By Anthony J. Lockwood
It’s been like this forever: The analyst waits for a designer to submit a model, the designer waits for an analyst to send back results, the designer then regenerates the design, and the process repeats until the design performs up to specs. Truth be told, this iterative process has served everyone well over the years. But another truth is that this process also produces systematic sluggishness because someone is always waiting for work or for a design to regenerate. And mistakes still seem to emerge late in the process where fixes are expensive and scrap and delivery delays can be even more expensive.
Over the past few years, the cavalry riding over the hills to solve all this has been simulation-driven design — using CAE upfront in the process. By applying the physics to your design early and often, you get a better understanding of your design’s behavior, which provides knowledge you can exploit to wring out flaws before they become expensive engineering changes later on.
All good, says Blake Courter, a co-founder of SpaceClaim Corporation, in a white paper titled "Simulation-Driven Product Development: Will Form Finally Follow Function?" However, there remains an efficiency problem with the simulation-driven design approach as deployed in many environments. In a nutshell: "how early in the process can you leverage simulation and at what point does it impose process inefficiencies of its own?"
Courter suggests the answer depends on your design approach. Environments that use only featured-based modelers de-couple analysis and design during conceptual design by necessity. Thus, costs that could otherwise be taken out of a design are missed opportunities. Further, when you do bring together simulation and design, any changes to the model require complex editing then design regeneration, both time-consuming procedures no matter the stage of the process.
On the other hand, environments that empower analysts with direct modeling capabilities can begin design simulations during conceptual design. This means that engineers can evaluate more alternatives and optimize performance prior to the detailed design stages. Such an approach minimizes costly redesign delays, reduces unnecessary costs from the earliest stages of a design, produces better designs, and improves efficiency throughout the process. It’s an approach that is particularly well-suited for small- to mid-sized businesses that cannot afford the overhead of a dedicated conceptual design department and multiple seats of a feature-based CAD platform.
Courter has more to say in his six-page white paper than this, but you get the idea. He does a good job laying out and arguing his thesis that empowering engineers with direct modeling tools leverages the full potential of simulation-driven design. You can check out his paper for yourself from the link below.
Thanks, Pal — Lockwood
Anthony J. Lockwood
Editor at Large, Desktop Engineering Magazine