In the past, computer aided engineering (CAE) had a very limited application, being primarily used for advanced research and development, and for other specialty tasks which required simulation and optimization. In the modern world, CAE now has a much broader usage, and is routinely used to help accelerate the whole process surrounding product development. In the future, CAE will become even more sophisticated and it will help to model ever more sophisticated designs, while also reducing the time needed for getting a product to market.
CAE and simulation
Simulating various scenarios has proven to be of enormous value in validating and perfecting the design of various products. One excellent example is how it is no longer necessary to crash a sport utility vehicle into a barrier several times in order to analyze the results. Instead, engineers can conduct virtual crash tests using highly capable computers, and then tweaking designs so as to make the vehicle safer.
It’s not hard to see how a ton of money can be saved by not having to destroy a vehicle in multiple crash tests, and simply simulating the whole process on a high-performance computer. This has significantly increased the value of simulation and moved it solidly toward the direction of the initial phases of design for a product.
It’s very commonplace for engineers to use CAE software for the purpose of creating initial designs, as well as for optimizing the product itself. Some of this optimizing involves subtracting material from a potential product, so as to reduce its overall footprint while making no sacrifices regarding performance or strength. This has allowed CAE engineers to enhance performance as well as ergonomics, increase value and affordability, and to produce products which are more energy- efficient and which are more sustainable.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that simulations such as these have been at the forefront of advancing product development timelines, and that they have created all kinds of innovative designs for improving reliability and quality.
More sophisticated CAE tools
Engineers can also focus on high-value tasks more and more, because software tools have now emerged which automates all the best designs practices, as well as providing sophisticated analysis features. Product engineering has been boosted significantly by using customizable workflow processes that expedite development and testing, as opposed to spending a great deal of time inputting data to a system, and having to validate any particular model. This has freed up time for software engineers, so they can create new designs and develop new capabilities for products which have a ready market.
CAE and Covid-19
With the world currently in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic, CAE has moved to the forefront to provide crucial training for healthcare personnel, so that diagnoses can be quickly formulated, and treatment administered. One of the best examples of how CAE is supporting this effort is with a brand-new Lung Simulator which has been developed to help train clinicians in the techniques which are generally used in lung ultrasounds.
Lung imaging has already been implemented on an international basis to help manage treatment options for those impacted by the Covid-19 virus. Since the CAE lung simulator perfectly replicates many of the properties of actual human tissue, it allows students to practice their ultrasound imaging skills so they can diagnose many of the findings commonly associated with coronavirus.
Using this CAE imaging simulation, students can learn all about ultrasound system controls, applying PPE, recognition and understanding of coronavirus lung anatomy, and the positioning and navigation between intercostal spaces. This is a lifesaving technology which can serve as the best available training tool for identifying coronavirus which has settled into a patient’s lungs. It has been developed so that it perfectly mimics each of the stages of the coronavirus disease as it affects a person’s lungs.
The future of CAE
There are definitely some trends beginning right now in the world of CAE which are expected to intensify in the very near future, and become part of mainstream CAE technology. One of these is the democratization of perpetual licenses which are currently sold by big CAE corporations. There are already a number of CAE applications which are available free of charge or very near free. A whole slew of products is beginning to appear which will allow users to pay as they go, and to use the tools anywhere at all without regard to a specific computing device.
Another trend which is rapidly gaining momentum is that of system modeling with the use of CAE software. Currently, it’s fairly routine for engineers to design and analyze parts or assemblies, but a full system analysis is rarely pursued by designers and developers. Technology which is currently emerging will allow CAE professionals to test entire systems, so that performance of the holistic entity can be analyzed. An example might be the case where several discrete assemblies within an automobile are tested according to current methodologies. In the near future, more testing will focus on analyzing results from a complete automobile, and its behavior under various conditions.
In the past and even in most cases during the present, it has been necessary to perform a new analysis whenever a new design for a product arises. CAE of the future will cut through much of this wasted effort and allow engineers to mine data from other simulations, and couple it with analytics so as to help understand design strengths and weaknesses.
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One really exciting effort which is just beginning to gain traction is known as multi-scale modeling, which offers the opportunity to use the same CAE software to model objects at a molecular level as well as objects the size of a rocket ship. The benefits of having such a capability would be to conduct multi-scale modelling with the same software tool, rather than having to conduct two separate modelling efforts.
It may well be that some of these trends may not receive widespread support in the future, but it does appear that they provide such obvious benefits that it’s very likely most of them will become mainstays of future CAE processes. Look for some or all of these trends to achieve widespread acceptance in the CAE world, and for CAE to become an even more effective tool for designing, developing, and simulating.