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Why Engineering Simulation is Becoming Increasingly Important

| Author / Editor: Mark Hindsbo / Alexander Stark

For tomorrow's products to become a reality, engineering simulation must become a tool for every engineer, every product throughout the entire life cycle. Without this evolution, the opportunities offered by industry 4.0 cannot be fully exploited. A plea for the use of simulation.

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Engineering simulation must become a part of the toolbox for every engineer, every product and throughout the entire life cycle.
( Source: Ansys )

For nearly half a century, Ansys has helped customers drive innovation through simulation while reducing time and costs of product development. In this context, Ansys software has already made an important contribution to the development of vehicles, aircraft, trains, consumer electronics, industrial machinery, and healthcare solutions. Although Ansys welcomes the results customers have made to date, the software manufacturer is convinced that this is only the beginning of what engineering simulation can achieve. Simulation is entering a new era, characterized by three fundamental changes:

  • In the past, simulation was a very limited resource that was only used in the design of complex industrial products. Now, it has become an integral part of the design process of (almost) every product.
  • Whereas product simulation used to examine individual attributes — i.e. physical properties, components, and designs — now an extensive number of system-level designs with interactions across several physical and digital domains are explored.
  • The most exciting fact is, however, that simulations are not only used for design validation, but also over the entire cycle — from the early idea through manufacturing, operations and maintenance.

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There is no Such Thing as a Simple Product

Engineering simulation is becoming more and more comprehensive and is not only having a positive influence on product innovation and performance but is also driving revenue growth and offering more and more benefits to end users. These trends are changing the way Ansys designs its technical simulation software and the way solutions are used by global customers across all industries.

Today, every design is pushed to the limit to exploit the advantages of composite materials, additive manufacturing and the high connectivity and automation made possible by "Industry 4.0". The result is a new generation of intelligent and sustainable products. One could assume that engineering macrotrends only have a negative impact on products such as automobiles, by increasing electrification and autonomy.

Complex Exploration of a Complex World

But this digital revolution is happening in every industry and for every product. Simulation is essential in this new world, because only by digitally simulating all the product options offered by these engineering trends can we gain the insight we need to be as innovative as the industry leaders. Today, even customers such as the Mars food group are using Ansys software to optimize their manufacturing processes. No product is too small, too simple or too cheap to benefit from simulation.

As industry demands ever smarter and more efficient product designs, it is no longer possible to look only at a single aspect of performance or a single part in isolation. In the past, however, this was common practice. Thanks to improvements in simulation software, hardware and major advances in processing speed, it has become much easier for engineers to examine multiple physics and assess the overall performance of a product.

Simulation Moves to the Beginning of Product Design

This is a decisive factor, because optimization in one area can lead to a compromise in another. It is therefore becoming increasingly important to simulate all influences simultaneously. Today, 96 of Ansys' top 100 customers worldwide use three or more physics solutions that are applied across the entire Ansys platform. Instead of using simulation to verify a particular design, engineers use simulation to analyze thousands of possible designs until the ideal design is identified.

Increasingly, simulation will start from the requirements and generates the design, so it doesn't just come into play when most design decisions have already been made. This is the only way to get the complexity of modern product design under control and to successfully take advantage of the opportunities offered by a rapidly implemented innovation.

Benefits Across the Entire Product Lifecycle

Probably the most important change today is a more consistent use of simulation at all stages of a product's lifecycle. Finally, the significant strategic value and financial benefits that simulation can offer from the initial design phase through the entire product lifecycle have been recognized.

It's the beginning of a new era of innovation where every engineer benefits from detailed simulation results at all times during the design process. When products are still in the earliest stages of the idea phase, designers are already working on the design process. Today they can perform digital tests of their initial concepts and gain insights that lead to preliminary product designs aimed at meeting maximum customer requirements and earning high profit margins.

With Discovery Live and other products, Ansys is on the verge of making simulation equally accessible to all engineers. In just a few years, it will be unthinkable to market an innovation without the use of comprehensive simulations by every engineer.

Digital Twin as an Integral Part of Product Design and Operation

Simulation is increasingly being used in the manufacturing phase, where it significantly improves the efficiency, cost-effectiveness and flexibility of production. In conjunction with additive manufacturing, simulation ensures that the finished product not only has the optimum shape, but can also be manufactured precisely, cost-effectively and with a high degree of consistency over the long term. Simulation is the key to unlocking the potential of large-scale 3D printing. It makes it easy for companies to analyze on-demand and develop solutions to manufacture reliable, high-quality products with an exceptional degree of reliability.

Once the product is operational, remote sensors can be used to create a digital twin. Simulations on the digital twin can provide other important product information. In addition, the simulation can perform what-if studies for optimal performance and predict critical failures or maintenance requirements.

The technology of digital twins is still in its infancy, but with the increasing implementation of "Industry 4.0" it will gain more and more importance and eventually run either in the cloud or on the asset itself. Increasingly, simulation will become an in-product experience in which the digital twin is an inherent part of the product’s design and operation, working alongside artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms.

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Comprehensive Simulation Becomes Imperative

Industry leaders rely on best practices. Therefore, soon the use of comprehensive simulation will no longer be just a competitive advantage of a few, but an absolute imperative for everyone. Continuous improvements in simulation software will make it easier than ever for a wide range of users throughout a business to apply these best practices.

Those who only use simulation in product development or for certain designs cannot exploit the full potential of the Ansys software in terms of strategic and financial advantages. A look back 50 years on the beginnings of engineering simulation software shows that early users distinguished themselves from other companies that were slower to recognize and embrace its potential. Tomorrow, it will be part of the toolbox for every engineer.

* Mark Hindsbo is Vice President and General Manager at Ansys Inc. in Pittsburgh (USA). Further information: Ansys Germany GmbH in 64295 Darmstadt, Germany

This article was first published by MaschinenMarkt

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