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Six Problems to Avoid when Using Simulation in the Design Process

| Editor: Alexander Stark

Products have become extremely complex. It is therefore difficult to predict the impact of a decision on the overall design. The knowledge gained from simulations can be used to evaluate different options, construct with more confidence and ultimately develop better products. A few rules have to be observed to ensure the successful use of simulation.

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28 % of designers don’t trust in their own decisions - says a survey conducted by Tech-Clarity.
28 % of designers don’t trust in their own decisions - says a survey conducted by Tech-Clarity.
(Source: PTC)

In fact simulations offer an enormous added value for design engineers, as shown by the results of the Tech-Clarity Research Brief simulations for design engineers: 65 % would like to do more simulations. Another result of the survey: They are mainly restricted by tools. Because many solutions are not particularly well suited to the needs of design engineers.

Designing Better Products

Companies invest in simulation solutions for design engineers for a variety of reasons. If one compares the answers from 2018 with those from 2016, it becomes apparent that simulations are becoming increasingly intertwined with the design process. Better insights for design engineers remains one of the most important reasons for investment in simulation solutions and was even mentioned more frequently by companies in the 2018 survey than in 2016. In 2016, the issue of "quality issues" was not yet an answer, but in 2018, more than a third of respondents invested in simulation technology to detect issues during the design process.

Engineers Need to Have Confidence in Their Decisions

Due to the numerous challenges faced by engineers, 28 % of them don’t trust in their own decisions. In order to close this trust gap, they use different approaches. The most common way of waiting for the results of practical tests is to waste time. They also develop over-engineered products, which generates additional costs and damages price competitiveness.

Despite the enormous impact on costs, engineers report that they are taking additional measures to strengthen their confidence in their decision. On average, 4.7 days are wasted. A further 29 % say that they even spend more than a week on it.

Frequent Changes Caused by Late-Stage Problems

Changes to the products are an inevitable consequence of wrong decisions and make up a significant part of the design process. According to the engineers, on average 43 % of the design time is spent on the implementation of changes. Certain changes are unavoidable, such as when customers change their minds or there are changes in the market. However, one of the main reasons for changes are problems. 55 % of respondents say that changes are due to difficulties during production and 53 % attribute changes to difficulties during testing. The main issue: These changes occur at a very late stage in the development cycle. Changes made during the last 25 % of the design cycle take 98 % longer than changes made during the first 25 % of the design cycle, almost twice as much time - a real time waster, according to respondents.

New Simulation Approaches Support Designers

Engineers need to be better educated to improve their decision-making process. This may require new approaches to design. Interestingly, 63 % say that they can make better decisions and thus improve the competitiveness of a product if the consequences of a design decision are immediately foreseeable.

Simulations are useful for many engineers, who would like to get even more value out of them. For this they need a simulation tool that does not require any special knowledge, is user-friendly and can be executed quickly. New simulation approaches could help to do this. Engineers are convinced that a simulation solution that delivers immediate results will give them the insight they need. This would allow them to identify problems at an early stage and spend more time on developing higher quality, more reliable, cheaper and innovative products. These problems in simulation tools for designers should be avoided. Tech-Clarity has identified six problems to avoid in simulation tools for designers:

1) Inadequate integration into CAD systems
If designers cannot run the simulations in the design tool, the workflow will be disrupted and the application made more difficult.

2) Slow performance
If results take too long, designers are slowed down and can run fewer simulations.

3) Inaccuracies
If designers can't trust simulations to give them the right clues, the results are useless. Because their decisions are then based on inaccurate findings.

4) Insufficient flexibility
When designers need to redefine the preparation parameters for each design iteration, change, or alternative, they will use simulations less often to understand the impact of an update.

5) Complicated application
Simulation tools that make it too complicated to set up analyses pose a hurdle to designers, reducing the likelihood of their use.

6) Special knowledge as a prerequisite
Designers can benefit from the groundbreaking findings of a simulation, but if the tool can only be used with the knowledge of a studied FEA analyst, it is not readily available.

About the Survey

Tech-Clarity is an independent market research company dedicated to demonstrating the business value of technology. We analyze how companies can optimize the way they research, invent, develop, design, construct, produce, and support products through the best possible application of best practices, software, and IT services.

  • Tech-Clarity collected and analyzed 195 responses to a web-based technical development and design survey. Answers were collected by Tech-Clarity via email, social media and online replies. Respondents came from companies of various sizes - 53 % from smaller companies (turnover of less than $ 100 million), 24 % from mid-sized companies (turnover between $ 100 million and $ 1 billion and 23 % from large companies (turnover over $ 1 billion).
  • Slightly more than half of respondents (57 % ) were average employees, more than a quarter (27 %) were managers, 7 % were vice presidents or directors, and 10 % said they belonged to the board level.
  • The respondents represent different industries, with the following distribution: 36 % industrial machinery, 18 % automobiles, 15 % life sciences, 13 % aerospace and defense, 13 % consumer goods, 13 % engineering, 12 % high-tech and electronics and others. These figures are more than 100 % because some companies are active in more than one sector.
  • Of those surveyed, 57 % work in technical development or design, 12 % in manufacturing technology, 8 % in program/project management, 7 % in industrial design, 5 % in management or administration; the remainder are simulation analysts, IT staff or have other functions. Respondents operate worldwide, with most of them operating in North America (71 %), more than a third (37 %) in Western Europe, 31 % in Asia, 13 % in Eastern Europe, 8 % in Latin America, 8 % in Australia, 7 % in the Middle East and 4 % in Africa. These figures are more than 100 % because some companies are active in more than one geographical market.

This article was first published by konstruktionspraxis.

Original by Monika Zwettler / Translation by Alexander Stark

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