• Competitive sailing requires robust part design in order to withstand the higher loads placed on the boat and its components during aggressive racing. At the same time, the designs must be as lightweight as possible to remain within race-class weight requirements. Advanced engineering company iXent was called on by the owner of racing sailboat Alegre 3 to contribute to strengthening and lightweighting a key component design.


  • iXent used Tosca Structure, Isight and Abaqus to develop a design for a winch gear that would undergo extreme stress during operation.


  • The company was able to deliver a highly optimized part design that had not previously been explored. SIMULIA’s products enabled them to quickly consider alternative designs and arrive at the best solution.

Simulation leads to tougher, lighter designs

iXent focused on the support plate that holds everything in place inside each winch shaft. Many other gear-support designs Hahn had seen were just flat, circular plates highly susceptible to bending and twisting under excess stress. “The plate has to be really, really strong,” he says. “I’ve seen this in reality: a weak support starts bending and wiggling around. If the support deflects, the whole drivetrain locks up and you can’t move your mainsail.”

So how to go about designing the optimum winch-gear support for the Alegre? While iXent applied its own extensive industry knowledge, and several proprietary techniques they’d rather not discuss, Hahn is happy to name some of the simulation tools his group depended on to guide much of their innovation: from the SIMULIA portfolio, Tosca Structure (for non-parametric topology optimization); Isight (for process automation and parametric optimization); and Abaqus (for finite element analysis). Their primary CAD tool was Dassault Systèmes’ CATIA.

“We see the whole simulation package as a big help,” says Hahn. “The simulation process chain we have here basically covers everything from conception up to detailing. Our customers know we are using cutting-edge technology. If you don’t use it you will be left behind. These digital tools definitely support us in making our experience-based decisions.”

Even as an experienced engineer, I can’t fully imagine what the optimum structure is in terms of where I can save weight and where I have to add material in. But Tosca automatically runs through all the possibilities to give you a meshed, almost Rorschach-like pattern that identifies the most efficient structure.

Thomas Hahn, Founding Partner
How did Tosca provide critical design guidance for an prize-winning yacht?

Download the full, detailed case study to find out.

DLC: Case Study: iXent Direct

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