“The trend of designers taking a more active role in performing simulation has been ongoing for the last few years,” said Staples. “The recent economic situation has further escalated the need for engineers and designers to cut costs through reduced physical prototypes and alternative materials. Yet, they can’t sacrifice product performance or quality.”

According to Ray, SolidWorks’ simulation business continues to be one of the fastest-growing products in the company’s portfolio. “Users want a tightly integrated solution that doesn’t make them think about how to use multiple products together.”

Shoemaker agrees that integration is key in upfront simulation and analysis. “True upfront simulation gives designers the capability to perform simulation earlier in the design cycle in order to validate performance requirements as they design. The upfront capabilities should ideally be seamlessly integrated into the design environment so designers don’t need to learn another application’s user interface to import or export data,” Shoemaker explained. “Designers also need access to a variety of capabilities that will help them address a broader range of requirements such as human factors, manufacturing tolerances, and electromechanical performance specifications in addition to the traditional thermal and structural requirements. Designing better products earlier in the process can reduce time wasted in multiple designs and time-intensive back-end analysis iterations.”

“Many of our customers have risen to recent challenges by focusing on what they do best: innovation in engineering and accelerating time to market,” said Randles. “One of the best ways to do that is to separate the concept engineering and detail design phases to ensure that concepts deserve to work before investing in expensive, detailed CAD models. With concept models that incorporate input from disparate engineering teams, industrial designers, customers and suppliers, and engineers can run simulations that prove the concept and create an excellent specification for detailed CAD work,” added Randles.

Virtual Prototyping and Design

Virtual prototyping is a trend that has been the focus of discussion for a number of years. Since CAD and design software are vital parts of virtual prototyping, we asked our executives if they believe true virtual prototyping – enabling a designer to simulate how a product will work entirely in software, without physical models – is possible with today’s software tools.

“It’s interesting how, every few years, a vendor will roll out the ‘virtual prototyping’ mantra,” said Ray. “The ugly fact is very few vendors offer products that actually play well together to provide the complete virtual prototyping experience. Our goal continues to be to put customer needs first. That’s why we were the first to offer integrated analysis. Today, the fit is seamless. We are now at the level of maturity that we have gone past simple stress analysis and have actually integrated flow and event-based motion,” Ray added.

Bunszel added that more of Autodesk’s customers are adopting specialized tools in order to put more detail into their digital models. “Are we capable of getting everything in the model? Yes, of course,” she stated. “We see more and more people working with the single digital model starting with conceptual design and bringing it all the way through to manufacturing. The customers who are greatly reducing their reliance on physical prototyping demonstrate that it is working.”

But as with any application, the success of virtual prototyping is only as great as the tools, and not all tools are created equal. “Some CAD tools are better than others in their ability to support virtual prototyping,” according to Shoemaker. “Virtual prototyping capabilities have been available in software for many years. Continuous improvements in CAD/CAE applications have enabled higher-quality, more accurate results. A few examples of improvements in CAD/CAE software that enable virtual prototyping include higher fidelity modeling of complex shapes and assemblies, better data interoperability between applications, increased breadth of simulation capabilities, and better user experience, which makes simulation capabilities accessible to CAD designers,” Shoemaker explained.

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