Simulation for Everyone Who Needs it

August 26, 2015 -- What if in order to drive a car you were required to be an expert in the dynamics, principles, and physics involved in exactly how a collection of parts interact to propel you down the road?  The overwhelming majority of us would be walking.  While this may appear to be an exaggerated example, one could argue that the product simulation world has operated in this way for nearly fifty years. 

The Advent of CAE

Today’s product development environment employs Computer-Aided Design (CAD) models to drive new product development.  This is certainly no revelation; it’s been this way since the 1980s.  In the 1970s the engineering community began to investigate ways to analyze product designs in order to investigate failures in the field. By the 1980s, simulation began to be used to validate parts and sub-assemblies more quickly during the design process and help lower the cost.  The intention was to reduce (or even eliminate) the number of physical prototypes that are built and tested before a product goes to market.

This created a need that was quickly filled by engineers who had developed an expertise in the field.  Simulation (CAE) tools emerged enabling these experts to essentially replicate real-world movement, stresses, strains, heat transfer, and failures. Manufacturers throughout such industries as automotive, aerospace, construction and off-highway quickly embraced simulation as an integral part of the design process and continued to invest in the tools and resources to support its on-going development. 

Today the ability to apply these advanced tools, techniques, expertise, and experience is as much an art as it is a science.  Consequently, there remains a relatively small fraternity of CAE experts - many early pioneers, or direct disciples of them.  These are the custodians of a high level of expertise and experience relied upon to perform key analysis and to extract useful data out of tools that are inherently difficult to use and highly manual.

Today the dilemma is threefold.  Limited expert resources create unnecessarily long analysis processes, reducing the number of design alternatives that may be evaluated.  Secondly, as this generation exits the workforce in growing numbers there is a serious and valid concern that much of their hard-earned knowledge is retiring with them. The reality is that analysis/simulation, including the expensively verified and validated product analysis models that are specific to each company, is a critical competitive advantage for those who possess it.  Finally, as simulation is limited to the experts, not only do they become a bottleneck in the design process, but the other engineers in the product teams who could use simulation in their design explorations cannot.

What’s New: Simulation Applications

What if there was a way to capture and reuse this expertise?  What if a way existed to embed such tangible knowledge and intangible judgement into a reusable template extending this simulation capability throughout the product development team?  The solution lies in Simulation Applications (SimApps), a new application software approach based not on custom programming but rather on the rapid graphical creation of robust templates that work across highly varying designs and even across an entire product family.

“Solution-specific SimApps are targeted, easy-to-use applications that drive complex simulation templates while speaking the language of the engineer,” explains Malcolm Panthaki, Chief Technology Officer for Comet Solutions.  “Project templates are generally set up by your in-house analysis experts capturing his or her expertise and your company’s standards in a highly reusable form. This service may also be provided by third-parties. Embedding expert knowledge and removing the 95% of the complexity of general-purpose CAE tools, SimApps allow product designers and engineers, who are not experts in the use of simulation tools, to safely and quickly evaluate their designs using sophisticated simulations. This has the potential to increase the number of simulation users by at least an order of magnitude over the next five years, finally allowing product teams to implement simulation-driven design.”

The Comet Workspace provides a rich CAE infrastructure and interface that facilitates the development of SimApps libraries for virtually any industry or application using math, CAD and CAE tools from any vendor. Manufacturers including Intel, American Axle Manufacturing, GKN, Magna Cosma, NASA and many others are currently employing SimApps for Drivelines, Gearboxes, Auto Bumpers, Electronics Reliability, and Electro-Optic Sensors to leverage solution-specific simulation applications to globally enforce expert best practices while measurably increasing the impact of CAE investments on their business.

“Extending use of simulation across the entire product development team is critical for today’s compressed product development cycles,” says Panthaki.  “When it takes days or weeks of experts’ time to analyze a single design iteration, it is hardly surprising that CAE continues to have a limited impact. The faster and more automatically new designs can be analyzed, the more alternatives can be considered.   It tells us quickly and with confidence which designs to reject and why, without the need for expensive and time- consuming physical tests. Today, organizations have access to essentially unlimited computing resources on the cloud – having to manually create each model for analysis is an impediment to rapidly exploring the design space, especially upfront.”  The bottom line is that innovation is unnecessarily held back given the expertise and experience necessary to perform CAE calculations today. SimApps unleash innovation through the insights of a broader group of designers and engineers.

Local Responsiveness & Global Collaboration

Imagine what is possible with quick access to information derived from this expert analysis.  Think about how this new level of responsiveness changes the game.  SimApps deliver the full power of simulation to everyone who needs it, from a salesman who needs to understand the feasibility and cost of a design that meets customer requirements, to a systems engineer who wishes to accurately compare the relative tradeoffs of various architectures, to design engineers who need accurate and rapid assessments of the change in performance of a design variation, to a junior engineer who is still learning the intricacies of CAE codes.

Today, like never before, product development hinges on collaboration and the rapid exploration of the design space, at all levels of fidelity. Leveraging the SimApp approach allows companies to unify the work of disperse departments, suppliers and partners while maintaining control and ensuring that standards will be enforced, consistency maintained, and the results of the analysis can be trusted. While this cultural shift may be difficult for some organizations, it delivers tremendous benefits.

As an example, American Axle Manufacturing reports the following major benefits from SimApps for automated NVH analysis of driveline systems only the first phase of a multi-phase, multi-year expansion of the use of SimApps throughout their global  organization.

  • Average 75% time reduction for each analysis iteration.
  • Approximately $130,000 in annual cost savings at a single engineering site.
  • Improved quality through globally enforced standards and practices which remove human error.
  • Ability to run many more analysis iterations, leading to more design decisions, earlier.
  • Ability to redeploy resources as less experienced engineers are now able to safely run simulations.

Power to the Team

“Simulation has been the exclusive domain of too few for too long,” concludes Panthaki.  “It’s time to put to rest the notion that simulation cannot be safely used unless you have deep expertise in the art of extracting reasonable results from today’s general-purpose simulation software.” The confluence of simulation methodologies, software, automation templates, and accessible computing hardware, aided by the advent of mobile devices with ubiquitous high-bandwidth access to the Internet, has the potential to magnify the number of users of simulation by an order of magnitude, over the next decade With the

ability to now achieve true Simulation-Driven Design, the results are more innovative products, less wasteful engineering rework, lower product development costs, and higher quality products that result in higher customer satisfaction and lower warranty  costs. Hasn’t this been the promise of simulation since its advent in the 1970s? What’s in your product development toolbox?

More information

NAFEMS will be holding a series of webinars themed: Simulation 20/20: The Next 5 Years.  These webinars will explore the business, technology, and human factors driving change over the next five years.  For information, or to register visit:


Robert Farrell is a Marketing Communications consultant and Owner of Farrell MarCom Services, LLC (


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