Computers have brought many changes to the engineering profession. Among other things, says Bussler, they have eliminated the dog work and enabled engineers to do more high-level design.
Design News: How will the Internet affect delivery and the use of finite element analysis software for everyday engineering?
Bussler: One possibility is that things could revert back to the old timesharing model where you run analyses on someone else's computer. That's how Algor got started. Through the Internet, you can do things through a timesharing mode, but what is really in it for the customer? We are studying the market to see what people want to do, but as yet we haven't seen any demand for FEA over the Internet. Actually, FEA is a personal tool and doesn't have to be run in a collaborative environment, unlike CAD, where many people have to access drawings. On another level, though, we do training and servicing over the Internet. We conduct interactive courses, and viewers' questions become part of the broadcast. In fact, we have regular Tuesday morning webcasts every week.
Q: What are the biggest changes design engineers are facing in their jobs today vs. ten years ago?
A: Computers are enabling managers to eliminate staff, and helping engineers eliminate the dog work. Designers used to have to spend a lot of time crunching numbers with slide rules. Today's engineers don't do that. They use computers to do higher level work in less time. So, today they can get deeper into their designs, but that means they have to be more creative and more thorough. Today, engineers learn tools more than theory.
Q: Since more and more design engineers are using FEA, is there any longer a need for a full-time engineering analyst?
A: There is certainly a need for people who truly understand the products they are designing. It's always good to have another pair of eyes check designs. You can't be too safe. Anything an engineer designs can affect someone's health and safety, and that is very important.
Q: What is the important difference between mechanical event simulation and finite element analysis?
A: Mechanical event simulation (MES) simulates what really happens. If a car hits a pole, the engineer has no idea what the forces are, yet finite element analysis forces him to guess at them and put the forces into the analysis. You can always measure velocity, so in MES you just throw the car at the pole without worrying about the forces, and you see the results. MES computes all the stresses using finite elements and combines them with non-linear dynamics. MES gets you results easily and quickly, and they're more accurate. One good run and you have it.
Q: What's the next big breakthrough in analysis technology for design engineers?
A: MES is it. It gives engineers the ability to do what-you-see-is-what-you-get engineering. The only inputs are those you can readily measure. We are integrating fluid flow, heat transfer, and electromagnetics now. But using MES requires engineers to accept the fact that they really don't know the force in an event. FEA has sped up engineering, but MES will speed it up even more.
|Michael L. Bussler
President and CEO, Algor Inc., Pittsburgh, PA
Michael L. Bussler in 1984 created the first comprehensive finite element analysis system for personal computers. As the president and CEO of Algor Inc., Bussler has developed and overseen multiple engineering software industry inventions, many to increase interoperability between FEA and CAD. The Carnegie Science Center gave Bussler its Scientist Award in recognition of Algor's invention of Accupak/VE Mechanical Event Simulation software. Bussler also won the Entrepreneur of the Year Award. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) presented Bussler with its Industry Recognition Award.