How CAE in the Cloud Can Help Manufacturers

Unlocking the potential of cloud-based CAE can be invaluable for businesses running complex simulations that require powerful computing.

Computer aided engineering (CAE) is becoming the norm in manufacturing as operations become more sophisticated—and use more and more data. But while the computer-powered design process has facilitated the design and manufacturing of products, it has demanded increasingly powerful computing capabilities. This has companies turning to cloud-based solutions for their CAE needs.

(Image courtesy of Automotive Testing Technology International.)

(Image courtesy of Automotive Testing Technology International.)

What is CAE?

CAE is the process of using computer software to improve product design and find solutions to engineering problems in a variety of industries. Common tools used in CAE include simulation, optimization and validation of both products and processes; these can be deployed throughout the manufacturing cycle, from design to testing to implementation.

“When it comes to design, most design groups are only able to explore a few different paths due to limitations of prototyping costs and/or engineering simulation tools,” said Dr. Masha Petrova, VP of marketing at OnScale, an Ansys company. “They have to rely on the ‘gut instinct’ of engineers to drive design directions. As technology becomes more sophisticated, engineering software must advance to allow for testing exponentially larger numbers of design permutations. It’s not practical to explore all of these possibilities empirically.”

CAE enables manufacturers to run digital tests and simulations on a product—so by the time a physical prototype is created, the design is already as optimal as possible. Those digital tests include finite element analysis, as well as fluid and thermal analyses, among others.

There are three stages in CAE: pre-processing, solving and post-processing. Pre-processing involves modeling the system and physical properties of the product. In addition to modeling the product itself, this phase models the environment the product is intended to work in, including pressure, force and temperature, so as to create the most accurate simulation possible.

Solving involves running simulations of the model to test its functionality in optimal as well as adverse conditions. These simulations emphasize why the accuracy of the model is so important. After all: the more precise the simulation, the better the product.

Finally, the results of the simulations are analyzed in post-processing. That analysis is used to refine the product and inform the next round of simulations.

Advantages and Drawbacks of Using CAE

By using CAE manufacturers are able to build and test a physical prototype within hours, as opposed to days or weeks.

Some of CAE’s advantages include:

  • Saving time and money by reducing the need for creating several physical prototypes and enabling manufacturers to make more efficient designs faster.
  • Creating designs with fewer errors—and whose errors are easier to fix—compared to manual designing.
  • Reducing the effort needed to create models by automating model design.
  • Reducing labor duplication by using computer coding to perform repetitive tasks.
  • Creating designs with improved accuracy and precision compared to manual designs, and which are easier to store and share.
  • Enabling better decision making sooner in the development process to make easier and less expensive changes.

While CAE is a useful tool, manufacturers still need to consider certain factors when thinking about investing in the technology. A digital platform runs the risk of hardware failure and computer breakdowns, which could result in lost work. It can also be prone to viruses and hacking which could also lead to a loss of work. Employees may need to be trained on CAE software, resulting in additional monetary and time costs. In addition, the cost of a new CAE system—as well as maintenance and updating—may be out of reach for some manufacturers.

The Cloud

Creating highly accurate simulations of complex geometries can be a formidable task for even today’s powerful computers. Running a CAE platform can require a significant amount of computing power from sophisticated IT infrastructure—which many manufacturers might find out of reach for their operation.

For those businesses, cloud-based CAE services may provide the solution. High-performance cloud computing services can enable smaller companies to access CAE without having to lay out a significant investment in purchasing and maintaining their own potentially expensive hardware.

“A cloud-based approached is necessary to enable engineers to fully take advantage of… powerful solvers, give them the ability to solve very large, real-world problems, and to realistically set up and conduct design of experiments,” said Petrova.

Products on the Market

There is a wide variety of cloud-enabled CAE software products available to manufacturers. Here are a few examples of the offerings on the market.

Altair One

Altair One is an integrated platform that brings together all of Altair’s products and HPC services under one service. By creating a unified development environment, Altair One enables multi-specialist teams to access HPC and artificial intelligence (AI) to generate sophisticated simulations. As a result, Altair can deliver access to a unified development environment for the execution of complex projects.

Ansys Cloud Direct

The scalable Cloud Direct platform offered by Ansys provides access to on-demand computing that includes interactive workstations as well as high performance computing clusters. Users can access this HPC power from desktop applications, and a broader collection of apps can be accessed via web browser. The company has partnered with Microsoft Azure to create a secure cloud environment for the design and simulation testing of products. Ansys claims that by removing hardware-related constraints, its product can increase simulation throughput.

CATIA by Dassault Systèmes

CATIA is well-known in the aerospace, automotive and machine industry sectors. Powered by Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE platform, the software features a social design environment where 3D dashboards enable designers to use common and trusted data sources to design products collaboratively, in real time and concurrently across the organization. The development platform is also easily integrated with a company’s existing processes and tools, making it easier for staff across disciplines to communicate and collaborate with each other.

Creo Parametric by PTC

Creo Parametric is part of PTC’s Creo family of computer aided design (CAD) software products that enable manufacturers to design products at every step of the product life cycle. Creo Parametric, the suite’s flagship, allows for 3D model design with sophisticated features such as sweeps, revolves and extrusions, which makes it particularly useful for engineers and manufacturers. Creo Parametric includes extensions that enable designers to use 2D CAD, 3D CAD and parametric and direct modeling capabilities to create, analyze and share designs.

Fusion 360 by Autodesk

Autodesk’s cloud-based software platform features 3D modeling and simulation, CAD, computer aided manufacturing (CAM), CAE and printed circuit board (PCB) functionality for product design and manufacturing. It also includes generative design tools and integrated data management capabilities that enable teams to collaborate on and manage product data in real time.

NX by Siemens

Siemens NX is an integrated software solution that is flexible and powerful. It supports product development at every step from concept design to final production. The software’s toolset coordinates work across engineering disciplines, safeguards data integrity and helps to streamline the CAE process. It enables an iterative process that helps produce results quickly and efficiently. Siemens’ continual development cycle ensures that the software is consistently up-to-date and keeps it on the cutting edge.


SimScale’s multi-purpose CAE tool is entirely cloud-based, and functions on a software as a service (SaaS) model. There is no special hardware component to the product; it runs directly on a browser, and can allow multiple simulations to run in parallel. SimScale allows for a variety of simulation analyses, including computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and finite element analysis (FEA).

Thanks to cloud-enabled CAE products, the high-performance processing required to maximize the potential of CAE to create sophisticated products is within reach of more and more companies. It’s clear that CAE is no longer on a manufacturer’s wish list—it’s becoming a must-have tool for businesses to create efficient, reliable and cutting-edge products while remaining competitive.

This story is one in a series underwritten by AMD and produced independently by the editors of Subscribe here to receive informative infographics, handy fact sheets, technology recommendations and more in AMD’s data center insights newsletter.