Prescription for engineer training: back to the basics

DN Staff

November 4, 2002

3 Min Read
Prescription for engineer training: back to the basics

In 1984, Michael Bussler created the first finite element analysis (FEA) system for personal computers. Since founding ALGOR Inc. in 1976, he has also pioneered CAE software innovations, including the first CAD/FEA interface and Mechanical Event Simulation (MES). The Carnegie Science Center of Pittsburgh gave Bussler its 1999 Science and Technology Awards for Excellence, Scientist Award in recognition of ALGOR's development of Mechanical Event Simulation software. He has also received the ASME Industry Recognition Award. Bussler has a BA in journalism and a BS in mechanical engineering.

Engineering schools need to concentrate more on teaching the fundamentals of physics and math and less on teaching current practices that always change, says Bussler.

DESIGN NEWS: What is the biggest trend in engineering today?

Bussler: The biggest trend is doing more in less time. That means more automation in design and analysis is important. So is ease of use in software and the ability to do more, such as the simultaneous handling of multiple physical phenomena.

Q: What are the biggest trends in engineering software?

A: In software, there are trends toward more ease of use and more completeness of the simulation. But there is maybe too much emphasis on learning CAD up front today when you need to learn engineering first.

Q: Do engineering schools adequately prepare students for the real world today?

A: When I went to engineering school, I felt that I got a good introduction to basic math, science, and liberal arts. It appears today that these schools are doing an even better job, and we are proud to be part of the modern mechanical engineering education system. ALGOR's university program provides engineering schools with tools that let students experience the entire engineering design process, from conception to market, and prepare them for the real world. Schools like Yale University and the University of Texas are teaching ALGOR FEA and MES to show students how fundamental math and science concepts work in common engineering scenarios.

Q: Should engineering schools concentrate more on engineering fundamentals than on current practices?

A: I believe that it's important for mechanical engineers to get more education in the physical sciences because engineering practices are built on the physical sciences. Engineering is applied science, with math as the tool. Scientists discover things, then reduce them to mathematical expressions. Engineers use math to apply them. The sequence is discovery, mathematical expression, and the engineering process.

Q: With the trend toward ease of use, is FEA software getting so easy that even non-engineers can do analyses?

A: They can if they have a solid understanding of physical phenomena. There are a lot of doctors who aren't engineers but have a great foundation in physics, and so they can function in an engineering capacity.

Q: Is there a difference between finite element analysis and simulation?

A: There used to be. Mechanical Event Simulation was truly different. Now every company calls its standard analysis program "simulation." But with analysis, you don't see results of, say, a weight dropped on a bar. You have to do calculations. With Mechanical Event Simulation, you actually see the result.

Q: What is mechanical event simulation?

A: It is the process in which motion and stress analysis happen simultaneously and within one process. Some claim that they include the effects of motion or change in motion in a finite-element stress analysis, but they can't if it's not implicit, in one process. It won't be accurate. It will be based on estimates. We have extended finite-element analysis to include motion-any motion, large or small.

Q: What's the next big breakthrough in analysis?

A: It's simulation. It will become faster and more complete. You'll be able to simulate anything, even the combustion process in the internal combustion engine.

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