Dynamics is the next FEA frontier

DN Staff

October 15, 2001

4 Min Read
Dynamics is the next FEA frontier

In 1984, Bussler created the first comprehensive finite element analysis system for personal computers. As the president and CEO of Algor, he has developed and overseen multiple engineering software inventions, several to increase interoperability between FEA and CAD. The Carnegie Science Center gave Bussler its Scientist Award in recognition of Algor's development of Accupak/VE Mechanical Event Simulation software. He also won an Entrepreneur of the Year Award. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers presented Bussler with its Industry Recognition Award.

There's no such thing as a linear material, says Bussler, they're all non linear, though they may have a linear component. Engineers need to learn about dynamics.

Design News: It's been nearly 20 years since engineers have had access to CAD and FEA on personal computers. Is software in general living up to its promise of making engineers more productive and creative?

Bussler: CAD and CAM have had an enormous impact. In 1984, there used to be acres of drawing boards in engineering departments, with people at every table. In 1988, many of those people had been laid off. CAD reduced the number of drafters. Plants don't need the number of drawings they used to need. Design is now quicker and cheaper. CAD and FEA are making engineers more productive. Good software helps engineers speed up trial and error. But the big gains will only come through virtual prototyping. That's what mechanical event simulation is all about-replicating objects in a dynamic world. You can't do that in a traditional FEA program.That doesn't test a product the way it would be used in the real world. Regarding creativity: No tool can make you more creative.

Q: Every research study we have seen ranks ease of use as one of the most important attributes engineers look for in their software. What's the next step in making FEA easier to use?

A: FEA ought to do the real job. Linear static stress analysis is easy. Dynamic non-linear stress analysis is the key. To know how something fails, consider what happens to materials when stressed into their non-linear range. Engineers are taught linear static stress. That's only useful when there's no movement or dynamics, and materials are not stressed past their yield point.

Q: Engineering is a dynamic occupation in that duties and pressures on engineers change all the time. Given that engineers may be doing different things in the future, what will FEA be like five years from now?

A: There will be more dynamic simulation. Designing products will be like using a computer game that considers thermal, fluid, and electrostatic effects as well as mechanical forces.

Q: One of the benefits of engineering software is the efficiency it brings to product development, and with that efficiency could come a need for fewer engineers. As software grows in capabilities, will it replace engineers in some functions of product development?

A: No, you still have to set up the model correctly and interpret it. That requires engineers.

Q: What changes can engineers expect in their jobs and in the expectations put upon them in the next decade?

A: If mechanical event simulation becomes more widespread, there will be less prototyping. In the future, engineers will spend even more time on the computer using tools like this to save time and get better products to market faster

Q: With the changes expected in engineering, we have to consider engineer training. Are engineering schools preparing students for these changes?

A: Engineering schools are still teaching students what they need to know to do traditional FEA. Engineers should be taught that forces arise from the dynamics of a situation and can't be assumed.

Q: Now that you have brought your mechanical event simulation to market, what's the latest initiative to expand your software's capability?

A: We are continuing to integrate multi-physics more tightly within our mechanical event simulation software. We also have a MEMs package in response to growing market needs, and we are always looking for ways to make our user interface more intuitive to promote a more efficient design work flow.

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