Openness is the future of software, Williams says. Also on the horizon: "True prototyping, as computer graphic technology improves."
What are the hottest trends you see in simulation? There are two: 1) tighter integration between all the tools that engineers use; and 2) tighter integration between analysis types for multiphysics. A new focus is the creation of open design environments through open architecture technology and industry-standard data formats. Creating an open design environment could be as simple as enabling users to access their frequently used applications through the CAE software. Users could also use built-in scripting tools and plug-in support to automate data transfer and format conversions between applications. For example, ALGOR customers can work with third-party fatigue analysis tools through an Add-In Manager and directly import material data from online sources such as MatWeb.com through an industry-leading XML format.
Why are they trends? Because of the need for increased user productivity. Today, it's understood that simulation tools communicate directly with CAD, requiring less time to define models for analysis. Now users want to also consider heat, fluid flow, and other multiphysics effects.
Should engineers use simulation in their projects before CAD? CAE vendors simply give users tools that allow them to work the way they need. ALGOR, for example, provides extensive CAD support features as well as the option for users to do all their 2- and 3-D sketching, modeling and structured meshing directly within FEA. We provide flexibility and then it's up to users to decide what's best for them.
What should an engineer do if he thinks his FEA or simulation run is wrong? Make sure you've set up a proper model. FEA is a powerful tool, but if given bad input, it will output bad results. Given a properly defined model though, benchmark tests have proven FEA can predict real-world behavior. However, it is often difficult to know what the loads and constraints should be, particularly for scenarios involving motion, impact, time-dependent changes or multiphysics phenomena. To avoid these difficulties, ALGOR's Mechanical Event Simulation (MES) combines large-scale motion and stress analysis and uses nonlinear time-dependent FEA to properly account for the changing inertia, shape, and material behavior of the model as it undergoes motion or experiences impact.
What's on the horizon? Open design environments and improved simulation technologies will lead to true virtual prototyping, in which CAD assemblies of entire products are used in simulations, including all of the environmental factors a product may experience. No longer will users analyze one instant in time as with linear static stress analysis; instead, simulation will routinely include large-scale motion, impact and stress analysis, while also considering other multiphysics effects. As computer graphic technologies become more realistic, virtual prototypes will look increasingly like a video of a physical prototype test. By seeing the behavior of a design on the computer, engineers will develop useful, real-world insights into their designs and reduce expensive and time-consuming physical prototype testing.
Reach Williams at [email protected]