Suppose you could have all the simulation you wanted. Would it change the way you work? Would it change the decisions you make? Would your designs improve? With the technologies that are emerging, this may soon be the case.
There are plenty of options. Just look at the hardware choices. On the desktop with today's workstations, you can get 16 cores, and even double that by using hyper-threading. You can network desktop workstations to get a few hundred cores working on your simulations. You can set up simulations on high-performance computing (HPC) servers and run hundreds and even thousands of cores, or you can run simulations by purchasing Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) on a contract where your core allocation is only limited by the money you are willing to spend. You could even simply get your simulation done as a cloud offering and pay as you use it. All of those choices have different affordability models.
How will all this capability change the design process? We run simulation and analysis programs because we want to gain insights into the design that we would not get otherwise. In addition, we simulate to avoid the time and expense of actual physical testing. Simulation draws our attention to areas in the design that we need to change, to improve outcomes. We simulate to justify and test our design decisions, and to make sound engineering judgments. We can set up engineering design of experiments (DOE) and run various simulations to help us optimize our designs. In today's world, we often trust the software without comparing the results against test data from physical models to validate the analysis, something we should carefully consider.
Simulation Has Taken Hold
There are many customer examples of simulation. Indy racecars are designed with complex simulations including airflow, tire wear and traction, and various changes are made to determine the impact on race time. Simulation is used before and even during the race to make key decisions, based upon predicting the final race time and position. Automotive companies simulate crash testing to predict safety outcomes. Plastic manufacturers simulate the mold design to make sure the final plastic product will emerge as intended and they will achieve the required product quality, and so on. Not only are these analyses being done, but new simulation use cases are rapidly emerging. For instance, in the race to have the perfect electric car, companies are using simulation to determine the impact of design changes on charging times, safety, size, charge duration and car performance.
The case can be made for simulation to emerge everywhere in design where critical decisions are being made, and also for the next level of decision-making with regard to reliability and product quality. Today's hardware is well equipped to make this happen. Application providers are also making it easier. Some analysis applications are included within CAD applications, such as SolidWorks. More sophisticated applications, such as ANSYS, are able to run massive problems on the desktop or in a workstation cluster to give users more control. HPC servers are more powerful than ever, and analysis is available at a cloud level, so users can quickly get multiple design decisions analyzed.
New Paths Toward a Competitive Advantage
For many, simulation results must be tested and validated by real physical testing to ensure assumptions and analysis decisions are correct. Engineers, and often PhDs, will develop the details needed for correct analysis. For companies that invest in this data and process, it becomes a serious competitive advantage--one not likely to be released outside their company anytime soon.
With the availability of hardware and software to push analysis further, and the existing simulation capability to improve the design process (and hence, designs), companies can find new ways to gain and keep a competitive advantage. Companies need to look for new ways to use simulation. They may find these new ways in a metric that hadn't been considered thoroughly, or a manufacturing process impact and a way to improve the quality of a part.
Engineering itself is not standing still, but rapidly evolving. More product outcomes are becoming predictable through good engineering tools. The winners and losers of the next generation of products will be the ones that master this change.
Some of us are starting to call this the foundation of Engineering 2.0; that is, the engineering that will be the foundation for 21st-century competitive design.
Tom Salomone, is HP's recently retired marketing manager for workstations. He is currently an industry consultant at Salomone Consulting. Contact him via email@example.com.