CAE Industry Experts Predict Future of Simulation
Shawn Wasserman posted on July 17, 2015 | 20610 views
The NAFEMS World Congress is designed to bring all the big names in CAE and SPDM (Simulation Process and Data Management) together under one roof. With so many key players in the discussion, it is useful for determining trends and getting an idea of what the CAE’s future might hold.

NAFEMS World Congress is a biennial event, bringing together the simulation community in a vendor neutral platform.

NAFEMS keynotes allow discussion of the trends and issues affecting vendors, users and academics within the CAE community. Here is a summary of some of the trends industry analysts discussed at the event and with ENGINEERING.com.

Simulation Industry Concerns No Longer Behind Closed Doors

NAFEMS represented one of the first times Joe Walsh, CEO of IntrinSIM, was able to share the findings of his Analysis, Simulation & Systems Engineering Software Summit (ASSESS).

This invite-only meeting of the simulation industry’s top brass determined the top 9 issues affecting the CAE industry:

Design centric workflow,
ease of use and/or usability,
  1. Analysis & simulation before CAD,
  2. The impact of web, cloud & mobile devices,
  3. Capturing and reuse of knowledge,
  4. Systems approach to combining heterogeneous models,
  5. Speed and model fidelity,
  6. Unattractive technical issues and
  7. Changes to licensing models.

The ASSESS initiative will create industry communities to make significant change for CAE,” said Walsh. “Its mission is to expand the use and benefit of analysis simulation and systems engineering software. Its goal is to gain better advantage and growth of CAE software given the business drivers that push the need for more innovation and creative competitiveness.”

Walsh explains that these CAE issues are both driving and following the trends. For instance he notes a reduction of simulation expertise coupled with an increased demand for the analysis is driving many vendors to democratize CAE and advanced CAE to fit-for-purpose applications.

CAE Trend: Democratization of Simulation Technology


Dennis Nagy's Slide includes images of simulation apps created by Front End Analytics.

“For years people have been calling it democratization: getting simulation out to more engineers,” said Dennis Nagy, principal at BeyondCAE.

He notes that there are currently three obstacles to this: the cost of the software, the cost of the hardware and training/expertise.

As for the first two obstacles, much of the costs associated with the hardware and software have been solved via the Cloud – opening the door to vendors that offer similar simulation codes on a pay-by-use basis, Nagy remarks.

Walsh talked about this training and expertise obstacle. “We need to reduce the level of expertise required to do simulation,” he said. “This is referred to as design centric workflow rather than simulation centric. This way simulation is used to derive and drive design decisions as opposed to just using it to do an analysis.”

Nagy noted that this final barrier is the hardest to overcome. Users either need training, tutorials or background knowledge to ensure the simulations are telling them what they really need to know. 

A training process could take years. The trend of “appification” seems to be the answer to this barrier as it can pass the expert’s knowledge to others through a simplified simulation interface that requires minimal training.

“Take engineers spending their whole time designing pumps; they don’t need to learn NASTRAN, ABAQUS or ANSYS in general. They just need to know how to use it for pumps,” said Nagy. “So someone can make a streamlined vertical app that works just for pumps. This app can then ask the engineers the correct questions to perform the simulation in the background.”

Some organizations like COMSOL are distributing simulation app-builders that allow experts to create vertical apps to meet the needs of industry-specific engineers. Other vendors like ESI Group’s are creating various fit-for-purpose tools of their own for anything from stamping, welding and seat design.

These fit-for-purpose applications also topped Walsh’s short list of CAE industry issues. “The purpose should define what needs to be done, not the fact that I’m doing a static and stress analysis,” Walsh clarified. Therefore, the purpose could be the whole system, trend analysis, subsystem, geometry or more. It just needs to fit the requirements of that specific user.

Fit-for-purpose Vs Generic Simulation Technology

Nagy explained that the move towards fit-for-purpose simulation has created a fork in the road with respect to trends – namely the trend towards all-purpose multiphysics platforms that can handle various problems.

“Most CAE environments today are general,” said Nagy. “There is a need for experienced analysts to get better as these programs get better so they can get the most out of all the multiphysics bells and whistles.”

Klaus-Jürgen Bathe, MIT professor and founder of ADINA R&D notes, “Fluid models have a totally different mesh than the structural model. In other words there are many nodes and less structural nodes. And of course the fluid nodes can slide over the structural geometry.”

As such, a structural simulation analyst would need to be trained in fluid dynamics in order to create meshes for multiphysics simulations. Analysts will need to learn how their meshes might need to change. Alternatively, they may even need two meshes that pass information between themselves.

Various big vendors in the CAE space like Siemens, MSC, Dassault Systèmes, COMSOL and ANSYS are broadening their multiphysics CAE platforms with increased capabilities to meet this trend and expand broad based simulation platforms. “There have been a number of vendors that started in one of those areas of physics, but have either been acquired by or merged with vendors in other areas to make more multiphysics where it’s actually needed,” noted Nagy.

Multiphysics and many of the other tools expanding CAE are important to those using fit-for-design simulation apps since many of them use these tools in the background. However, engineers working on these apps “may not even know of the underlying technology,” said Nagy. “But they are getting the same high quality results in a simplified interface specific to their vertical.”

Nonetheless, Nagy points out that “you can’t be all things to all people. Simulation vendors will either need to focus on general purpose tools or tools that are specific for specific people.”

Systems Engineering Linking to Simulation

Walsh is also interested in a trend that is tying model-based systems engineering with classical FEA and CFD simulation analysis. Unlike multiphysics that expands CAE to additional simulation types, this trend expands CAE by linking simulations into an overall system level digital prototype.

“This way we can link simple 0D and 1D models of systems engineering and pass those results through to the 3D high fidelity models so the complete design processes is done through a systems engineering perspective,” said Walsh.

Nagy jokes that in the past, system level simulations used to be individual teams working on independent parts that would pass their findings around cubicle walls. However, by replacing this manual system with digital systems, the complete design team can keep track of the entire project.

“The idea of simulation process and data management entered into the industry a few years ago,” explained Nagy. “This all worked at the component level. But what do you do with all the data and workflows to develop a product like an automobile?

“There are scales that a company will look at to optimize the product from subsystems, to components, to the whole system. Using simple system level models you can determine some initial configurations of the design and then cascade these findings down to the more detailed simulations like FEA and CFD.”

Strangely enough, this trend doesn’t just affect simulation. For instance, “it forced the electronic world to interact with the mechanical as they are interacting in the real products. This coined the term mechatronics which is a reality now in major manufacturing, education, and simulation,” said Nagy. “Everything has a mechanical and electrical way to look at it and they all interact now. Look at ANSYS; they started in mechanical CAE and now they clearly have activities in electronic design and CAE through acquisitions.”

Future of Simulation: Nano FAE

As for the future of simulation, Bathe is looking small, nano-scale to be exact.

“Finite element analysis and simulation at the nano scale will open up a huge field,” Bathe said.

He explains that this can lead to the analysis of proteins and DNA structures for biological engineering, energy engineering, medical and many other industries. “Ideally you will want to go from the nanostructures up to the much larger scale structures… We have had very good correlations with many proteins,” said Bathe.

One organization riding this trend is Dassault Systèmes with their BIOVIA brand.

One thing is assured for the future of simulation and CAE software. There will be more and more options out there for engineers and designers. As Bathe announced at the end of his NAFEMS keynote:

“Very powerful capabilities are now available [for simulation] but there are still many exciting research challenges. Considering the capabilities, we are only at the beginning of the use of simulations on the computer and the extent to which these will greatly enrich our lives!”

Other and future trends to keep an eye on in the simulation world include:

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