marked the start of my passion for aerodynamics, which is around 12 years ago. Ever since, I’ve worked on aerodynamics-related projects, whether it was NASCAR, drones, solar panels or buildings. I spent years in engineering consultancy.

At some point, I wanted to pick up my car design again and turn it into a coah-building service like Zagato, Touring Superleggera, with aerodynamics as a key differentiator for the cars I would offer. In the end, it turned out this aerodynamics service would make more sense as a standalone product than the coach building service, so I switched and fully focused on developing a “virtual wind tunnel”.

Sarah: When was AirShaper set up?

Wouter: I pitched the concept of a virtual wind tunnel at a local incubator in 2015 and tinkered with a prototype for about 2 years. By 2017, we had acquired both government and private funding and kicked off full-blown development, only to launch the aerodynamic analysis platform in 2018. And now, 3 years down the road, we just launched our aerodynamic shape optimization.

Sarah: Where you have applied this new optimization?

Wouter: During development, e already applied it for a number of selected beta customers. One of them was MV Agusta, a legendary Italian motorbike brand also taking part in MotoGP races. We applied our Aerodynamic Shape Optimization to their race bikes to optimize downforce.

Another cool example is a US-based startup in electric vehicles. Range is everything, and range is mainly determined by aerodynamic drag. After we had let our software do the optimization, the aerodynamic drag was reduced by 7%!

Decathlon also used our optimization tool, to reduce the aerodynamic drag on their cycling helmets. I’m really forward to seeing that product come onto the market and actually feel and hold what the software has helped create.

Sarah: where do you see AirShaper in 5 years?

Wouter: It would be great if anyone in the business of aerodynamics would know the name AirShaper and use the platform as their default tool to iterate through their different design concepts. To have a very wide user base, ranging from hobbyists to professionals!

Sarah: If there was one company you could work with in terms of aerodynamics, which would it be and why?

Wouter: Lilium would be pretty cool! A lot is happening in the Urban Air Mobility scene and the field is still open for wild concepts.

Sarah: Can you tell us something about AirShaper that nobody knows?

Wouter: The official company name is actually Zastrugi, which are the grooves in snow made by the wind. It represents our 2 biggest passions: snowboarding and aerodynamics.

Massive thanks to Wouter for taking the time out to tell me about AirSpace, if you'd like to follow developments and see what happens with AirShaper in the future, I have listed their website and social media links below!

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Comments (4)

  • Thanks a million Sarah for the article!! It was a pleasure!

      28 days ago
  • TL;DT

    Sounds like it is repackaged OpenFoam.

    openfoam.org/

      25 days ago
    • Dear Steamy Tea,

      yes, it is!

      Sort of.

      Read more
        24 days ago
    • Thanks for the reply.

      I am glad I am not loosing my touch, though I like to keep abreast of developments, after being out of the lecturing environment for a decade.

        24 days ago
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