Joe Graney, director of engineering for Santa Cruz Bicycles, told us the mountain bike maker has seen tremendous benefit from Creo Simulate's more seamless integration and faster and cleaner meshing algorithms. Calculations that used to take hours can now be completed in minutes, he said, and a workstation no longer needs to be dedicated to simulation tasks. Engineers are spending much more time on analysis earlier in the design process, and simulation has become a mandated part of the development workflow.
It wasn't always that way. Given the time and labor involved in simulation, Santa Cruz engineers frequently opted out of testing designs, Graney said. However, a late-stage glitch with a frame on one of its newer models pushed delivery back a full quarter and brought the importance of early-stage simulation to the fore. "It's a big deal not having a model during our limited selling season."
John Isaac, director of market development for Mentor Graphics, told us its strategy for making CFD more accessible is to embed the simulation tool directly into any one of a number of popular CAD packages. That way, the engineer or designer never has to leave a familiar environment and can do concurrent simulation at each stage of the development effort. With Mentor's FloEFD, engineers don't have to do any complex file translations to move models between packages, and the software has been designed with special algorithms that automate the meshing process.
"We've taken meshing off the table for the design engineer… and that's been one of the big secrets to our success," Isaac said. "It's using the same direct model out of the CAD system whether it's Creo or CATIA… and the GUI is made to look like the host CAD system, so it's a tool they are used to operating."
SolidWorks has been steadily adding CFD and FEA simulation capabilities to its core CAD tool over the years. Stephan Endersby, product manager at SolidWorks, told us it has seen an uptick in demand for CFD capabilities in particular and more sophisticated simulation functions in general. For example, the company added industry-specific capabilities to its CFD tool last year to address overheating issues for PCB board development. And it bolstered its FEA feature set with tools like 2D simplification and quick analysis, which appeal to analysis specialists.
Providing CFD and FEA capabilities to mainstream engineers doesn't mitigate the need for specialists, according to Endersby, but it improves the workflow between the two groups. "By giving tools to the design group, you are getting better models into the hands of the analysts, who want to do advanced calculations," he said. "It's been frustrating for the analysts to get models from the design group and see faults that need to be fixed. This approach essentially pre-filters the design."