Simulations and analysis software is coming into its own as more companies are using these technologies, says Scapa.
Design News: How has industry changed over the last five years?
Scapa: One of the biggest changes is in the dramatic increase in the use of simulation. Engineers are asking, "How can I do things on a computer?" We see it most in the automotive industry, which is the industry we know best. There, management has gone from talking about simulation to committing money for simulation systems. It all comes to the bottom line. They believe simulation enables more design iterations and optimization. And they know it saves money to use a computer for simulation rather than testing hardware.
Q. Should design engineers be doing simulation?
A. We like to advise customers to turn their analysts into designers. Today, there's a lot more conceptual design up front. With conceptual design happening, you can evaluate concepts more quickly. Design engineers should do simulations on components and feed them back to systems engineers. The design specifications for components then originate from the system level analysis done by analysts in advance of design engineers analyzing components.
Q. How can software companies help design engineers?
A. We need to integrate our tools into the CAD environment, and use engineering terminology in the user interface. We integrated our HyperShape into Pro/ENGINEER. Hypershape is a sophisticated topology-optimization code that hides meshing from the designer. In the background, the software makes meshing decisions, runs the job, and brings back an optimized topology. We have plans to integrate it inside other CAD systems, too.
Q. Has there been much true innovation in CAD in the last 10 years?
A. Today the innovation is incremental. But that's natural, because there's still a long way to go in refining and implementing the last real innovation, feature-based modeling. Everyone has moved to feature-based modeling. Now, we're using it for optimization.
Q. What's the next frontier for engineering software?
A. The truth is, no one knows. That's often the nature of breakthrough technology: It comes from nowhere and surprises everyone. But while we really don't know where the next breakthroughs will come from, we do know that they'll center around the integration of multiple disciplines, the need for more system level design and engineering, and the need to be able to do more iterations up front in design. Those are the elements that will prompt the next revolution.
Q. What's the fastest growing application for simulation?
A. Metal forming, and the application of optimization to all areas of design. Linear analysis is becoming a commodity. We're focusing on aerospace now and are adding features specifically for aerospace applications. There is a lot of consolidation in the aerospace industry, making it similar to the automotive industry. Aerospace is increasing its use of broad-based engineering tools, and aerospace engineers want to do more sophisticated analysis. Our software is very powerful at higher end applications, and we're strong on PCs too. We have been in the forefront of applying analysis tools in the automotive industry, and much of that work can spin off to the aerospace sector too.
Q. What are the major obstacles to more widespread use of simulation?
A. They are all process-oriented. Today's design process is not driven by analysis as it should be. Companies have to change the process. The biggest motivation for changing the process? Fear. Companies have to be afraid their competition will make radical changes and leave them behind.
Q. What part of the world is the fastest growing market for simulation?
A. We see strong growth in all segments of the product design industry and in all geographic regions. However, today the fastest growing segment for Altair is aerospace, and the fastest growing region is Europe.