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Simulation Software Can Help Predict the Future

Tue, 10/09/2012 - 1:43pm
Stephen Endersby, Product Manager, SolidWorks
SolidWorks Simulation Software Feature Image

Simulation shows parachute failure. Image: SolidWorks Corp.

In the past, designers relied on numerous prototype rounds and tests to determine a design's feasibility. Despite technological advancements, many organizations continue to rely on spreadsheets or hand calculations during the design process. This approach may have worked in the past, but modern business speeds require a more efficient approach to product design.

Today, companies are gaining a competitive edge by using simulation technology to give the people on the front lines the information needed to make better decisions, design higher quality products, and significantly cut costs and time spent during the prototyping phase.

Simulation software allows designers and engineers to test their projects virtually, before completion, to understand how they will behave in the real world. If a component or assembly does not pass a virtual test, the professional can update their part on the fly and re-test it long before ordering a physical prototype. Simulation has three benefits that every design and engineering professional needs to understand: eliminating design flaws, encouraging experimentation, and identifying cost savings.

To understand the long-term performance of a product, engineers used to create a physical prototype and put it through a number of rigorous tests. Today, simulation technology delivers this information during the design phase, allowing the designer to 'design out' fatigue failures, reducing the risks of the 'unknown'. The main benefit is discovering and solving issues before physical prototypes are created.

Simulation allows design teams to experiment. Instead of testing dozens of physical prototypes, designers can vet new theories and work to complete the best possible final product.

Many engineers rely on simulation for one of two reasons, to ensure performance throughout the product's lifetime or to make an existing product better. Simulation technology lets users digitally replicate a wide variety of physical tests. This gives designers the information needed to explore and experiment with other materials. In many cases, this allows teams to discover new materials that are less expensive and just as durable as higher-cost parts. Simulation can also cut costs by reducing waste by using sustainable materials to create a durable product with social benefits.

One example of a company having success with simulation is Design Dreams LLC, a Cincinnati-based engineering consulting firm. Design Dreams uses simulation technology to gain greater insights into how fluid flow affects design performance. During one particular motorsports project, the company was tasked with determining why a land-speed racer crashed when its braking parachute deployed while driving in the Bonneville Salt Flats. With the help of simulation technology, designers were able to determine that the 'kiting' effect picked up the back of the car, contributing to the crash.

SolidWorks Corp., www.solidworks.com

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