In our annual poll of executives at leading analysis and simulation software companies, we asked about the economic situation’s effect on the market, the pros and cons of virtual prototyping, and how software vendors are helping customers do more with less. Here’s what they had to say about market trends for 2011, and maintaining competitive advantages in a challenging business market.

Doing More With Less

Last year, the executives we polled discussed the challenging economic environment and how their customers were being forced to do more with less, including a reduced staff of analysts and qualified simulation experts. But today, while the economy is still struggling, companies are using more simulation and it is being performed by both experts and designers/engineers.

“Engineers have historically been expert in a specific area of simulation. They would run one case at a time with time available to double-check their work,” said Mike Peery, president and CEO of Tecplot. “Today, simulations are being run more and more by generalists – the engineers who are a direct part of the design process – and they are tasked with doing many things.” As a result, added Peery, the easier the software is to use, the better. “We worked to make our tool easy to learn and apply. After all, specialists appreciate fast learning curves as much as any professional with a heavy workload.”

Jim Spann, vice president of marketing for Blue Ridge Numerics, agrees that experts and “generalists” are collaborating more to produce more and faster simulations. “Experienced analysts are taking advantage of new collaboration and customization tools that allow them to share knowledge, participate in design reviews, and build templates for use by design engineers. This removes a lot of the learning curve for the designer and helps ensure every simulation follows pre-defined guidelines that will yield consistent results.”

This broader community of simulation users also has benefits for managers. “The economic situation has focused organizations on several needs, including not only efficiency, but on their competitive situation,” said Dale Berry, director of technical marketing for Dassault Systèmes SIMULIA. “What we see is not that designers are taking up analysis tasks instead of dedicated analysts. Rather, designers are now being asked to leverage and re-use methods previously developed and validated by expert groups.” As a result, said Berry, “The work is not shifting to designers from analysts, but is expanding as designers discover the value of the experts’ methods.”

“Innovation is enabled by using simulation up-front in conceptual analysis and design, as well as by broadening the user community beyond a core group of specialized analysts,” added Dipankar Choudhury, vice president of corporate product strategy and planning for ANSYS. “As the simulation community expands, there is a continued need for experts who understand deep, comprehensive physics concepts and how to best deploy the simulation tools to a broader base. At the same time,” Choudhury explained, “not every user will require the same level of technology because he or she may not have the need to model complex physics.”

So while the simulation user base is expanding and evolving, so is the software. According to Bruce Klimpke, technical director of Integrated Engineering Software, “There is a trend by senior R&D managers to acquire software that the design engineer can learn quickly. This requires the results of the simulation to match reality with very little room for error. This is especially true in organizations where simulation results are followed by production.” While the current economy is speeding up this trend, said Klimpke, it is the natural evolution of simulation software.

This evolution means there are more diverse users of simulation and analysis software, which should, in turn, help both the software vendors and their customers. “The primary effect of the current economy is on the amount of simulation being done,” said David L. Vaughn, vice president of worldwide marketing for CD-adapco. “It seems everyone has realized that simulation is the key to reducing product development costs by reducing or eliminating physical prototyping and testing.”

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the November, 2010 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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