Local software firm has tie to the Olympics

February 20, 2014
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Gilles Eggenspieler
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Photo courtesy of Ferrari
An Italian bobsled built with the help of Ansys software

A Southpointe software company gave Italy’s bobsled team a running start into the Olympics.

Ansys provided the software that led to construction of the sled the Italian men’s squad is using in the Winter Games, which are winding down this weekend.

The local firm teamed with Ferrari, the fabled Italian sports car manufacturer, which built this human-powered version of a high-speed vehicle.

“Technology from Ansys was used to optimize the bobsled by being more aerodynamic,” said Jackie Mavin, spokeswoman for Ansys. “Any little advantage can mean the difference between gold and silver.”

Well, not just yet. Team Italy finished 14th in the two-man competition Monday in Sochi, Russia. Its four-man squad will vie Saturday and Sunday. Italy does not have a women’s team in these games.

It probably has a better bobsled – or bobsleigh, the term that is often used in international competition.

Gilles Eggenspieler believes that is the case. He is the senior fluid product line manager at Ansys, and a man of letters beyond his elongated last name. He has a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering and two master’s degrees.

“Ferrari came up with this on their own,” said Eggenspieler, a product expert who speaks directly with officials at the Italian company about cars and, now, sleds. “We innovate around their ideas so they can develop the best bobsled possible. The goal is to make air resistance, the drag, minimal.”

Ferrari produced a two-minute, 18-second video on the bobsled process: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ujQGWrsWs-A.

This certainly is not Ansys’ first foray into the wide world of sports. Years ago, it developed softwear from which Speedo produced more efficient swimwear. Michael Phelps, wearing a LZR Racer suit, won a record eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Games.

The suit, Mavin explained, “was more like a wetsuit, covering all of the body. It pushed bodies into an optimum position and tons of records were broken.”

Caps and goggles likewise were optimized before the 2012 Summer Games, Mavin said, “to see how all three worked together.”

But FINA (Fédération Internationale de Natation), the international body of swimming, “looked at the suit and said the material was giving athletes too much of a competitive edge,” Mavin said. “Men and women now have to have their knees and arms exposed.”

Ansys softwear also was used to build America’s Cup boats and for cyclists. “And we provide solutions for four of the top six Formula I (auto racing) teams,” Eggenspieler said.

Mavin said Ansys has done software optimization for stadiums as well, striving to shield fans from weather conditions and “and make them as safe as possible” in case of natural disasters such as earthquakes.

Ansys’ impact on athletics is expansive and seemingly unending.

“The sky’s the limit,” Eggenspieler said.

Rick Shrum joined the Observer-Reporter as a reporter in 2012, after serving as a section editor, sports reporter and copy editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rick has won seven individual writing awards, including two Golden Quills.

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