Nice article, Louis. CAE will have a greater and greater role in product design. One simple but wide-ranging application is the examination of composite materials in the auto industry. As automakers look to lightweight materials to reach upcoming CAFE standards, they also need to know how the new materials will hold up in a collision. CAE is critical to answering this question.
I have used comsol when I did modeling of new indduction machine. it's built in Finite element feature is great and yes there are a lot of physics in there. However, I have to spend most of the time on clearing computing error than trying actual modeling process. It needs to input so many parameters. The software is not as stable. What I dislike is if you encounter some problem, you cannot google it for some hint. Therefore the user must be very high level understanding of physical phenomena on various physics. But it is really a great software for modeling physical object.
I appreciate your insight that the App may be a bit cumbersome to those less skilled in FEA. As an independent design contractor, I wear many hats and have often tried ( er, attempted ... ) many engineering specialties. However, while I might have a good eye for the proper contour design of spring contacts and similar FEA type components, I have found that letting my peer experts do the heavy-lifting in analysis not only solves problems better and faster, it also builds the inter-business relationships I need for continued success. I learned the lesson of 'pride' – I can't do everything myself.
eiphan, your last couple of sentences are key. Even with CAE software, you still must understand the phenomenom that you are studying. I have a neighbor who used this software on a complex project. His writeup is even in a COMSOL research article. As he said to me, it does not do the work for you. Of course not. On the other hand, you could never do the calculations yourself without a computer. If you wrote your own code, it would take an incredible time to verify it, much less write it.
I think this is a key misunderstadning in the industry today. Tools like COMSOL and other CAE codes are not meant to solve the problem for you, but they do the complex calculations that are requred.
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