Using the power of numbers to reduce CO2

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Kevin Brittain started getting into efficient design while an engineering undergrad at the University of Evansville in Evansville, Indiana. It wasn’t until he came to Cummins, however, that he fully appreciated the connection between design efficiency and reducing carbon dioxide (CO2).

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Kevin Brittain uses Numerical Optimization to help produce better designs, faster.

Using sophisticated computer software, Brittain looks for ways to design high horsepower engines for trains, ships, large generators and more, so they make the most efficient use of raw materials without impacting the durability and dependability customers rely on.

The team he works on, the High Horsepower Structural Analysis Team, has discovered ways to remove hundreds of pounds from high horsepower products, which can mean better fuel efficiency for customers while also reducing the need to mine additional raw materials. Better fuel efficiency reduces carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary greenhouse gas emitted through human activities.

“We all have a role to play in achieving our mission that everything we do leads to a cleaner, healthier, safer environment,” said Brittain, who is based at Cummins’ new High Horsepower Tech Center in Seymour, Indiana. “This is one way that our engineers can make an impact.”

Brittain, an Applied Mechanics Engineer – Technical Specialist, relies on the power of numbers to do his job. He leads a global council within the company on something called Numerical Optimization, the use of mathematical calculations and related approaches to help engineers arrive at “better designs, faster.”

He joined Cummins about five years ago because he thought it offered the best opportunity to practice the subject of his master’s thesis at the University of Illinois, Topology Optimization, a major subset of Numerical Optimization at the company.

Brittain knew of Cummins’ reputation in engineering circles for Analysis Led Design, the use of powerful computer models to simulate, in this case, the harsh environment inside an engine and how the engine works in real-world applications. Analysis Led Design allows engineers to test an almost limitless number of design variables before an engine ever uses a drop of fuel in a test cell.

High Horsepower Team with Kevin Brittain 1172016 (002)
The High Horsepower Structural Analysis Team has discovered ways to remove hundreds of pounds from high horsepower products, which can mean better fuel efficiency for customers while also reducing the need to mine additional raw materials. Team members pictured are based at the High Horsepower Tech Center in Seymour, Indiana.

Numerical Optimization makes Analysis Led Design more efficient by helping engineers choose the design elements most likely to succeed from those limitless options, significantly reducing design time. Brittain, for example, uses Topology Optimization to help determine where material needs to stay to maintain robustness and where it can be removed without affecting durability.

Any design, of course, will be tested extensively in a test cell to make sure it delivers under real-world conditions before it goes to the customer. But the chances for success are greatly enhanced by all the work that goes into that final design.

“Cummins is fortunate to have many engineers like Kevin who are helping the company reduce its carbon footprint in a way that gives our customers the power they need to succeed,” said Madeleine Fogler, who leads Cummins’ Design for Environment initiative.

“The focus of Design for Environment is to reduce our product’s environmental impact by making informed decisions in the design phase,” she added. “Reducing material without compromising durability and reliability is one way to do that.”

Brittain says he loves working on Cummins’ High Horsepower Structural Analysis Team.

“Our team is young, diverse and embraces new ideas and new methods,” he said. “We have members in the U.S., the U.K. and India and everyone has a passion for finding new ways to improve our products.”

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