The future of simulation

Future technologies will affect several aspects of simulation, including applications, user environments, and infrastructure says Ken Blakely of MSC.Software.

Simulation is the act of prediction. In mechanical design, simulation is comprised of FEA (finite element analysis), CFD (computational fluid dynamics), kinematics, and manufacturing process simulation (forging, stamping, mold flow, etc.).

In the broader area of product development, simulation is performed to determine how design and process tradeoffs affect development cost, time to market, and customer acceptance.

Functional Design

Today, a product’s form (geometry) often dictates the overall design. However, geometry is one of only three high-level parameters available to the designer. In addition to what it looks like, choice of material and manufacturing process assume equal importance. Once these ’global design variables’ are defined, the product’s performance is simulated to verify that it will function as required.

Tomorrow’s design process will be different. The design will start with the function, which will define form, material, and manufacturing process. As inferred in the graph, the attributes of weight, stress, deflection, reliability, safety, noise, comfort, manufacturability, affordability, time to market, profit, and customer acceptance will be specified first, and the form, material, and manufacturing process will then be synthesized.

Simulation will play a key role in creating this new paradigm, and will be done after a product is conceptualized but before it is detailed. In fact, the detailing done as a traditional CAD function will be an output of the simulation, which will turn concept into reality.

Robust Design

Today’s simulation assumes that both the design and operational environment can be defined in terms of known parameters. In reality this is not the case. The ’as built’ product has variations and differs from the ’as designed’ product; tolerances and variations exist in geometry, shape, and manufacturing processes; and the operating environment is typically not fully known.

Today, we assume that all inputs are known and we compute the response, and then we optimise our design to enhance the desirable characteristics at one design point. Robust design assumes that the inputs are not fully known and then finds the best design by taking into account the uncertainty and variation. This leads to a safer and more reliable design that can function successfully over a wide range of operating conditions. Process and Task Automation

Simulation today can take into account many of the attributes listed above, but does so via separate applications. This involves a big team of people, each one an expert in a particular application. In the future this methodology will no longer apply. Instead of specialists we will have generalists. Tomorrow, we’ll see an increased application of user environments that handle all of the design attributes at once, automating the entire conceptual design, simulation, and detailed design process. This will probably be accomplished by creating custom systems that are specific to a company’s way of designing, leading to tremendous productivity gains over current methods. On a smaller scale, applying automation to individual tasks will lead to similar benefits. Process and task automation will be product, industry, and company specific.

Reuse of Existing Models

Yet another way to be more productive is to make use of existing simulation models. Many designs are made today by modifying an existing design, so why not perform simulation in the same manner? This can be done by storing existing models and reusing them in the context of a new or modified design. Models can be finite element models, geometry, spreadsheet-type conceptual models, or any type of model used in the simulation. Full use of parametrics including geometry, materials, manufacturing processes, and the operating environment will facilitate context-based reuse.

Extreme Performance Computing

Computers at least ten times faster than those used today will be necessary because tomorrow’s models will be so much larger and more complex. For FEA, for example, today’s large models are 2,000,000 degrees of freedom; tomorrow’s will be 10,000,000 or more. These will take longer to analyze and will require significantly more disk storage space. Today, we rely on supercomputers for extreme performance. In the future, it will be achieved by clusters of PCs and facilitated by the Linux operating system. Furthermore, it will be almost impossible for humans to understand the results of such large models, and we will have to develop new ways of displaying results.

Interoperability with Enterprise Systems

Much simulation today is separate from the overall product development process, since it is most frequently used to verify a design. In order to drive the design, simulation must be performed earlier and more successfully integrated into both the design process and your company’s enterprise planning systems (ERP). Although simulation is already integrated with some engineering software (CAD, PDM, and structural testing) the level of integration will certainly improve. Increased acceptance of data exchange standards (such as AP209 for the exchange of FE data) will help facilitate this. The management of loads external (operating environment) or internal (simulation results) will be increasingly important, and will be done by CAE, PDM, and test systems, all linked together.

The WebThe web is transforming the way we access information, share data, and make transactions, and will transform the way we perform simulation. An increasing amount of simulation software will be demonstrated, delivered, and supported via the web. ’Pay for use’ will also become more prevalent. The ASP (Application Service Provider) model will become increasingly popular, with software residing on servers and user environments on the client side changing the way we utilize simulation software. Virtual Teams and Collaboration

The expertise to develop and deliver products is not always available in a single company. A cost-effective way to work with experts worldwide is to form a virtual team where experts in different disciplines collaborate simultaneously over the web. The main product supplier will host and control this virtual development environment using dedicated internet sites where the virtual team performs its work.

Because the service is hosted and maintained by the prime vendor, users don’t have to make a large initial investment in collaborative technologies. This service will ease design decisions between suppliers, customers, and different divisions and use data from a variety of sources during the same collaboration session. Users will also be able to view, inspect, and modify design data, control data access, create and store notes, and use a secure Internet-based environment within the existing IT infrastructure.

These changes and more will definitely occur. Simulation will be fast and automatic like your word processor’s spell checker. It will become the key component in mechanical design, turning concept into reality.