Engineers and companies that think they don’t need intelligent design space exploration (DSE) software are operating under old assumptions. They’re probably thinking of traditional DSE, which is expensive and so used sparingly, where incremental advances yield outsized benefits.
It’s widely used, for example, in aerospace, where light-weighting and more efficient engines meet the airline industry’s relentless pursuit of increased fuel efficiency and reduced environmental impact.
But intelligent design exploration software has disrupted the DSE value proposition, making the process cost- and resource-effective for any project. It promises to transform not only the design process, but also to address common business challenges of companies that rely on design for competitive advantage.
Removing the task work of design space exploration
An intelligent DSE solution features a new type of business software capability known as intelligent automation. Similar to how robots automate repetitive manual tasks on the factory floor, this new capability automates—and eliminates—tedious, time-consuming, manual work for professionals. It quickly integrates and assesses disparate data sets, and then makes decisions and performs tasks that humans alone need hours or days to accomplish.
Like robotic automation, intelligent automation capability in software is easy to use. It resides parallel to and runs concurrently with existing tools and is operated via a familiar user interface that allows its use within existing workflows.
Intelligent DSE automates the work-intensive process by which teams of design engineers, analysts and optimisation specialists work together on studies to test different design options. The design studies involve an iterative approach to evaluating different design options, which requires a considerable amount of manual work. As designs get more complex, identifying the changes to make to improve performance tends to rely more on trial and error than an efficient systematic approach.
The value of intelligent software
The primary value of intelligent DSE is that it allows more engineers in more industries to conduct design optimisation and design space exploration for more projects. They can then focus on identifying optimal designs that deliver more customer value, rather than those that only meet minimal requirements.
The potential impact goes beyond democratising advanced design strategies. Forward-thinking companies will use it to address some of the most common business challenges.
1. Increasing productivity. By running modern DSE software with intelligent automation as a parallel workflow to your existing processes, you can make your people and existing technology faster and more efficient.
2. Offering customers new advantages, such as lighter materials or faster operations. With intelligent DSE, you’ll be able to cost-effectively identify more ways to improve your products that give your customers a competitive edge. For example, Becker Marine Systems used intelligent DSE to identify and serve a profitable niche delivering customised energy-saving devices that make older ships more efficient.
3. Replacing design skills and knowledge lost through retirements. Traditionally, engineers who wanted to integrate design tools to speed design optimisation wrote their own scripts. Now, the people who wrote those scripts may have left the company. Intelligent DSE automates the transfer of data, so engineering firms can focus on having good engineers rather than on software development.
4. Increasing margins on existing products. By using intelligent DSE to identify new materials or ways to use fewer materials, manufacturers can reduce production costs and still maintain or increase performance for the customer. This allows you to increase profit margins for existing products.
5. Innovating faster. Companies that rely on design and engineering must continually strive to create better designs faster. Adopting innovative new tools and strategies, such as intelligent DSE, will help speed up innovation.
6. Improving process efficiency. The same simulation process that identifies better product designs can be used to improve process plans, yielding cost-saving opportunities.
7. Designing entirely new products. Intelligent DSE allows product development teams to dedicate more time to solve more and different customer problems. It does the hard work of isolating the right data to quickly find the most promising solutions.
Additionally, intelligent DSE itself can be a design optimisation strategy. For example, HEEDS, the DSE solution in the Siemens PLM product family, will determine which optimisation method is best for a given project and then automatically run it. No one needs to be versed in the different methods, review the project requirements and then determine which methods to use and write a justification. The software does it all.
Intelligent automation like this drives the most value in modern DSE solutions because it eliminates many of the low-value, high-resource tasks design optimisation normally requires. Instead, product development teams are free to focus on innovative ideas for new products and products improvements.
This concludes our series on design innovation.
About the author Bruce Jackson is an account orchestrator for Siemens PLM Software and works closely with aerospace and defence companies in the U.K. He has been working in the PLM and CAE space for more than 25 years and is currently working with companies across Europe to help them achieve productivity gains through digitalisation.