Engineering Simulation for Better Design

A computer-aided engineering simulation is an indispensable tool for resolving the multitude of scientific and technological problems that engineers face when they design complex systems.  3D computer modeling has advanced scientific engineering simulation by enabling virtual models of entire systems, sub-systems, and parts.  These virtual models can accurately predict real-life system behaviors under a variety of physical stresses.  The simulation also allows engineers to try dozens of design versions in a virtual computing environment, thus eliminating the need for multiple prototype iterations. 

3D virtual model computer simulation relies upon scientific, mathematical, computational, and engineering knowledge and methodologies, and has been aided in recent years by the development of powerful engineering simulation software by manufacturers such as Solidworks and AutoDesk.  With the depth of intellectual development in software such as these with their wide range of applications, computer simulation has emerged as a powerful tool, that is revolutionizing the way engineering and science are conducted today.

It’s interesting to note that engineering simulation represents an extension of theoretical science in that it is based on mathematical models.  These models attempt to characterize the physical predictions or consequences of scientific theories.  For instance, one such query might be, “If I design this aircraft using part B rather than part A will the thrust tolerance vary, and by how much?”

Simulation Can Be Much More

Computer simulation can be used to explore new theories of design, whether for aircraft, buildings, bridges, running shoes or children’s toys.  It also provides a powerful alternative to the old style methods of designing on paper, then building scale models and, finally, prototypes that may or may not work in reality.  Simulation harnesses the techniques of experimental science and observation when phenomena are not observable or when measurements are impractical or too expensive.

In these ways, and for these reasons, engineering simulation becomes a powerful tool for designing better, smarter, and usually less expensively.

A simulation is a Powerful Tool

According to a report by the National Science Foundation Blue Ribbon Panel on Simulation-Based Engineering Science, “Simulation-Based Engineering Science (SBES) is defined as the discipline that provides the scientific and mathematical basis for the simulation of engineered systems. Such systems range from microelectronic devices to automobiles, aircraft, and even the infrastructures of oilfields and cities.

In a word, SBES fuses the knowledge and techniques of the traditional engineering fields—electrical, mechanical, civil, chemical, aerospace, nuclear, biomedical, and materials science—with the knowledge and techniques of fields like computer science, mathematics, and the physical and social sciences. As a result, engineers are better able to predict and optimize systems affecting almost all aspects of our lives and work, including our environment, our security and safety, and the products we use and export.”

While this report was commissioned and issued in 2004, its findings ring true today.  The report goes on to say,

“Whereas the use of computer simulations in engineering science began over half a century ago, only in the past decade or so have simulation theory and technology made a dramatic impact on the engineering fields. That remarkable change has come about mainly because of developments in the computational and computer sciences and the rapid advances in computing equipment and systems. There are other reasons. For example, a host of technologies are on the horizon that we cannot hope to understand, develop, or utilize without simulation. Many of those technologies are critical to the nation’s continued leadership in science and engineering. Clearly, research in SBES is quickly becoming indispensable to our country’s security and well-being.”


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