Discover the visionary mind behind the innovative approach to aerodynamics and CFD simulation through our interview with Wouter Remmerie. Make the most of this opportunity to gain valuable insights from one of the highest acclaimed experts in the field of aerodynamics!
Dr. Wouter Remmerie is the founder and CEO of Air Shaper, a leading provider of computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulation services for the automotive, aerospace, and sports industries. He received his Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering from the KU Leuven in Belgium, where he developed innovative methods for simulating unsteady aerodynamic flows around moving objects.
Dr. Wouter's expertise in CFD simulations and aerodynamics has made him a distinguished authority in the field. Under his leadership, Air Shaper has become a go-to resource for companies seeking to optimize their products for maximum performance and efficiency. His cutting-edge approach combines advanced CFD simulations with data analytics and machine learning techniques to deliver unparalleled insights into the behavior of complex systems.
In addition to his work at Air Shaper, Wouter is actively involved in several international initiatives promoting sustainable and interpretable AI. His research and insights have been featured in prominent industry publications and conferences, and he is a sought-after speaker and consultant in the field of aerodynamics.
🎬 AirShaper’s YouTube video on Aerodynamic Shape Optimization:
The history behind AirShaper: https://airshaper.com/cases/aquilo-patented-aerodynamic-concept-car
About Wouter 📝
Well, I’m Wouter Remmerie, 39 years old, living in Belgium, a small but nice country in Europe. 10 years ago I had slightly more hair and I was managing the engineering projects at a very cool design & engineering company called Voxdale. We were just 7 people back then, working on the coolest projects you could imagine, going from race boats to LED walls to satellites.
Why Engineering? ⚙️
There are quite a lot of engineers in the family, including my father, and my mum was a math teacher, so I guess that fuelled my interest as a kid to build stuff with Lego and being obsessed with cars. This passion never went away and so I decided to study mechanical engineering.
His First Job 💼
My first job was to design gearboxes for wind turbines - quite a fascinating world, as those turbines are huge and the size was (and still is) increasing every day. This created a big need for new concepts to cope with higher torque & power requirements.
In parallel, I had started working on a car design in my free time - a concept built around aerodynamic channels inside & outside the body of the car to generate lateral forces. I teamed up with a local engineering agency (that same Voxdale company) to patent the concept and we got to talk to Ferrari and even got to visit Pagani. It was super rewarding, a kid’s dream come true!
In the end, the concept wasn’t picked up by any manufacturer, but the whole track had sparked my passion for aerodynamics and entrepreneurship. Some time later, I started a small CFD consultancy business which later turned into the AirShaper project.
About Your Research 🧑🔬
Aerodynamic simulations are typically performed using stand-alone software, costing 30.000€-100.000€ for a single licence. Then you need expensive hardware to run it as well as an experienced (and thus again expensive) person to set up, run & interpret simulations. And you’ll need to spend quite some time preparing your 3D CAD models for simulations, as they typically cannot contain any gaps or holes (you need what is called a watertight 3D model).
All of this makes aerodynamic simulations prohibitively expensive and time consuming for small and even large companies. So they either work with consultants or they have to drop aerodynamics altogether.
At AirShaper, we’ve flipped this around: we charge a much, much smaller amount per simulation (500€ on average), with no other costs involved. And we’ve automated the entire simulation process, including support for non-watertight 3D models, so no experience or CAD repair effort is required to start running simulations.
Removing the cost, experience & CAD repair barrier allows many companies to get into aerodynamics and improve the performance of their products. AirShaper is being used for the optimization of electric vehicles, drones, athletes, buildings and so on.
Day-to-Day Work ✍️
I’m enjoying a nice combination of technical development with business development. So my days are filled with mathematics as well as marketing & sales. But in the end, I do enjoy the technical bits the most!
Hard- and Soft Skills Vital In Your Job 🎯
I still have a lot to learn :) I think stamina and a positive attitude are really important. There are a lot of challenges when setting up a new business, so you need those to keep pushing.
And learning how to trust others and communicate properly is also crucial. Once you have that trust, team work becomes so much easier.
Is Passion a Prerequisite for Success? 🔥
Hm, tough question. I think it’s broader than just your career. Whatever you do in life, it gets better if it is linked to your passion. But of course it’s a luxury to be able to get into entrepreneurship and talk about passion while others have to fight for the basics. So perhaps it doesn’t apply to everything.
What are Your Greatest Career Strengths? 💪
It’s easy to look back now and say that where we are now is because of some incredible vision we had before. We made many mistakes. But we are glad that we stuck to the principle of making our platform as easy to use as possible, resisting the temptation to make an expert tool out of it. And the team is incredibly good at creating technical solutions to make this possible.
On the other hand, sales is my weakness. I had never really done any sales before starting AirShaper and I still struggle with it. I need to work on this :)
Time When You Turned a Threat Into an Opportunity? ⚠️
I guess most people will refer to COVID here, so I’ll try another one. As with many startups, our sales estimates were way too optimistic. Years back, when we hired our first sales person, I had thought this would automatically & magically solve the problem. But of course it didn’t - the product was different back then, the market was different and I had the wrong expectations in a market where a sale can take 6-18 months. I panicked and we parted ways and we were looking at possibly stopping the business all together, as COVID came in on top of this.
We then made some tough decisions, turned our sales & marketing strategy around and pushed through. Somehow, sales picked up just in time and we came out much healthier!
What's More Important – Education or Skills & Experience? 🧠
Interesting debate in general!
I do believe that a solid base in terms of mathematics and general engineering knowledge is essential for our business. But to make the difference, skills like interacting with people, negotiating, how to persist, and so on are probably more relevant (and perhaps more difficult to acquire).
How Much Time Do You Spend on a Problem Before Dropping it? 🚫
Hm, I don’t know if I have a target limit or a good average on this. Some problems have a larger time scale than others, so deserve a bit more consideration perhaps?
Daily Habits ✔️
In the past I used to work late nights and neglect my social life and health. After some time, that started taking its toll, so now I stick to working only during office hours, have a healthy amount of sleep and relax whenever I can :)
Where Do You See Your Industry Going in the Future? 🧪
More and more software solutions will move to the cloud I think, it’ll become the standard. Also, AI will likely play a massive role in this, speeding up the rate at which we can analyse and even generate new ideas.
Top 3 Pieces of Advice to Juniors 💁
If you can identify the things that make you happy and which you are passionate about, then I think you’re on a good track. Also, surround yourself with people who genuinely care about you, who want to help you succeed. Our advisory board for example has been instrumental in keeping us from making huge mistakes and questioning some of our choices.
Biggest Success Factor on Your Journey 🚀
I think personal development is one of the biggest aspects: it can be very confronting to run your own business, and you learn a lot about yourself. Having the stamina to keep going is, to me, a big factor.
What Inspired You to Become an Engineer? 🧑🔬
Lots of engineers in the family and a passion for cars as a kid.
Most Challenging Project 💪
Finding ways to make the jump from a steady job to running a startup was one of the biggest ones: finding funding, finding means to bridge the gap, in a market where you need years to turn the business profitable.
Most Important Skills for a Successful Career 🛠
If you are eager to learn, perhaps you’ll learn faster. And you’ll be more eager if you find a domain you are passionate about? And of course there is little substitute for hard work - to go through the dirt, work hard and push through.
How Do You Stay Up-to-Date With the Latest Trends 📈
We have some Google alerts to stay up to date, some websites, fairs we go to, input from customers, …
Most Rewarding Thing About Your Work 🏆
Working with the team is super cool, especially as we’ve now reached that stage where we can simply work based on trust. And creating something entirely new is very rewarding - you can turn your vision into reality.
Advice to Someone Starting Their Career ✅
Perhaps build your network (LinkedIn etc), work on your own projects (to showcase something unique to others / companies / …) etc.
Work-Life Balance? ⚖️
Made many mistakes here, but in the end, sticking to working just 8 hours a day seems to pay off: you’re well rested, make better decisions and work more efficiently.
What Sets Great People Apart from Good Ones? 🧑🔬
Assuming you mean great within their field (rather than as a person), I think hard work will set you apart, as well as the ability to think beyond the conventional, to see the bigger picture within the scene you are active in. If you can see how and why people interact within a company, which their incentives are, how you can motivate them to work together, then you can achieve a lot.
What Excites You About the Future? 🎉
In the long term, it could be anything - perhaps not even tech related. But I’m having way too much fun running AirShaper, so I’m motivated as ever to further boost our reach & create new tools for aerodynamics!
One Science Concept That Engineers Commonly Misunderstand? 🤔
Hm, tricky, I don’t know if I have such overall insight. One thing I find challenging is that technological advance is often portrayed as real advance. But on average, there are only few technologies which substantially improve our lives in the long term (across generations). Most technologies just raise the bar for the next generation without a lasting increase in happiness - but sadly, with a lasting increase in required resources (per capita) to maintain that new standard. So the promise of many technologies is often an illusion.
You're Left on an Island with 3 people. Who do You Pick? 🏝️
My 2 kids and girlfriend, for quite obvious reasons :)
Wouter’s LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/wouter-remmerie/
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Keep engineering your mind! ❤️