Simulation Boom Stalls. CAE Experts Needed to Make Engineering Apps
Shawn Wasserman posted on July 11, 2017 | 6223 views
It’s widely accepted that CAE technology will be useful to all industries, not just the traditional aerospace and automotive industries. But do they have the experts to make heads or tails of the technology?

It’s widely accepted that CAE technology will be useful to all industries, not just the traditional aerospace and automotive industries. But do they have the experts to make heads or tails of the technology?

Computer-aided engineering (CAE), software continues to suffer from being the outsider at the party, despite predictions of its popularity.

It’s been well documented how simulation software can both innovate designs and increase product quality, while also reducing costs, risk and development time. However, simulation is still not seeing the boom in usership CAE vendors crave. What gives?

The pickle is that traditional CAE software is notoriously hard to use and the pool of simulation experts needed to run the software isn’t meeting the demand.

Are the solution democratized simulation tools like engineering apps, templates, and fit for purpose CAE tools? Maybe, but the creation of these tools are themselves dependent on CAE experts.

Even giving users access to simplified user interfaces (UI) in a Design Platform or Simulation in-CAE atmosphere requires a Simulation expert eventually look things over.

The “simulation revolution” that software vendors predicted never occurred. Despite the apparent need to implement simulation, without the CAE experts leading the charge, the revolution has fallen flat, according to Joe Walsh, CEO of intrinSIM, an industry consultancy.

“The demand for engineering simulation software tools is exploding to support the demand for increased competitiveness and to deal with the rapidly growing complexity of products, processes, and systems,” said Walsh. “At the same time, we are struggling to keep up with our current demand for experts who are able to use these tools effectively.”

The solution, and cornerstone of the current CAE expansion movement is the democratization of simulation technology. By making simulation technology easier to use, or by giving experts tools to create simulation tools for their peers, vendors can in theory increase the usership.

Again, these democratization tools, be it engineering application, template or fit-for-purpose CAE tool, still need Simulation experts to create them. These CAE experts might be a contractor, employed at the organization that will use the tool, or employed by the vendor. However, at the end the end of the day, these democratized CAE tools only become magnifiers of the expert’s presence. They pass the expert’s knowledge to others, but the limiting factor is still the number of experts.

These business drivers led Walsh and partner Brad Holtz, CEO of Cyon Research, to create the Analysis, Simulation, and Systems Engineering Software Strategies (ASSESS) Initiative. ASSESS is a think tank of key players in the CAE world, including vendors, users, academics and industry analysts. Its aim is to expand CAE technology use by the next generation.

“Working in collaboration with other industry organizations such as NAFEMS, INCOSE and CIMdata, ASSESS seeks to integrate the processes and technologies required to advance the implementation of systems modeling and simulation across the entire product life cycle," said Dr. Keith Meintjes, practice manager Simulation and Analysis at CIMdata.

“Bringing together users, thought leaders and vendors to address disruptive change in order to democratize CAE to achieve 10X or even 100X usage of engineering simulation tools is something that the CAE industry has been crying out for in the last 20 years,” said Dr. Keith Hanna, Mechanical Analysis Division director at Mentor Graphics.

What CAE Trends are Stimulating the Demand for Simulation?

Digital twin of a bike can assess the product’s performance using data collected by the IoT and overlay it onto an augmented reality display. (Image courtesy of PTC.)

Digital twin of a bike can assess the product’s performance using data collected by the IoT and overlay it onto an augmented reality display. (Image courtesy of PTC.)

With the use of simulation, companies can iterate ideas faster and throughout the development cycle.

These continuous tests should lead to the aforementioned boosts in innovation and product quality, as well as reduced costs, time to market and risk.

“Engineering simulation is pivotal to almost every consumer product we use in the world today. Making it more pervasive and early in product design should have profound effects in terms of cost savings, reliability and time-to-market,” reiterates Hanna.

But these aren’t the only factors making industry leaders salivate at the thought of CAE. Emerging simulation trends like the digital twin, 3D printing and the Internet of Things (IoT) are also having an effect.

When it comes to the digital twin, the IoT and simulation, the three technologies seem to work exceptionally well together. After all, if you already have a digital twin you might as well use it to optimize and diagnose a system using simulation. And, if you are diagnosing problems with simulation and a digital twin, then you might as well toss in some real-world data collected by the IoT. And, while you’re at it, why not toss in some augmented reality, for good measure?

This digital twin and IoT push in the CAE landscape is related to the wave of lifecycle thinking that is sweeping the industry. The idea is to bring simulation into every stage of the lifecycle to better optimize the product. So, why not take the real-world product data to help illuminate flaws in the design of the next model?

“The ‘simulation revolution’ is about making engineering simulation widely available and appropriate to support improved decision making throughout the entire life-cycle of engineered products and processes,” said Walsh.

Outline of the generative design process. (Image courtesy of intrinSIM.)

Outline of the generative design process. (Image courtesy of Keith Meintjes, Executive Consultant and ASSESS Generative Design lead , CIMdata.)

So, how does 3D printing fit in? Well, that is closely related to the concept of light-weighting and generative design.

Generative design tools like topology optimization were once a curiosity. That is, the idea that automated iterations, and maybe a biomimicry bone growth algorithm or two, can be used to design the perfect part based on an enclosed space, boundary conditions and load requirements.

The issue is that these parts were mostly impossible to manufacture­­­—until 3D printing came around.

Regardless of these factors pushing more enterprises to use simulation, businesses still need to know how to use it properly. If not, they are bound to eventually make the wrong decision based on some garbage inputs producing garbage simulation outputs.

Therefore, democratization can’t be taken lightly. It needs to be fueled by CAE experts to ensure the end users won’t make disastrous mistakes. Without enough simulation experts, the industry will still be on a tight leash, democratization will just give more slack to the line.

There are numerous factors pushing for and pulling against organizations adopting CAE technology:

  • Push factors
    • The demand for products to be competitive in the marketplace
    • The need to model ever more complex products and phenomena
    • The use of CAE and 3D printing in making lightweight parts
    • Increases in the use of generative design and 3D printing
    • Discovery of new uses of simulation
  • Pull factors
    • Meeting computational demand
    • Hard to increase the user base due to limited simulation experts

Understanding these business pressures that are feeding into the simulation revolution is one of the goals of ASSESS. But one of the other goals is to enable this revolution by advancing technologies that make it possible for non-technical users to use simulation.

Tools that Push the CAE Revolution

Pfizer’s Center for Modeling and Prediction Tools democratizes CAE to the whole organization via a web-browser. The custom UI’s are easy to use and tailored for the industry. (Image courtesy of Pfizer and García-Muñoz)

Pfizer’s Center for Modeling and Prediction Tools democratizes CAE to the whole organization via a web-browser. The custom UI’s are easy to use and tailored for the industry. (Image courtesy of Pfizer and García-Muñoz)

“The industry is changing, and advanced analytic models cannot be locked away in the depths of the CAE department anymore; they need to be shared throughout department, the organization and, in the Industry 4.0 paradigm, beyond the organization,” noted Dan Poon, head of Strategic Alliances and Partners at Romax Technology, when discussing a recent distribution agreement with simulation democratization and amplification company EASA.

So, how do we get simulation into the hand of non-experts? Well, there are a few options ranging from simulation In-CAD, engineering apps, templates and purpose-built CAE.

However, regardless of the democratization tool “the development of modeling technology in an organization is typically in the hands of a small sub-group of subject matter experts,” said Dr. Salvador García-Muñoz, senior engineering advisor at Eli Lilly and Company (formerly of Pfizer), in a presentation with AiChE on corporate-wide deployment of CAE technology.

There still has to be a viable model before anything can be passed onto the additional users. “Once these models are mature enough, a natural step is the deployment of such models for the general audiences, who will in turn use these models as a tool to their job responsibilities,” explained García-Muñoz.”

While García-Muñoz was at Pfizer, the company created a corporate-wide deployment of CAE technology over the web. The aim was to democratize these tools and bring them to anyone in the organization that needed them for their jobs, be it manufacturing or sales.

This isn’t too different from the goal of another partnership, that of Romax and EASA, which will integrate EASA’s technology into Romax’s gearbox, bearing and driveline CAE technology. The result would be a democratized web-based CAE solution for end users.

What these web-based deployments teach us is that you can’t just dump a completed and workable simulation model and expect a non-expert to know what to do with it. It needs to be processed, and distilled.

Simulation app from COMSOL uses a simple user interface that encapsulates the expert’s knowledge. The tool is now easy to use and has features that prevent bad inputs. It is also stored on a server with an archival system. (Image courtesy of COMSOL.)

Simulation app from COMSOL uses a simple user interface that encapsulates the expert’s knowledge. The tool is now easy to use and has features that prevent bad inputs. It is also stored on a server with an archival system. (Image courtesy of COMSOL.)

The situation is not without hope. The simulation experts have many tools at their disposal to create these CAE tools.

To that end, democratization relies heavily on automation, user interfaces, and checks that the CAE experts build into the model to ensure the user, even if not a simulation expert, does not go down the wrong path.

This can be a grueling process, as noted by Mark Kornfein, computer scientist at General Electric Global Research, in his paper on capturing mechanical loads analysis (MLS) engineering expertise to automate turbine suitability checks in wind farms.

Kornfein wrote, “When manual engineering analysis processes are being automated it is crucial that the expert knowledge and insights be correctly captured… Learning the complete analysis process was time consuming for new engineers. It involved working with experienced engineers on the individual tools, in addition to assimilating the information in the various documents.”

With the use of simulation democratization tools like engineering apps, templates and the like, engineers can encapsulate their knowledge into a straight forward UI so that they no longer have to spend all of their time training others.

García-Muñoz summarized the challenges of democratizing CAE into five core elements. They are:

  • A method to store, archive, access and use models with a simplified user interface (UI)
  • Ensuring a user can access the latest model
  • Training the user to use the model properly
  • Whether or not the non-expert user will be tying up a license some CAE expert needs
  • A way to maintain the UI if they are custom built

Many of these challenges are within ASSESS’ cross hairs. The think tank discusses these issues between users, vendors and industry analysts to discover new ways to overcome these challenges using concepts like floating license pools, cloud storage and archiving tools, and simplified UI methodologies.

How ASSESS Hopes to Expand CAE

(Image courtesy of ASSESS.)

(Image courtesy of ASSESS.)

So, with all of the factors both pushing and blocking organizations from increasing their use of simulation, what is ASSESS going to do about it?

"ASSESS brings together the experts' vision for the possibilities of simulation technology, along with the thought leaders at end user companies who will have to fundamentally change the way their organizations develop products,” explained Meintjes.

The ASSESS annual meeting assembles all these thought leaders in one place (this year in Potomac, Maryland) to discuss key issues found in the CAE industry and how these issues should be addressed.

In essence, it is a meeting of the industry’s top CAE experts to discuss how they can better improve their abilities to pass on their simulation expertise.

“The ASSESS initiative is an important milestone for the CAE Industry that is struggling to democratize the usage of tools with, by all accounts, only 10% of the uptake there could or should be. There are many reasons behind this shortfall,” lamented Hanna.

To guide the discussion about these key issues, ASSESS has created a series of working groups focusing on:

  • Democratization: helping simulation experts spread CAE knowledge fueling a 10-fold increase in users in five years
  • Confidence and governance: to create better measurements for a model’s appropriateness
  • Systems simulation: to make it easier to integrate systems and sub-system simulations
  • Aligning user activities: to promote commercial, government and research user solidarity
  • Simulation business challenges: to look into the SMB market, licensing, cloud technology and how to discuss the value of simulation with non-engineering executives
  • Generative design: to create new workflows
  • Digital twin: to create workflows that guide the lifecycle decisions of a product

ASSESS 2017 will be happening from November 1st until 3rd in Potomac, MD. It will house 150 experts, keynotes, technology briefings, and working groups. To learn how you can help follow this link.

Want to learn more about simulation and become your own expert? Read: Choosing the Right Turbulence Model for Your CFD Simulation.

For more stories about ASSESS, follow this link.


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