Pay-As-You-Go Structural Simulation for Early Design: Sim4Design
Sanjeev Pal posted on June 19, 2015 |
Cloud-based Sim4Design reduces barriers associated with the adoption of CAE through ease-of-use and ...

Traditional design processes have been based on the iterative steps of: design, build, test. These steps often result in long lead times and high production costs. CAE, or simulation, enables users to run engineering analysis on products, processes and even entire systems in a digital environment before they are manufactured and assembled. Such validation early in the design cycle reduces or even removes the physical prototyping step. It positively influences firms to undertake innovative design projects, and reduces the time and cost required to bring the product to market.

 

Research has shown that 90 percent of product defects are related to mistakes made early in the design stage, and 10 percent are due to manufacturing issues. Also, as per the “rule of ten,” it costs 10 times more for an engineering change at the next phase of the product development. This research indicates that most project delays and cost increases associated with a product can be attributed to and controlled in the early phase of the design cycle to get maximum savings. Such savings can be crucial for the financial viability of smaller design and manufacturing companies.

 

Implementing CAE has proven to improve innovation, reduce the time to market and result in longer product life with better performance. Despite numerous benefits associated with using CAE software, it has been observed that even large firms purchase few simulation tools. In my research, I have found that the barriers associated with the adoption of CAE software tools are primarily related to complexity of the software product. This leads to a longer learning curve. Another barrier is the high cost of hardware and software associated with these tools. Smaller firms that do purchase CAE software may use only a few analytical functions in their regular design cycles. It takes years to master the most advanced CAE software package, which may not be the best use of time and money for regular production. The higher the complexity and cost of acquisition the CAE tools pose, the bigger the challenge for smaller firms and designers in larger organizations that may be forced to forgo simulation altogether, resorting to physical prototypes or testing final product batch runs to perfect their product design.

 

Over the years, many CAE software vendors have introduced affordable tools that might fit the budget for small manufacturers, but to get any useful simulation output quickly, high-performing hardware is also required. Many vendors have developed high-performance computing (HPC) server solution sets that are affordable for smaller- and medium-size businesses. Accurate geometrical calculation, in many cases, requires higher memory on the physical machine, and as complexity of the product design increases, the need for a powerful machine to speed up the calculations also increases.

 

Advances in cloud computing has enabled firms to offload their compute-intensive tasks, such as simulations on seemingly infinite computing resources. The cloud allows companies to selectively run tasks in parallel, as the design may be worked on their local machine. The cloud removes the need for expensive hardware. In addition, companies can dynamically scale hardware resources up, and reduce them based on the project requirements. The dynamic scaling of computing resources simplifies project planning, moving the focus to the design process, and validating product performance.

 

Sim4Design Early Design Simulation Offering

 

Sim4Design offers a cloud-based simulation product for users and designers who may have little or no knowledge of simulation. Its offerings are based on addressing two main issues associated with adoption of simulation: complexity, and the high cost of ownership associated with large-scale adoption of simulation among small- and medium-size manufacturers. The product, pricing and services are based on streamlining the entire process. Users do not need to install any software, and all analyses are done using a Web browser (figure 1).

Figure 1: Simulation results displayed in the browser
Figure 1: Simulation results displayed in the browser
Sim4Design has been designed for the entry-level simulation aspirant, or a designer with little or no simulation expertise at the early phase of design. Users can check on structural performance, such as displacements and stresses after supplying boundary conditions, forces and pressures. Since the simulation process targets users with no CAE knowledge, Sim4Design provides a simple tutorial that covers commonly used simulation terms or jargon. The tutorial describes in detail complex terms such as finite element analysis without using any mathematical terminology and points to Wikipedia for a more detailed definition, much of it in plain English. This makes it easier for non-simulation users to become comfortable with complex terms, and sets them up to run their simulation.

 

Sim4Design is based on commerical technology from Fidesys, whose advanced, workstation-based CAE tools are used by simulation experts in many industries. Simply put, Sim4Design took the commercially proven CAE tools from Fidesys, reduced the functionality, streamlined the workflow, and provided a Web browser front end to make it suitable for occasional users.

 

Sim4Design Functionality

 

Sim4Design currently offers structural analysis for parts and simple subassemblies with linear materials. The system doesn’t currently have a material library, and users must input their material properties with each analysis, but it allows default settings for a whole project, which means that material parameters can automatically be applied to different geometry versions of a design. Users can compare various structural design alternatives at the preliminary design phase. Sim4Design’s functionality is not targeted to replace advanced CAE analysis tool for the final design. When used in conjunction with CAD in the early phase of design, firms should be able to benefit from structural analysis from the get go, and reduce or even eliminate the expensive steps of re-doing the design later. In further discussions with Sim4Design, it was indicated that users can expect further expansion of functionality in the future.

Figure 2: Different pressure conditions can be applied to run the simulation
Figure 2: Different pressure conditions can be applied to run the simulation
 
Figure 3: Users can define material properties for the part
Figure 3: Users can define material properties for the part
 
Figure 4: Sim4Design supports automatic mesh creation making it easy to run structural analysis
Figure 4: Sim4Design supports automatic mesh creation making it easy to run structural analysis
 

Analysis and Collaboration with Web Browser

 

Since there is no software to install, Sim4Design’s service can be used anywhere in the world with a Web browser. Sim4Design doesn’t currently have native support for tablets or mobile devices. Users can upload their initial design in IGES (Initial Graphics Exchange Specification) or STEP (Standard for the Exchange of Product) formats to run analysis.

 

Sim4Design is organized by projects and analysis cases to collaborate among design team members. Project owners can manage the access level of each team member by adding users with read or create rights. Users with read access can view how an analysis was set up and can review the results. A project owner or a user with create access can create various design alternatives, called cases, and modify existing ones.

 

Figure 5: Users with Read access can view how an analysis case was set up and can review the results of the analysis case
Figure 5: Users with Read access can view how an analysis case was set up and can review the results of the analysis case

Compute Hours-Based Pricing

With the introduction of cloud-based software delivery, many small- and medium-size manufacturers can now afford simulation software. Not only has Sim4Design exploited cloud computing to make its offering affordable, it has taken things a step further by charging only for the compute hours consumed. This cost saving feature is expected to resonate with smaller companies. It uses a pre-paid usage model that starts as low as $10 for individuals to $500 for companies and includes resources that are shared with multiple user accounts. Sim4design also has three different individual account pricing levels that define the available storage space and number of projects created by an individual. Sim4Design provides unlimited access without a yearly- or time-based lease, and it only charges for the simulation compute hours consumed by a user or group of users. Users can check the compute hours consumed, and purchase extra compute hours as required. It also offers a free account with no compute hours that has free project examples with a simulation tutorial.

 

Conclusion

Small design and manufacturing companies that have not adopted CAE will find Sim4Design an excellent solution for infrequent, on-demand analysis and for training occasional user. With no installation and IT costs, Sim4Design reduces the barriers associated with the adoption of CAE. The cloud has enabled CAE vendors to reduce the cost of simulation tools, but Sim4Design does not replace the detailed CAE analysis tools that apply to complete design. Its focus is mainly on the early part of the design process for designers that will find CAE either time consuming or complex.

 

Sim4Desgin is a good starting point for smaller companies since it is not financially viable for most of them to invest in training or to make CAE available to all users at the beginning stages of a design process. The free tutorial included in the account makes it easy for non-simulation experts to learn and apply the CAE tool without any expensive training. Sim4Design has narrowly targeted structural analysis since most designers make rough assumptions on the structural stability of a design based on their experience. This can lead to re-design later in the detailed simulation process. While some early-stage issues may not be detrimental to product performance, they can affect product reliability and longevity. Sim4Design is an ideal solution for companies of all sizes that are considering introducing simulation tools in their environment.

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