By Thierry Marchal
Editor’s note: This commentary was sponsored as part of DE’s Visionary Voices section.
In response to well-known pressures, today’s global automotive industry faces an incredible challenge: designing a new hybrid electric vehicle/electric vehicle (HEV/EV) powertrain in just a decade. In comparison, inventing and fine-tuning the internal combustion engine took more than a century. So leading car manufacturers, which cannot afford to miss out on this opportunity, are creating a cultural change. They are moving from a test-centric culture to a computational analysis-centric one, paving the way to a new world where safe, robust, sustainable innovations will be the norm. Other industries will have no choice but to follow.
At ANSYS, we have noted that engineering simulation is being adopted more and more across all industries as a strategic tool for innovation, cost reduction, and even addressing important environmental challenges. An increasing number of companies leverage advanced simulation involving multiphysics to gain a realistic and reliable product-behavior prediction. We see two major trends emerging: one related to advanced technologies and the future of simulation (robust design optimization), and the other, perhaps more pragmatic but definitely more business oriented, related to optimization of the product development process to amplify engineering.
Robust design optimization is quite straightforward, and it is the next standard for simulation. Companies want to make their products or processes insensitive to any variation of parameters, whether it is material properties, dimensions, operating conditions or the environment in which the product operates (including unintended end-customer usage). A product is robust if it delivers expected optimized performances in any circumstance throughout its lifecycle. Engineers can deliver robust design by digitally optimizing the solution, taking into account any possible probabilistic or accidental variation. There is no effective way to ensure product insensitivity using a traditional product design approach.
Even with large-scale deployment of simulation, some companies are coming up short in engineering resources; others feel that their current resources could be used more efficiently to involve simulation more systematically, more pervasively, without massive additional investment in human resources. The trend, therefore, is to optimize the product development process itself, to use simulation results and investments in a smarter way so that more can be done with less. This is a management issue. It calls for sharing and customizing best practices from best-in-class companies. The outcome is that companies can amplify the value of its existing engineering workforce.
Synergies in these two areas lead to a third important trend: systems engineering leading to a smart product system. This involves going beyond localized design and simulating the system as a whole. Early in the development cycle, ANSYS software can help cross-functional engineering organizations predict system-level performance. R&D teams then work on improving individual components and subsystems as well as their interactions with one another. The entire product system can be continuously and rapidly fine-tuned in a virtual environment until it is ready for physical assembly and testing. The end result is an accelerated development process and increased confidence in ultimate performance when products are launched.
Anticipating Evolving Users Needs
ANSYS has made a commitment to engage with both industrial and research worlds for facilitating and accelerating this cultural change, beginning with the launch of release 14.0. Our software includes seamless integration of multiphysics in a single environment. It offers product development protagonists–designers, analysts or even executives–reliable and smooth interaction. And we have developed innovative licensing strategies for cost-effective massive adoption of parametric studies. These are the cornerstones of tomorrow’s engineering framework. Simulation has an amazing future: it will be everywhere. Within 10 years, engineering simulation will no longer be a step in the product design process, it will become the process itself.
Thierry Marchal is Industry Marketing Director for ANSYS.