Simulation is becoming democratized—at last (Part 1)

Two decades ago, engineering software developers launched their first efforts to make simulation and analysis capabilities accessible and safe to use by engineers and designers who were not professionally trained analysts. The result was a wave of CAD-integrated finite element analysis (FEA) applications that were made usable and safe for non-analysts by having their functionality sharply curtailed in comparison with traditional full-featured FEA software intended for specialist users.

After early enthusiasm, more and more buyers as well as prospects evaluating those volume-market FEA products began to conclude that, in being made safe for generalist users, the tools had been dumbed down to the point of delivering disappointingly less value than users had hoped for. Although they did find some adherents, the result in many engineering organizations was widespread and longstanding disillusionment with the idea of trying to de-bottleneck product development and get more value from simulation by expanding its use beyond the analysis department.

However, across the past handful of years, a wealth of new technological avenues are at last making advanced simulation capabilities accessible, practical and safe for use by non-analyst engineers and designers in ways that no longer depend on neutering their function. These include: far more sophisticated and intelligent CAD/CAE interconnection than those early attempts, meshless structural analysis and other techniques to simplify and accelerate problem setup, very affordable cloud-based HPC (high-performance computing) resources, and a rising wave of new fit-for-purpose vertical simulation “apps.” Continue reading

Optimization of a robot gripper claw in solidThinking Inspire resulted in 35%+ mass reduction. Source: solidThinking
Autodesk Inventor’s Shape Generator helps engineers design structurally efficient, lightweight parts right within their CAD system. Source: Autodesk