In our annual poll of executives at leading analysis and simulation software vendors, we found that high-performance computing is changing the way software is written and sold, and that in a competitive economic market, simulation is not just an advantage, but a necessity.
In today’s environment of doing more with less, designers and engineers are constantly pressured to increase productivity, especially in small- and medium-sized businesses where a few people perform the tasks of many. As a result, simulation becomes not only a productivity tool, but also a competitive advantage, and as some of our executives put it, a competitive necessity.
“Simulation is not only a necessity, it is a do-or-die requirement for survival in many industries today,” said Dale Berry, Senior Director of SIMULIA Product Experience Technical for Dassault Systèmes SIMULIA. “What chance does a smaller company have to compete? They can compete well through faster innovation. The key to faster and cheaper innovation is understanding which design alternative to go with, which ones to avoid, how to improve that choice, and how to ensure it will work the first time. All of these questions can be answered through simulation.”
Meeting demands of tight schedules, increasing product variety, and demands for higher quality is impossible without utilizing simulation to speed up the process, according to Jim Rusk, Senior Vice President of Product Engineering Software for Siemens PLM Software. “While these demands may originate with larger organizations, they quickly cascade to smalland medium-sized companies who are part of the value chain. The more complex the product, the more critical it is for the company to invest in simulation technology,” he added.
Through simulation, analysts and designers can establish a smoother communication process as well, said Barry Christenson, Director of Product Management for ANSYS. “Simulation, once it has been properly democratized through customization and automation, is becoming the common language between analysts and designers.” But while small- and medium-sized companies have adopted simulation, not all are getting the full benefit of it, he added. “Those skeptical about the real impact of simulation use it mostly during the last stages of product development. As a result, the recommended changes may be too complex to carry out by deadline.”
A key to adoption for many companies is ease of use. If engineers are faced with steep learning curves, they are less likely to embrace simulation as a productivity tool. Bruce Klimpke, Technical Director for Integrated Engineering Software, believes the complexity of simulation software has decreased to the point that it is now less of a factor. “If you are designing products and are not using simulation tools, chances are your designs are not optimal. Given the decreasing learning curves to do simulation, and the cost of computing, businesses of any size have to do simulation,” he stated.
There are three main reasons to use simulation, according to Svante Littmarck, President and CEO of COMSOL, Inc. First is “decreased costs, because designers can do in one month what would otherwise have taken two or several months, increased revenue because time to market is much shorter, and [third] every now and then, the designer will be able to do something completely new that no one else did before.”
Physical Testing and Simulation
While companies understand that simulation has to be part of their process, it becomes more important to smaller businesses because physical testing costs can be prohibitive. Latestage redesign efforts or product field failures pose significant financial risks to a program and the company, explained Mike Kidder, Senior Vice President of Corporate Marketing for Altair. “Exploring and evaluating design concepts, material choices, what-if scenarios, and methods of manufacture through simulation is far more efficient and cost effective than a ‘make and break’ development process.”
Although reducing “make and break” through simulation has benefits in many industries, the question of completely eliminating physical prototyping and testing raises quality and safety issues. “Simulation will enable dramatically less testing and can give manufacturers the confidence to go to production tooling before a physical test ever takes place,” said Dominic Gallello, President and CEO of MSC Software. “What will happen more and more is that certain aspects of certification will happen by virtual testing, but we are a very long way from the whole plane or the whole car being certified virtually.”
Boris Marovic, Product Marketing Manager for Mentor Graphics Mechanical Analysis Division, agrees. “Simulations can be very accurate, but someone who completely trusts on pure simulation might experience serious problems from effects of the real physics that were not considered in the simulation.”
“While simulation technologies have significantly matured over the last 20 years, it’s hard to imagine a time when performance validation through physical testing will not be necessary,” stated Kidder. “When practical, there will always be the need for a physical test, but the product is going to pass and be on target due to more and more intelligent use of simulation.”