The increasingly global, fast-paced, and connected nature of the marketplace is placing new demands on product development teams. As it evolves to meet emerging user needs, engineering simulation remains an essential tool for launching new designs quickly and cost-effectively — while also ensuring that they will thrive in the real world.
Every day, it seems new demands are placed on the world’s product development teams. While “smart” products — driven by the convergence of mechanical, electronic, and software components — are the most obvious example, virtually every product design has become more complex, as consumers demand advanced functionality. However, every added component exponentially increases the chances for overall product failure. For example, the average Formula 1 car has 80,000 components. Even if the car were assembled with 99.9 percent accuracy, there would be 80 components out of place.
Today’s products are also taxed with performing flawlessly at broader operating parameters, and in harsher environments, than ever before. Aerospace engineers must ensure their designs can withstand the temperature extremes of space — from -175 °C to 120 °C — while subsea oil and gas engineers must deliver unfailing performance in the face of crushing oceanic pressures. Consumer electronics designers must ensure optimal power efficiency, uninterrupted connectivity, and structural and thermal integrity, no matter where or how their products are used.
Perhaps the greatest challenge for today’s product developers is the need for ongoing innovation. Consumers have grown accustomed to the next big thing that changes an entire product category. Delivering that game-changing innovation is the mark of an industry leader, while others in the segment struggle to play catch-up.
A simulation-driven approach to product development offers an effective solution to these challenges, as many industry leaders have already demonstrated. Simulation enables engineering teams to quickly assess the performance of their designs under a range of operating conditions, at both component and systems levels. They can analyze dozens of preliminary design choices rapidly, then subject a chosen few to the rigorous testing that must precede any market launch. The low-cost, risk-free nature of simulation enables the high degree of innovation required by today’s hyper-connected, hyper-competitive global marketplace.
Already deeply entrenched in the product development processes of industry leaders, simulation continues to evolve to meet today’s challenges. Four best practices have emerged as new competitive imperatives: systems-level simulation, acceleration via high-performance computing (HPC) capabilities, increasingly flexible and accessible software solutions, and robust design initiatives that consider a range of performance conditions.
Systems-Level Simulation: From Vision to Reality
Once a futuristic vision, engineering simulation at the systems level is accessible to any product development team today. As simulation software becomes more comprehensive in nature, product designers can quickly and seamlessly consider how multiple physics will impact not only individual components, but also the performance of the entire product.
The results include an improvement in product reliability and a reduction in warranty claims, as systems-level simulation eliminates the element of surprise when products are launched into the real world. In addition, many companies realize a significant increase in the speed of their development cycle, as systems-level issues are addressed at the earliest possible stage.
Today, many products are controlled by embedded software, which has a critical effect on the product’s overall product performance and reliability. Simulation software now even has the ability to model both software and hardware in a single study.
Designing at Warp Speed via HPC
Another emerging best practice is leveraging HPC resources to speed up numerically large simulations. New distributed solving capabilities allow large simulation tasks to be strategically divided across multiple cores and clusters.
In addition, parametric simulations — in which a range of operating conditions and design points are considered in an iterative fashion — enable engineers to broadly “sweep” their designs for potential weaknesses. A historic obstacle had been the availability of hardware resources, but today, high-speed clusters and cloud computing strategies have placed parametric studies within easy reach.
Even manufacturers of the most complex products can quickly assess and launch their designs via parametric simulation and distributed solving. For instance, in designing semiconductors for automobiles and other applications, Infineon must conduct full-wave electromagnetic analysis to ensure signal integrity. Traditionally, this meant a long simulation runtime, averaging 136 hours.
Today, Infineon capitalizes on an HPC cluster, as well as new distributed memory parallel algorithms, to run a single simulation across multiple cores. Software improvements enable Infineon engineers to run parametric sweeps across entire frequency domains, instead of considering only a single design point. Not only is Infineon’s simulation process more comprehensive, but the typical runtime has been reduced to about 31 hours, speeding up the process by a factor of 4.3.
Minimizing Time While Maximizing Resources
As the use of simulation increases, today’s product development teams need to include both expert and non-expert users in the design process. Recent software innovations — including streamlined workflows and an open, intuitive operating environment — make even advanced simulation capabilities accessible to non-expert users. Advanced users can easily create standard workflows, based on proven best practices, which can be applied by other members of the engineering team.
As an example, Oticon, a leading hearing aid manufacturer, needs to apply advanced numerical modeling to simulate the complex vibro-acoustic phenomena occurring within their designs, as well as in the external environment. The company developed a customized software interface, simulation workflows, and solver extensions that simplify these advanced computations for non-experts. As a result, more than 75 percent of the simulation work previously performed by experts has been delegated to other members of the product development team. Oticon’s engineering experts are leveraged for other specialist tasks, significantly increasing the company’s pace of innovation, without a corresponding increase in staff.
Design Robustness for an Unpredictable World
Products must deliver consistent performance, even under conditions that may be “off design.” Leading simulation teams are employing robust design practices to ensure that their products are prepared for the unexpected.
Recent innovations in the ANSYS portfolio make it simple and straightforward to run parametric simulations in an automated fashion, replicating the dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of real-world multiphysics inputs that products are subjected to every day.
As a world-leading manufacturer of industrial electric motors, WEG strives for the optimal balance of performance, efficiency, operating noise, and service life. In the past, the company performed single-physics simulations to study these complex problems, a process that was slow and time-consuming. WEG’s product development team could only assess and complete four design changes per month.
Today, WEG engineers capitalize on comprehensive simulation solutions to automate and customize a series of multiphysics, parametric simulations — encompassing electromagnetic, mechanical, fluids, and thermal effects. They consider 800 design variations each month. With its increased ability to innovate, WEG has improved the life of its motors by 150 percent, while also enhancing such performance characteristics as noise and efficiency.
What Does the Future Hold?
Looking ahead, the job of product development engineers is unlikely to get easier. Products will continue to grow in complexity, operating conditions will become even more extreme, and the need to innovate will only increase in urgency. In response, simulation technology must continue to evolve, becoming even faster, more automated, more intuitive, and more flexible.
Engineers can expect multiphysics and systems-level simulations to become more seamless than ever. The future promises a new simulation environment that is truly immersive, with native multiple physics brought together in a common platform.
In addition, as engineering budgets tighten, simulation workflows and operating environments will become even more user friendly. By putting advanced, best-in-class simulation tools into the hands of diverse employees, companies can support their ambitious goals for product innovation, while still honoring time, quality, and budget commitments.
When ANSYS was founded more than 40 years ago, few engineers could have imagined the fast-paced, high-stakes, simulation-driven product development environment of today. Similarly, the future of simulation is sure to hold exciting new features and functionality that we can scarcely imagine — but which will perfectly address the challenges faced by tomorrow’s engineers.
This article was written by Sin Min Yap, Vice President, Industry Strategy and Marketing, and Barry Christenson, Product Marketing Director, ANSYS, Inc. For more information see ansys.com .