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Collaboration makes collective intelligence work

Collaboration makes collective intelligence work

Design News: What is the role of the Internet in engineering?

Cashman: Its role in engineering is analogous to its role everywhere. The Internet is the logical extension of the infrastructure that connects people and facilities, and it maps nicely into both global and the more segmented strategies that companies are following. It allows companies to communicate with others in the supply chain. Think of a colony of ants: one ant can't do much, but many can do amazing things working together. The Internet enables the same synergy. Incidentally, it all also reminds me of the old days of time sharing on computers in data centers.

Q: People talk about collaboration. What does it mean and what are its implications?

A: Actually, ANSYS has been credited with using the term collaboration, as evidenced by Daratech two years ago. Communication is always the number one problem. Using CAD doesn't necessarily make for a better product. Neither does using finite element analysis. Getting everyone on the design team working together, looking at the product from their own perspectives, is the best strategy. Collaboration takes that collective intelligence and makes it work together. Engineers can automatically simulate processes, capture all downstream processes and knowledge, and make more informed decisions early in the design process.

For decades, the potential impact of simulation earlier in the design cycle has been documented, for example, in the Ford McKenzie study: identifying issues in the design before tooling is committed; refining components before dependencies to other components prohibit changes; optimizing performance before prototyping; and discovering problems before litigation. Simulation sounds good, but nevertheless it has been slow to be adopted in many circles. The more engineers can find out up front, the less backtracking and the less scrap from mistakes later. Collaboration provides the upfront knowledge that provides insight and helps avoid mistakes.

Q: What will be the next breakthrough in simulation?

A: There are three breakthroughs: 1) expert and knowledge-based systems for simulation that will capture the parameters of a product such as dimensional and operational constraints, and lead to automation of the simulation task. More an advisor than simplifier, these expert systems will lead to more robust analysis; 2) pragmatic modeling that will cover modeling uncertainities, such as predicting turbulence in airplane design; 3) multi-physics, where the engineer can define a combination of factors such as EMI, wind forces, structural, and thermal effects that have a synergistic effect on a design.

Q: Will the trend of driving analysis down to the engineer's desk continue?

A: Yes. But, we have not defined what the advanced analyst will do now that engineers are taking responsibility for basic analysis. Certainly, though, they now have time to look at micro effects of design options, not just perform failure analysis. The trend to analysis on the desktop puts everyone higher on the pyramid.

Q: What is ANSYS' strategy?

A: We want to make a fundamental impact on the breadth and depth of simulation, whether in the medical, aerospace, or other industries. We want to help engineers make better products for less cost. ANSYS will remove the barriers that keep engineers from using simulation. Leveraging the Internet and collaboration are all part of our efforts.

Q: What changes in computer hardware and software will we see in the future?

A: Among many other things, computer hardware will, of course, continue to get faster and more powerful. Optimizing compilers will assist computation rates, but improvements will far exceed that. Simulation code will have to be architected with large problems in mind. This means that software must be designed to exploit the multiple processors in a single workstation, or on a network.

Jim Cashman was promoted to CEO and elected a member of the ANSYS, Inc. board of directors in February 2000. He joined ANSYS as senior vice president of operations in October 1997. Before joining ANSYS, he was a senior vice president at PAR Technology Corp. responsible for marketing and international operations. Prior to PAR, he had extensive management experience at Structural Dynamics Research Corp. (SDRC), where he was vice president, product development and marketing in the Metaphase Division. Before that, he had worked in various levels of management in sales, marketing, and technology. He holds BSME, MSME, and MBA degrees from the University of Cincinnati.

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