The power of numerical optimization in engineering design is its ability to rationally and rapidly search through alternatives for the best possible design(s). Parameters in a design that can be varied to search for a “best” design are design variables. Given these, design can be structured as the process of finding the minimum or maximum of some attribute, termed the objective function. For a design to be acceptable, it also must satisfy certain requirements, or design constraints. Optimization is the process of automatically changing the design variables to identify the minimum or maximum of the objective function while satisfying all the required design constraints. [This survey of design optimization methods is in complement to our recent review of design exploration techniques. See also Design exploration vs. design optimization.] Continue reading
The foundational business value of design space exploration is the ability it confers on engineering teams and organizations to gain more complete, higher-fidelity visibility into product performance earlier in project schedules than was possible or practicable with older technologies and approaches. In essence, it does this by enabling more efficient, effective and revealing application of simulation, analysis and digital prototyping assets—tools, expertise, methods, work processes—to the perennial business drivers for any organization’s investments in those assets:
- To become more competitive by gaining increased capability to explore, create and innovate.
- To apply that capability to create better performing products.
- To improve product quality and reliability—yielding expanded opportunity and customer appeal at the same time as lowered warranty expenses, liability exposure and lifecycle costs.
- To control or, better yet, reduce product development schedules and budgets by supplanting costly, time-intensive physical testing with digital prototyping.
Design space exploration is both a class of quantitative methods and a category of software tools for systematically and automatically exploring very large numbers of design alternatives and identifying those with the most optimal performance parameters. The mathematical techniques that underpin design space exploration have been long known—and sometimes applied, in cases where the attendant costs in expertise, time and labor could be justified. What’s changing now is the way fresh software technologies are at last converting these powerful but formerly difficult-to-use methods into practical everyday engineering aids. Continue reading