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How ANSYS Simulation is Helping Virginia Tech Team to Optimize Hyperloop Pod


After placing fourth at the SpaceX Hyperloop Design Weekend in January 2016, as well as the first ever Hyperloop Pod competition in Los Angeles, California, Hyperloop at Virginia Tech is working tirelessly toward improving every aspect of their pod. The Virginia Tech design team comprises over 60 people, branching out to all majors within the university, from business to aerospace engineering. We currently follow a tick-tock engineering cycle, innovating for one competition, then optimizing for the next using ANSYS Simulation.

We use a plethora of various software tools to conduct our analyses, including but not limited to ANSYS Workbench. We used ANSYS Fluent and ANSYS Maxwell to measure the drag force on our skin shell and the magnetic “lift” force, respectively. Maxwell analyzed our braking magnet Halbach arrays and our magnetic levitation arrays. Lastly, we used ANSYS FEA (finite element analysis) to measure the stress and deformation under load on the pod’s frame.


Although large aerodynamic forces are not a major concern for the Hyperloop Pod in the near vacuum of the Hyperloop tube, these forces are becoming a tangible concern in open air testing. The skin design for the pod was based on Japanese Shinkansen trains, already resulting in a somewhat aerodynamic shape. We then iterated over this shape using ANSYS Fluent simulations to make the appropriate changes to the geometry. Our current design for Competition II is more aerodynamic and symmetrical, making it easier to manufacture. To corroborate our simulations, we conducted wind tunnel testing in the Virginia Tech Stability Wind Tunnel. Now, armed with the empirical data from the wind tunnel, we will conduct further simulations to increase the correlation between the predicted and empirical data.

We utilized ANSYS solutions heavily during the process of redesigning our pod from the ground up before the Hyperloop Competition in January 2017. By incorporating ANSYS simulations into our design process workflow we were able to iterate our designs multiple times and develop parts and systems with optimal safety factors. Competition guidelines were stringent, so we needed to be confident in our results. By utilizing the reputable ANSYS software suite we knew that we could depend on our simulation results. The level of control that ANSYS simulations provided was extremely useful during our design analyses. Being able to specifically select which regions to use quadrilateral and triangular elements was easy to do during mesh generation. During the meshing and analysis of our pod frame, we used quadrilaterals for the most accurate and quickest results in the areas of the frame where we knew the greatest stress concentrations would be. We used triangular elements elsewhere, where geometry became complex or difficult to mesh.


Using ANSYS solutions to simulate the mechanical systems of the pod saved us lots of time and money that would normally be spent on real-world testing. ANSYS simulations also proved to be critical in redesigning the pod in a short time period. The whole pod redesign took less than three months from the first design to the finished pod that we took to Competition 1.

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