What is Mechanical Computer Aided Engineering (MCAE)?
Definition of MCAE Software
Mechanical Computer Aided Engineering (MCAE) software is used to simulate and improve the physical performance or manufacturing production of a mechanical component, assembly or product.
Applications of MCAE Software
In the development process, MCAE software is used to:
- Simulate and improve the performance of concept designs. The results of this can be used to define design requirements and constraints before kick-off. The software can also be used to compare and contrast two or more concepts after kick-off.
- Simulate and improve the performance of detailed designs. Results from these analyses can be used to fine-tune a design, offering insight between two design choices, for example, or dimensionally sizing a design.
- Confirm the performance of designs prior to prototyping and testing as part of a verification and validation process. This is often a final check before committing funds to building and testing.
- Identify and address the failure of a design as part of a root cause analysis. Such simulations now not only identify why a design failed, but also reveal secondary performance issues that could lead to additional problems.
Capabilities Provided by MCAE Software
This software provides some combination of the following capabilities.
- The core capabilities of this software focus on simulating the physical performance of a design in its operating environment. This comprises numerous physical disciplines, including:
- Structural Analyses: These simulations predict the stresses, displacements and other measures of a design. These simulations can vary depending on material linear or non-linear properties.
- Kinematic and Dynamic Analyses: These simulations calculate the movement, velocities, associated forces and other traits of a design.
- Vibrational Analyses: These simulations determine natural frequencies and excitation responses of a design.
- Thermal Analyses: These simulations derive temperatures and heat transfer rates in a design via conduction, convection or radiation.
- Fluid Analyses: These simulations compute the fluid flow around a design, as well as the resulting forces.
- Manufacturing Analyses: These simulations predict the execution of manufacturing processes, such as plastics flow, stamping and extrusion processes.
- Multi-Physics Analyses: This capability allows analyses from different disciplines to be combined. An example would be a structural analysis that takes a material’s coefficient of thermal expansion, as well as a thermal gradient, into account. Another example would be a structural analysis that takes the reaction forces of a fluid analysis into account.
- Modules or software applications can separate focus on the preparation of simulation models, which are called pre-processors, mathematically solving prepared simulation models, which are called solvers, and then reviewing the results of solved simulation models, which are called post-processors.
- In addition to simulating the performance of the current state of a design, this software also provides capabilities to improve the performance of a design in automated ways, including:
- Sensitivity Studies: With this functionality, the software generates analysis results as some trait of the design is varied, often in a linear fashion. The varied trait could be a dimension controlling the size or shape of a design. It could also be non-geometric traits, such as material properties. This type of study provides insight into how performance changes as the trait is varied.
- Optimization Studies: In this type of study, the software improves the performance of a design in an automated fashion. Such studies are often set up by identifying an overall goal, such as minimizing weight, setting constraints, such as a maximum global stress, and designating variables, such as dimensions controlling geometry size and shape.
- Design of Experiment Studies: With this capability, the software records analysis results as numerous variables of the design are changed. This provides a wider view on how performance varies over the design space.
Related Technology Enablers
MCAE software is often closely related to Mechanical Computer Aided Design (MCAD) software, because it is used to create design geometry. These models, in turn, can be used to create the simulation model. There are three forms of interaction between MCAD and MCAE software:
- Embedded within MCAD software: In this form, the user accesses simulation capabilities within MCAD Software.
- Associative with MCAD models: Here, MCAE software is a stand-alone application. However, it is integrated with MCAD software so that changes to geometry can be passed back and forth.
- Exchange with MCAD software: In this case, MCAE software is also a stand-alone application. Changes to design geometry are passed back and forth through import and export capabilities.
MCAE software creates and uses numerous artifacts to conduct simulations. Simulation Data Management (SDM) software can track and manage these simulations as they change throughout the development process. The results of MCAD software can be connected together by Simulation Automaton software to automate traditional simulation processes. Simulation Visualization software provides capabilities to view and interrogate the results of MCAE software.
Providers that offer MCAE software in a array of desktop-based, cloud-based and internal server-based solutions include:
- Altair offers their Hyperworks suite of applications for simulation and analysis
- ANSYS offers Fluent and CFX for fluid dynamics simulations, as well as Mechanical, Structure and more for FEA-based simulations
- Autodesk offers Sim360
- CD-Adapco offers STAR and other products
- Dassault Systèmes offers Abaqus, fe-safe and TOSCA as part of their SIMULIA suite of products
- ESI Group offers their Virtual Performance Platform (VPS) and VA One for Acoustics simulations
- MSC Software offers Apex, a hybrid between MCAD software and MCAE software, as well as Adams for kinematics and dynamics, Actran for acoustics, Marc for non-linear as well as Patran and SimExpert for pre-processing
- PTC offers Creo Simulate
- Siemens PLM offers NX CAE