What is MCAE? (Mechanical Computer Aided Engineering)

Simulation FEA Gearbox


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.


In the development process, MCAE software is used to:

  • Simulate and improve the performance of concept designs. The results of such can be used to define design requirements and constraints before kickoff. It may also be used to compare and contrast two or more concepts after kickoff.
  • 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 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 only identify why a design failed, but also shows secondary performance issues that can lead to additional problems.

Capabilities Provided

MCAE 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 a 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 along with 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 may also provide capabilities to improve the performance of a design in automated ways, including:
    • Sensitivity Studies: With this functionality, analysis results are recorded 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: This capability records analysis results while numerous variables of the design are changed independently. This provides a wider view of how performance varies over the design space.

Related Technology Enablers

MCAE software frequently is closely related to Mechanical Computer Aided Design (MCAD) software because it is used to create design geometry. Those 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, simulation capabilities are accessed from within MCAD Software.
  • Associative with MCAD models: Here, MCAE software is a standalone application. However, it is integrated with MCAD software so changes to geometry can be passed back and forth.
  • Exchange with MCAD software: In this case, MCAE software is also a standalone 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 them 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.

Technology Providers

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 offer 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