CAE typically involves pre-processing, solving and post-processing steps.
The pre-processing stage is where engineers model the system and physical properties of the design along with the operating environment in the form of constraints or applied loads. It is important that this modelling incorporates all facets of the environment that the product will be exposed to (including forces, temperatures, etc) in order to set up the resulting simulations correctly. The quality of the simulation is only as good as the precision of the boundary conditions to which a product will be exposed.
The model is then solved using simulations aligned with the related conditions and physics before the results are presented for review during post-processing.
Simulating complex geometries can be difficult even with modern computers as it requires a large amount of computing power delivered by sophisticated IT infrastructures. This has been made easier with the advent of high performance cloud computing that allows smaller companies to access CAE without the need to buy and maintain expensive hardware. This market disruption means that more companies can take advantage of computer aided engineering simulations for their products.
One of the main advantages of CAE is that it only takes a few hours compared to several days or even weeks to build and test physical prototypes. Of course, a physical prototype will usually be required at some point, but CAE greatly reduces the amount of these that are required. The use of CAE and the subsequent reduced requirement for physical prototypes saves on product development costs and time, while ensuring improved product quality.
The advantages of CAE include:
- Saves Money: Using computer simulations to evaluate designs is cheaper than creating several physical prototypes.
- Saves Time: CAE design software will save time, allowing you to make more efficient designs faster.
- Easy to Edit Designs: Making alterations to a design is quick and easy with CAE, allowing you to fix errors and modify your design, providing earlier problem resolution and further reducing costs.
- Fewer Errors: Computer aided design (CAD) software can reduce the chance of errors compared to manual designing.
- Less Effort: Designing different models using CAE requires less effort as the CAE software automates much of the task.
- Less Duplication of Labour: Because computer coding can be used repeatedly there is no need to do the same tasks repeatedly. Different parts of the code can instead be copied and reused in the design as it develops.
- Easily Shared: CAE design files can be stored and shared easily.
- Improved Accuracy: CAD software offers higher levels of accuracy when compared to manual designs, allowing you to work with increased precision for better results.
- Improved Decision Making: Design decisions can be based on their impact on performance, while these impacts will be determined sooner in the development process when any design changes are easier and less expensive to make.
While CAE offers an array of advantages, there are some who believe that accurate results only emerge later in a product design cycle, making it difficult to drive the design of more complex parts. However, CAE software companies are constantly developing tools and process improvements to address this challenge. Aside from this, there are a few other potential disadvantages with CAE:
- Hardware Failure: Computer breakdown could lead to a loss of work
- Security: Work can be prone to viruses or hacked
- Staff Skills: Training may be required to operate the CAE software
- Cost of Systems: New systems can be expensive to purchase
- Updates: Systems may require regular updating
Product designers and engineers use CAE to design, test, predict and improve components and assemblies to ensure finished products meet the requirements for performance, energy use and durability.
This broad scope means that CAE is used in any industry that needs to create products for different environments, including automotive, aerospace, consumer goods, electronics, energy, plant engineering, and more, with products ranging from the miniscule to large complex structures like entire power plants.
As highlighted above, many industries use CAE, ranging from aerospace to the power industry. The techniques can be used for any industry that designs or manufactures products, improving safety and lowering costs while ensuring the finished product meets the needs of the end user, all without the need for several costly physical prototypes.
Because of the scope of CAE, there are a wide range of different industrial applications and techniques, including:
- Stress and dynamics analysis using finite element analysis (FEA)
- FEA acoustic analysis
- Fluid and thermal analysis through computational fluid dynamics (CFD)
- Multibody dynamic (MBD) and kinematic analysis
- 1D CAE, or mechatronic system simulation
- Mechanical event simulation (MES)
- Manufacturing process simulation
- Product optimisation
- Control system analysis
Each of these techniques may require a cycle of pre-processing, analysis and post-processing steps, which can be repeated several times.
A CAE engineer uses CAE tools and Computer Aided Design (CAD) software, for the simulation, validation, and optimisation of products and manufacturing tools. This can occur at the design stage to aid with decision making as well as for later product or process optimisation.
A CAE engineer may even share the data with other system users to create an overall, standardised information network to assist with improvements on a wider scale, for example, for aircraft safety issues.
CAE engineers can work in a range of fields including automotive, aviation, astrospace, rail, shipbuilding, and more.
Uniting engineering simulation and high-performance computing allows computer aided engineering to provide benefits across a range of industries. Creating time and cost savings in both design and product development, CAE looks set to continue being an important part of the manufacturing and process improvement.
With innovative new methods of design and engineering being created, CAE works to streamline and improve product development procedures through simulation while ensuring an overall standard of product quality.