Founded in 1999, French street theater company La Machine came about thanks to a joint quest by artists, technicians and theater designers to build unusual theater objects. Movement – the driving force behind La Machine’s artistic process – is interpreted as a language and a source of emotion. Each living architecture encapsu­lates the company’s vision for tomorrow’s urban landscape and transforms the way people perceive towns and cities.

La Machine is involved in a broad range of projects both in the sphere of urban development and street performance: Les Machines de l’Ile in Nantes, Les Animaux de la Place in La Roche sur Yon, the Minotaur in Toulouse, le Manège Carré Sénart, La Symphonie Mécanique, L’Expédition Végétale and others. architecture into the theatrical writing. The scenes must be performed in the places which citizens use as part of their daily lives. We address street audiences more than traditional theatre audiences. Our form of street art allows us to envis­age collective visions that give substance to the shared dream of living together,” says François Delarozière, artistic director.

”Bringing the city alive, setting it into motion, breathing life back into certain areas, herein lies the company’s ambition, by placing movement at the heart of its artistic process”, explains Frédette Lampre, in charge of distributing shows, communi­cation and partnerships for the company.

The challenge: protecting public safety

To bring these ambitious projects to life, La Machine has equipped itself with the means to design, manufacture and install unique structures. One example is the Heron Tree, a colossal steel sculpture measuring 35 meters high, 50 meters across, with a trunk 15 meters in diameter, weighing in at 1,700 tons. The sculpture will take five years to build.

The engineering department must confirm that the structure’s performance complies with stringent regulations, as prescribed in French law: “Fairground attractions, machinery and installations for funfairs and amusement parks or any place of installa­tion or operation must be designed, built, installed, operated and maintained such that they present, in normal conditions of use or in other conditions reasonably fore­seeable by the professional, the safety that can be reasonably expected, and not endanger human health.”

“Our machines work in interaction with the public – users, spectators and operators,” explains Marc Lairet, director of studies at La Machine. “They are subject to very strict security rules. In France, AFNOR standard NF EN 13814 specifies the requirements for the design, calculations, manufacture and installation of fairground attractions and amusement installations. The calcula­tion of the structures is especially important for our projects.”

Selection of Simcenter Femap and Simcenter Nastran

To ensure the proper sizing of the struc­tures and to verify their performance both at a standstill and in motion, the engineer­ing department selected Simcenter Femap software, which is integrated with the Simcenter Nastran solver. The artistic creator’s sketches form the starting point for La Machine designs. Based on these sketches, the designers create 3D CAD models. Next comes the sizing and calculation phase – key for the project. Since these are moving structures with articulated subassemblies, the com­pany must make certain that the security conditions are effectively complied with in all the most unfavorable cases. It must also confirm that the structures withstand nor­mal operating conditions and exceptional conditions such as during an earthquake.

Today, Simcenter Femap is used for all the calculations: the preprocessing step for defining the model by finite elements, the load cases and the constraints. At this stage, CAD models are directly imported into the solution. Simcenter Femap offers tools to simplify and clean up the geom­etry for the analysis mesh. Then comes the calculation step using Simcenter Nastran, which offers many options for linear and nonlinear static solutions. The solver step is followed by postprocessing for the graphical interpretation of the calculation results and the generation of reports. Further development and optimization iterations are carried out in Simcenter Femap. Once the parameters have been adjusted, the model is forwarded to the CAD team, which makes the necessary modifications to the initial design.

Support from Siemens solution partner

SIGMEO, France’s leading distributor of the Simcenter Femap and Simcenter Nastran software solutions, supported La Machine with the solution’s deployment inside the engineering department. Their experts pro­vided training and support for the engineers with the implementation of Simcenter Femap.

“The engineers quickly adopted the solu­tion. They were operational after only three days of training,” says Thierry Bourdier, head of SIGMEO. “Simcenter Femap benefits from a solid reputation in the industrial world, in particular in the sphere of aeronautical tools. The case with La Machine shows that our solution can fully play its role in the most unusual, large-scale undertakings

Lairet reviews the reasons behind this choice: “Before, we used an open source calculation code developed by a French electricity provider, but we would spend a great deal of time on the data entry, and postprocessing of the results was labori­ous. We sought to adopt a finite element analysis solution with a robust, high-per­formance solver, one that was recognized by the certification bodies, with powerful, straightforward pre- and postprocessing functions.” Upshot and outlook

For La Machine, the deployment of Simcenter Femap yielded immediate gains in time and quality. The preprocessing step is now much less time-consuming and painstaking than it was with the open source solution. Gains in time by a factor of between 1 and 5 have been observed for the data entry phase (definition of the mesh and load cases). Freed from tedious tasks, the engineers can dedicate more of their time to analyzing critical zones, and varying certain parameters to find solu­tions that are better optimized and more innovative.

With faster cycles and a greater number of digital tests, the company has reduced the number of physical tests and thus gained in terms of agility. Virtual testing enables La Machine to focus precious time on new creative projects that continue to astonish by reinventing the urban landscape. “We pride ourselves on the surprise factor and on blowing away spectators who are promptly transformed into our street corner audience,” says Delaroziere.