5 CAE Industry Strategies to Bring Simulation to More Engineers

Simulation competitors put aside their differences for the greater good of the simulation industry.

Software technologies for analysis, systems engineering and simulation can offer a lot of benefits to engineers and the companies they serve.

With these computer-aided engineering (CAE) tools, engineers can reduce costs, recalls, development cycles, late design changes and the number of prototypes required. Additionally, these tools can help engineers improve their designs through optimization-driven innovations.

However, the benefits CAE tools offer mean nothing if the industries that engineers serve have no access to the software. This lack of CAE access proportionally affects small/medium enterprises (SME) due to budgetary restrictions, lack of confidence in the technology and lack of confidence in an engineer’s ability to use the software to its full potential.

Last January, 85 top CAE thought leaders from academia, vendors, user groups and government met to discuss strategies to tackle the hurdles companies have to adopt simulation. The group also discussed hurdles that are negatively affecting the advancement of CAE technology internally.

The meeting, dubbed the Analysis Simulation and Systems Engineering Software Summit (ASSESS) was created by Brad Holtz of Cyon Research and Joe Walsh of intrinSIM. The pair met at COFES (Congress on the Future of Engineering Software), an annual think-tank designed to advance engineering technology.

“ASSESS is a broad reaching, multi-industry initiative to expand the use and benefit of software tools for model-based analysis, simulation, and systems engineering in the engineering domain,” said Joe Walsh of intrinSIM, and co-founder of ASSESS.

SIEMENS PLM Software, BETA CAE Systems, CD-adapco, SIMULIA, NAFEMS and Autodesk sponsored the event at the platinum sponsor level while 18 other companies sponsored the event at the foundation level. The number of attendees and sponsors from competing software vendors shows how influential ASSESS has become in such a short time, as well as the importance of the five topics discussed that are affecting the simulation industry.

Democratization of CAE So All Products Are Tested

A simulation app made by experts in COMSOL can simplify the workflow so non-expert users have the freedom to use simulation. (Image courtesy of COMSOL.)

A simulation app made by experts in COMSOL can simplify the workflow so non-expert users have the freedom to use simulation. (Image courtesy of COMSOL.)

CAE tools are next to useless for the average company if only a select few industry experts can use them. At ASSESS, one of their goals is to make CAE tools accessible to any user that might benefit from them.

The theory is that if this democratization of CAE is made possible, then every organization will be able to virtually prototype their products before they build their first model.

 Using strategies like bringing simulation into CAD design tools, and simplifying pre/post processing using apps created by simulation experts, will help to spread the benefits of these tools.

Through promoting simulation democratization, ASSESS hopes to grow the use of CAE tools by an order of magnitude in five short years.

Engineers and Managers Need to Be Confident of Their CAE Tools

If managers are not confident in the CAE tools available, then they will never have faith in the idea of virtual prototyping. The old adage that ‘no one trusts the simulation model except the engineer that built it’ needs to become a thing of the past.

Companies need to see simulation as an asset, not a liability for their development cycles. As a result, the control they have on building their models as well as the business benefits to adopt the technology will need to be communicated to them.

To bring this marketing task forward, ASSESS plans to create a series of messages that target C-level management. These messages will be created with the help of the organization NAFEMS, a vendor-neutral organization which helps to train and educate engineers about simulation.

NAFEMS is a great choice for this task, as they already have countless real world examples and educational material to work with. All that needs to be done now is for the content to be updated for the C-level audience.

Business Challenges to Adopting CAE

Of course, convincing a C-level manager of the benefits of CAE tools isn’t enough to get it green lit. Traditionally, simulation isn’t cheap for SMEs. It costs money to license the software, support the high power computing (HPC) and to create communication best practices between simulation experts and non-technical management.

To address these issues, ASSESS hopes to advance the simulation trends of pay-as-you-go licenses and HPC cloud technologies. HPC and licenses represent the largest costs associated with CAE tools. As a result, reducing this burden on SMEs will surely help to grow adoption.

As for the best practices between technical and non-technical simulation stakeholders, ASSESS is recommending that the industry create apps, tools and standards to support engineers with their communications. To build these tools and apps, the industry will need help from certified CAE consultants that communicate their findings to non-technical management on a continual basis.

Integrating CAE Tools for Easier Adoption

It’s rare to see an organization use a single software provider for all their CAE tools. As a result, purchasing new tools can become an IT nightmare, as software providers do not always want their products to work well with software from their competitors.

Though this tactic might have originally been used to encourage users to stick with one provider, it has backfired and caused organizations to fear the implementation of new software.

ASSESS has therefore prioritized information sharing between CAD, systems engineering, product lifecycle management (PLM), application lifecycle management (ALM), CAE and other tools. The focus of this information sharing will be through cyber-physical, mechatronic systems and the internet of things (IoT). The data will be passed between these connections using industry metadata standards, systems level libraries, service-oriented architectures (SoA) and collaboration.

In other words, software providers will need to learn to work like partners instead of competitors for the mutual benefit of increased sales.

Integrating the Research on CAE

The birth of CAE tools was made possible from by various government, academic and software providers working together for a common cause: virtual prototyping. However, growing concerns of intellectual property protection, national security and other independent issues forced these three partners to become isolated.

Having three separate camps working on a common goal behind closed doors isn’t the most efficient way to expand a technology. As a result, ASSESS suggests that working groups be created to help facilitate the transfer of knowledge and take an inventory of what has been done.

As these lines of communication begin to regrow, ASSESS also suggests that partnerships and mutually beneficial business models be created to help solidify the relationships.

ASSESS Looks to the Future of CAE

The question is: what do all of these strategies and recommendations point to?

To answer that, the team at ASSESS stated that they envision a future where CAE tools will become self-aware, and aware of the needs of human beings. This will bring invaluable information to engineers and the companies they serve.

To do this, they will need to bring some higher-order artificial intelligence, human knowledge and a more sympathetic nature into the technology. This will allow the systems to automatically discover the rules they need to follow to create complete and sound results.

To bring this reality into fruition, the CAE industry will need to improve their economic and educational support. This support will need to come in the form of helping to improve the state of the simulation industry, education and research to fuel this innovation. This will take a significant amount of funding and information-sharing facilitated by the aforementioned ASSESS strategies.

During the meeting, ASSESS also highlighted some current technologies that might have a significant effect on the CAE industry. These potential game changers include:

  • Topology Optimization and ALM for light-weighting designs
  • Cutting CAD out of the design process
  • Taking humans out of the design process loop with optimization tools
  • Using the web, cloud and mobile devices to facilitate simulation
  • Creating digital twins that link real world products with CAE mock-ups via the IoT
  • Implementing the gaming industry’s model for product development software

Those looking to see an in-depth overview of ASSESS can attend a seminar at COFES. To find out how follow this link.

Written by

Shawn Wasserman

For over 10 years, Shawn Wasserman has informed, inspired and engaged the engineering community through online content. As a senior writer at WTWH media, he produces branded content to help engineers streamline their operations via new tools, technologies and software. While a senior editor at Engineering.com, Shawn wrote stories about CAE, simulation, PLM, CAD, IoT, AI and more. During his time as the blog manager at Ansys, Shawn produced content featuring stories, tips, tricks and interesting use cases for CAE technologies. Shawn holds a master’s degree in Bioengineering from the University of Guelph and an undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Waterloo.