Merging CAD and Simulation Improves More Than Workflows—It’s Astonishing

MODSIM is advancing fast and making iconic science fiction technology plausible.

DS Simulia has sponsored this post.

Modeling and simulation, or MODSIM, enables simulation to drive the product development process so engineers can design and innovate the next generation of products on one business platform. (Image: Dassault Systèmes.)

Modeling and simulation, or MODSIM, enables simulation to drive the product development process so engineers can design and innovate the next generation of products on one business platform. (Image: Dassault Systèmes.)

At its core, MODSIM doesn’t seem like an idea that could transform engineering workflows and unlock competitive advantage. After all, the term is a portmanteau of “modeling” and “simulation” that represents the fusion of those well-understood concepts within a single user interface. What else is there to say?

In fact, there’s a lot more to say – and it’s well worth hearing.

“What we’re really talking about is silo breaking,” says Dale Berry, senior director of the SIMULIA Product Experience at Dassault Systèmes. MODSIM makes it easier for engineers of different stripes to collaborate on projects and learn from each other. It provides a single access point for design and simulation data, freeing engineers from switching platforms or asking colleagues for critical information during the development process. What’s more, MODSIM products are increasingly built to allow simulation engineers to contribute to designs and designers to run simulations, both without additional training. All told, MODSIM empowers engineering teams to produce better designs, faster – with enviable follow-on effects.

But as with any technology, MODSIM’s benefits will vary by user. To realize its full potential, engineering leaders should learn from earlier adopters and thoughtfully consider its application within their own organizations.

Unilever and Renault Group Reap the Benefits of MODSIM

MODSIM has the obvious benefit of generating small efficiencies within the modeling and simulation workflow. For instance, transferring 3D design data from one team to another isn’t easy, especially when the tools they use speak a different language or file format.

“Through those savings you can do more,” says Joe Amodeo, technical director of SIMULIA at Dassault Systèmes. “You can explore your design space more and deliver a more optimal product … Collaboration and breaking down silos allow you to design a more optimal product more quickly.”

Automaker Renault Group is one company enjoying the fruits of MODSIM.

“One of our key targets is to reduce car development time by more than a year [or 25 percent], so ‘first time right’ is very important,” explained Pascal Remusan, Renault’s general manager of Methods and Tools for Numerical Simulation, during a presentation at Dassault’s annual virtual conference on modeling and simulation in October 2022. (Register free for the 2023 event here.) To hit such an ambitious target, said Remusan, “every part, system and vehicle will need to be sized and optimized using simulation. It is mandatory to democratize these tools because designers do not come from a simulation background.”

Having a workflow where CAD and simulation can be done in the same platform eliminates the need to transfer data. It also opens the ability to create templates, automations and workflows that operate between modeling and simulation and democratizes their experiences. The time saved with these benefits adds up quickly. And even more time can be saved if some simulations replace, or reduce, physical testing.

For consumer-packaged goods giant Unilever, MODSIM deployment has produced eye-popping results.  “[It’s] is helping our engineers to explore the full design space efficiently, and this rich data is really helping to identify performance risks early and understand the robustness and reliability of our designs for scale-up,” said Unilever’s packaging leader Mel Creasey at same event.

“We’ve been able to use the same material optimization workflow again and again, and it’s really starting to unlock savings that were technically unachievable with traditional methods,” said Creasey. “We’ve run over 50 projects now using this approach, averaging around 12 percent weight savings, so this is really starting to benefit the business. It’s contributing to the sustainability challenge and in terms of democratization this is the type of automated workflow that can be used beyond the expert community.”

The MODSIM Journey: How We Got Here and How to Move Forward

“The way engineering, modeling and simulation has been done hasn’t really changed since the inception of computer design,” says Amodeo. “When engineers started designing in 3D, we had a bunch of CAD systems. PLM systems came shortly after and then computer aided engineering (CAE) [aka simulation].” These tools were treated largely as separate technologies – and that has held back innovation in the product development field.

Amodeo argues that this history partly explains the widespread separation of simulation and modeling workflows that continues today. Perceived cost implications, training requirements and the human penchant to resist change are among the barriers to replacing inefficient or unproductive legacy systems in favor of beneficial new tools.

Engineering software providers are trying to overcome this inertia with cloud-based, integrated platforms. For instance, the 3DEXPERIENCE platform from Dassault Systèmes integrates MODSIM with PLM and other engineering tools. The company notes that cloud-based software is key to kickstarting MODSIM implementation because the web-based user interfaces are easy to implement and access. And, typically, such platforms offer so much functionality that many companies can move most or all of their engineering work from their on-premises systems and siloed departments into a cloud-based, unified environment that has the added benefit of being a “single source of truth” for engineering projects.

“The implementation journey depends a little bit on your willingness to abandon legacy processes and go on that transformation journey,” says Amodeo. “Transformation is always difficult and there are always people who are resistant to change. But if you enter into these things with the correct mindset, you find that the transformation is worth it. You’ll reap the benefits pretty quickly.”

Nonetheless, it can be impossible or impractical to abandon all legacy tools. That’s one reason why platforms, including 3DEXPERIENCE, have interoperability features such as multi-CAD and multi-CAE. This means that you don’t have to be a CATIA or SOLIDWORKS user to accrue the benefits of MODSIM within 3DEXPERIENCE.

“The 3DEXPERIENCE is an open platform,” says Berry. “There’s a certain amount of misconception out in the marketplace that it’s sort of a walled garden and Dassault Systèmes only. But we connect with all the popular CAD platforms. Multi-CAD is part and parcel in the 3DEXPERIENCE platform … Not everybody is using our simulation tools either. We try to focus on the fact that MODSIM is not just bringing the tools together; it’s the automation, parameterization, the templates and more.”

Amodeo notes that Dassault Systèmes once connected the 3DEXPERIENCE platform to a third-party crash solver as part of a project with a large automaker. As such, the customer takes advantage of many of the benefits of MODSIM, such as automatic meshing and viewing results directly in the 3DEXPERIENCE. “The value is still there,” he says, “irrespective of the simulation tool and the CAD tool.”

The Future of MODSIM Can Make Sci-Fi a Reality

Consider how AI and machine learning are affecting all sorts of industries. Now couple that with the 3DEXPERIENCE and MODSIM’s ability to automate modeling and simulation workflows.

“We have already started a number of good projects in that area,” says Amodeo. “Everything we’ve just talked about in terms of MODSIM automation and the 3DEXPERIENCE platform sets us up really nicely for the future. We have all the CAD, CAE and PLM on the platform, and we are now implementing automation techniques which means we can automatically train learning algorithms on different types of geometry.”

Without those automations in place, engineers would have to manually train the algorithms. But if algorithms train themselves then they can learn, predict and improve 3D designs faster and earlier in the development cycle. For instance, car manufacturers run similar simulations on all parts and assemblies. It’s therefore plausible that a learning algorithm could anticipate and run all those simulations as soon as a part or assembly is conceived. It could then iterate the design towards a more optimal configuration.

This AI-driven product design fantasy gets even closer to reality when you imagine how a combination of speech-recognition technology, large language models such as ChatGPT and MODSIM systems might allow engineers to issue verbal commands to their engineering software platform: “Computer, please explore the design space of our latest product to see if we can improve its weight without reducing its stiffness.” And then, like magic, the answer would appear.

“Voice-activated or not, this is absolutely coming,” says Berry. “It’s just a matter of when.”

To get started on your MODSIM journey, contact Dassault Systèmes’ client services. They can help organizations find out-of-the-box solutions to get started. These solutions can then be tailored to an individual organization. To learn more, attend the virtual 3DEXPERIENCE Modeling & Simulation Conference on November 7.