Mechanical engineers research, design, develop and test mechanical and thermal devices including tools, engines, machines etc. Design and manufacturing is very vital to the progress of civilization. Before we dig deeper into CAE, let us first understand the basics of engineering design. Engineering design of a product can be broken into four steps:
1. Problem definition – in the initial stages of product development, it is necessary to clearly define what the product is meant to achieve and / or do.
2. Creative process – once the objective of the product is identified, it is necessary to synthesize its form. This involves brainstorming sessions where designers and engineers meet and interact. Various forms are evaluated and selected into a set of few workable solutions.
3. Analytical process – Fitting the product into form is the next step. This requires strength and reliability analysis, cost determination, etc. This step is very important and iterative. Multiple solutions for the product may be evaluated till the optimal values are achieved. This is where CAE is blended with CAD. Using CAE software, trained engineers are able to evaluate various parameters of the desired object.
4. Prototype development & testing – this is where the theory is translated into practical. Prototypes are developed and tested, usually using 3D printers for rapid development.
The use of computer-aided engineering (CAE) in today’s market is increasing, especially in new product development and sustainment; research and development (R&D); and manufacturing with emerging technology. New products in almost every industry are now built with smart technological features that provide a better experience to the end users and this technology integration adds a multi-skill requirement to any engineering solution. Challenges have emerged as products are becoming more complex to satisfy expectations in the functional, business and customer satisfaction aspects of product development.
There is an increased demand for product/system level CAE expertise, functional/technical expertise and value-added services. Specifically, companies often need:
Recommendations for efficient/optimized designs.
Support for new technologies such as electrification, autonomous vehicle development, Big Data analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning, the Internet of Things (IoT) and virtual reality.
Turnkey solutions (providing the solution for the problem, not just the service — industrial design, product design, testing, manufacturing, project management, etc.)
Because of this, the need for development of niche areas in CAE is becoming more important as part of the engineering solution.
Role of CAE in Engineering The benefits of incorporating CAE in engineering and design development include:
Non-destructive virtual testing even before the prototype is built.
Reducing the timeline for product development.
Catching problems early.
Preventing unnecessary design iterations.
Helping to choose alternate material that meets product cost and performance requirements.
Reducing the need for physical tests and prototypes.
Reducing the cost of unexpected failures.
Validating that simulations agree with reality.
Maximizing product reliability and durability.
Meeting design requirements and regulations.
Getting the right information to make important decisions.
Helping to meet targets.
Developing “what if” studies for directional inputs.
Engineers must spend time in understanding the product knowledge, functionality, application and required skills to better perform CAE simulations to solve engineering problems efficiently. They also must have insight into the complete product development process to understand the importance of program requirements, milestones and timelines so they can provide appropriate recommendations for making timely decisions for the design sign-offs. Often, the use of engineering judgement could reduce unnecessary design iterations.
New market trends drive future of CAE
Technological development, be it in the automotive, medical, customer products or heavy/construction equipment industries, requires niche CAE solutions. This is driving a demand for advancing CAE within a number of specific domains:
Electrification and autonomous requirements in transportation and other industries
Thermal management for electronic devices
Computational fluid dynamics
Multi-physics and co-simulations
Vehicle dynamics — multi-body dynamics
Simulation needs for electro-magnetic (EMAG) requirements to reduce test costs and design iterations
Optimized design solutions with AI machine learning techniques — Big Data analytics
Cloud-based computation for faster simulations
Customization and automation for process efficiencies
Regulation changes and updates
Reliability and predictive analysis for quick and efficient design options
Tools and technologies like the IoT, digital twin, project lifecycle management (PLM), computer-aided design (CAD), augmented/virtual reality (AR/VR), systems engineering, and 3D printing can also have interesting symbiotic relationships with simulations.
What’s ahead for CAE?
With the world of evolving technologies, what lies ahead for CAE? As in other industries with emerging technologies of Big Data, it is expected to cause significant shifts in the CAE field.
The demand of CAE is anticipated to expand significantly in the next five years:
Electronics are expanding with the advancement of wearable technology, IoT, smart sensors, miniaturization, and persuasive connectivity — the lowered cost is likely to increase use of CAE simulations
Simulation software is being used to analyze the effect of casing materials on integrated circuit (IC) performance, thermal management and electrical signal performance
Increasing adoption of lithium-ion batteries in consumer electronics applications
Technological advancements in the automotive sector such as collision avoidance, parking assistance systems, interactive infotainment and new government safety regulations for autonomous and electric vehicles.
Advancement of technology in additive manufacturing or 3D printing with low-cost options allows users to print 3D objects of complex designs easily, which will reduce production costs and increase the ability to design complex structures
CAD vendors are increasingly incorporating CAE into design tools, and there is now an expectation that design engineers perform quick analyses to validate the design. Meshless finite element analysis (FEA) is also a growing trend due to its quick application. Of course, we always need to be mindful of the limitations of software and the knowledge of CAE in performing the analysis — as the saying goes, “garbage in is garbage out”
Building strong CAE capability
Building CAE capability requires combining the right people, processes, technology, experience and governance structure. To meet future demands, we need to invest in technology advancements, knowledge management, train quality CAE engineers and develop subject matter experts (SMEs) in respective domains.
CAE engineers can provide high-value solutions to issues consistently:
Engineers are required to keep up with the trends. We need to have strong engineering fundamentals and good engineering judgment in supporting projects.
Projects require a “big picture view” rather than just a focus on individual tasks. We need to understand the system, subsystems, functionality and test procedures.
We also need to build confidence in results through:
Benchmarking and test correlation.
Adequate modeling techniques to represent physical behavior.
Material selection and representation.
Type of analysis.
Developing best practices.
Knowledge management and training programs.
Proper quality checkpoints.
Considering rapid changes in traditional manufacturing & design practices in modern industries & introduction of automation with the help of AI & VR, engineers today have to upgrade their knowledge & look beyond their basic engineering knowledge i.e. integration of core engineering with trending technological innovation & implement it to make the current manufacturing & design process more efficient.
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