Simulations Conducted Within CAD Systems Are Faster, Research Finds

I have always wondered if any advantage that CAD provides to the simulation process could be quantified. Naturally, one would assume that CAD does, in fact, offer some value to simulation efforts. But to my knowledge, that has never been verified. In an effort to solve this mystery, I included several questions on this topic as part of my 2013 Simulation Driven Design study. Read on for some answers.

Context of the Questions
Before I get into the statistics, it’s important that you understand the questions. Here is some information about the two most relevant ones:

  1. The first asked which combinations of CAD and CAE software were used to conduct simulations. It was a multiple-choice question, and many respondents selected multiple answers.
  2. The second asked how many hours, on average, users spent on different simulation tasks. The findings here focus on the preparation tasks for the simulation.

The results here represent over 1,005 total respondents:

Simulation Research

What stands out to you?

For me, it’s the shift. Respondents conducting simulations completely — meaning from beginning to end — in CAD software spend less time on these three tasks. Their answers in the charts above are shifted left overall when compared to those not conducting simulations in CAD from beginning to end. Overall, those relying on CAD for simulation spend a lot less time on these preparation tasks. Some of the differences between these two groups in the findings are significant, especially when it comes to meshing the simulation model and applying loads and boundary conditions.

Those are the statistical facts from the study. Now we need to talk about why there is a difference.

One Answer: Technology
There are a few good reasons why conducting simulations from beginning to end in CAD software can be faster.

  • From a geometry preparation perspective, CAD obviously has advantages over simulation software. Those advantages have only grown in the past few years as direct modeling functionality has become more prevalent in CAD applications.
  • Automatic meshers have made significant progress over the past decade. They are now at the point where many simpler finite element analysis (FEA) jobs are relatively hands free from a meshing perspective. In fact, in some CAD applications where you conduct simulation, you may never even actually see a mesh.
  • In CAD-embedded simulation tools, most loads and boundary conditions are applied to geometry instead of the elements themselves. The elements associated with that geometry then inherit those loads and boundary conditions.

So, yes, I’m confident that these technology advances have a positive impact on the ability to conduct simulations faster. But there’s probably another influence at play here.

Another Answer: Simpler Simulations
It would be fair to argue that those using CAD-embedded simulation tools are likely casual users who conduct simulation every once in a while. Furthermore, they are more likely to conduct directional simulations to compare two or more design alternatives. All of these points speak to relatively low simulation complexity.

Conversely, those using standalone simulation tools are more likely to be dedicated users focusing on much more complex simulations. In verification and validation scenarios, such simulations need to be very accurate.

Overall, those using CAD-embedded simulation tools may be working on simpler simulations. Those using standalone simulations are working on more complex simulations that require accuracy. The tool being used may well hint at the difference each kind of simulation requires in terms of time.

The Implications
So, what does it all mean? Basically, the preparation of simulations conducted via CAD software is completed more quickly. And actually, that theme carries throughout all of the simulation tasks. The implication here is that more simulations can be conducted in the same amount of time. That means designers and engineers gain more insight. That, in turn, leads to better design decisions.

Recap and Questions
Findings from the 2013 Simulation Driven Design study show that those preparing their simulations in CAD software spend less time on each task. One potential driver of that fact is technology, where advancements in CAD and simulation technology have made it easier to prepare geometry, mesh the model and apply loads and boundary conditions. Additionally, the simulations being conducted via CAD-embedded simulation software are likely simpler, and thus, completed more quickly. In all, it means designers and engineers can conduct more simulations in the same amount of time.

Ready for questions? Which do you think is a bigger influence on faster simulations in CAD-embedded CAE software? Would love to hear everyone’s thoughts.

Take care. Talk soon. Thanks for reading.

Editor’s Note:  To learn more about PTC’s Simulation capabilities register for this upcoming webcast and visit the Creo Simulate page on PTC.com.

This blog post has been licensed for hosting by PTC. The concepts, ideas and positions of this post have been developed independently by Industry Analyst Chad Jackson of Lifecycle Insights. 2013-2014 © LC Insights LLC

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One Comment

  1. Posted Jan 27, 2014 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    Hi Chad.. Interesting read. I think some of your conclusions are on the right track. I’d like to offer another spin. I think its partially the technology as you pointed out, perhaps simpler simulations? Although, my experience, engineers are running nonlinear, transient – fairly sophisticated analyses in the CAD environment.

    I think it has more to do with an overall philosophy of how simulation is used in the design process. I’d argue that we dig into the responses above, we might find that whether you are actually do sim in the same window of your CAD system or you are working in a tightly integrated manner the answer is the same. The reason- those that are working with native CAD have fine tuned their process to anticipate what they want to do which is often simulation driven design (or pick your favorite term). Which, implies that models are built so that changes can be made, parts are aligned with meshing in mind, materials are predefined ahead of time in an effort to streamline the process. All of this allows for auto meshing, automation of BCs etc possible.

    The alternative/older workflow is the CAD guy over there, throws the geometry in whatever form to the SIM guy over there, they “validate” the design and move on. Therefore the process is less streamlined and the traditional problems of “meshing that STL or IGES file” takes a toll on the team.

    my 5cents.

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