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Acknowledging the Failure and Hope of Simulation Driven Design

How long have we been contemplating the promise of simulation driven design?

For those of you that may be new to the concept, simulation driven design is the idea of running analyses during design to make more informed decisions. In theory, it allows organizations identify flaws earlier, when they can address them with less constraint and investment. It also, theoretically, enables engineers to explore a lot more design alternatives, supposedly yielding better designs.

So how long has it been? More than twenty years.

My first exposure to was in 1997 when PTC acquired a company called Rasna. Back then, they were one of the first companies to use p-elements. PTC embedded the technology in Creo. Many other software providers also put slimmed down FEA capabilities in CAD applications and turned them over to engineers. That was more than twenty years ago.

How widely has simulation driven design been adopted? Not much.

Those making design decisions are much less likely to use simulation tools than they use CAD tools. I hate to say it, but the strategy of putting slimmed down FEA into CAD for engineers simply hasn’t panned out.

What’s the problem? Skills and knowledge.

Back in 2010, I suggested that a simulation driven design effort required skills and knowledge in four distinct areas. Namely, this included a background in engineering science, understanding of the analysis method, familiarity with CAD software and knowledge of simulation software. Furthermore, engineers are very busy. Our Hardware Design Engineer study showed that engineers, on average, have 7.3 responsibilities across design and other realms. Engineers today simply can’t pay the cost, in terms of time, knowledge and skills, to conduct simulations all on their own

Is there any hope? Yes. Actually. A lot of hope.

Interestingly, I think there’s a good bit more hope today than there has been in quite some time. You see, the same year I wrote that post about the four skills and knowledge, I suggested that teamwork and collaboration was the only way for an organization to successfully pursue a simulation driven design initiative. It logically makes sense. Engineers have the background in engineering science, familiarity with CAD software and their design. Analysts know the analytical method and the simulation software.

The good news is that new technologies are emerging that enable this kind of collaboration. These tools are simulation platforms. The capabilities vary from software provider to software provider, but essentially, these simulation platforms provide something along the following lines.

  • Allow analysts to set up some kind of guidance or automation that engineers can use to run simulations.
  • Allow analysts and engineers to share their simulations without data translation.
  • Offer the analyst and the engineer the right capabilities needed to perform their job.

What’s next? Stay tuned.

Over the next few months, I’ll be publishing a few eBooks that dive deeper into this topic in different contexts such as industries, by organizational size and more. Longer term, I’ll have some research I can share.

I’ll also be publishing new blog posts looking at the offerings of different software companies. In fact, here’s a short list of the ones I plan on investigating.

  • Altair Engineering’s Hyperworks and Solidthinking
  • ANSYS’ Workbench and AIM
  • Autodesk’s FUSION360
  • Dassault Systemes’ SIMULIA and Solidworks
  • ESI Group
  • MSC Software
  • Siemens PLM Simcenter

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Take care. Talk soon. Thanks for reading.

Chad Jackson is an Industry Analyst at Lifecycle Insights and publisher of the engineering-matters blog. With more than 15 years of industry experience, Chad covers career, managerial and technology topics in engineering. For more details, visit his profile.

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