In a recent study, Addressing the Bottlenecks of FEA Simulation, Tech-Clarity examined the simulation process. We looked at some of the top areas that slow down simulation process and best practices for overcoming them. While these best practices will help you get even more value from simulation software, why should you use simulation in the first place? What should you use it for?
We looked at these questions and identified the top ways that Top Performing companies use simulation (Figure 1). Top Performing companies are those who, when compared to their competitors, are more efficient, design higher quality products, do a better job meeting cost targets, and are more innovative. See the post titled, “How Simulation Solves Some of Today’s Top Product Development Challenges” for more information on how Top Performers were defined.
Figure 1 – How Simulation is Used
When looking at Figure 1, what’s interesting is that Average Performers are most likely to use simulation to reduce physical testing. This makes sense because simulation allows you to do more testing in a virtual environment. As a result, you will not need as many physical prototype tests to validate performance or identify failures. Interestingly, Top Performers are just about as likely to use simulation to reduce physical testing as Average Performers. This says that this is one of the most common uses of simulation, but it is not what sets Top Performers apart.
What sets Top Performers apart is that they are 37% more likely than Average Performers to use simulation for optimization. This means they are using simulation to conduct trade-off analyses and to receive guidance for better design decisions. With simulation, they can balance competing criteria, such as cost and quality, and come up with the best design possible. Doing this earlier in the design process makes it easier since less of the design has been finalized and changes are more flexible.
Another area that sets Top Performers apart is that they use simulation to understand the root cause of failures. Top Performers are 26% more likely then Average Performers to use simulation for failure analysis. This involves running an analysis after a failure has occurred to get better insight into the cause of the failure.
Finally, Top Performers are 32% more likely to use simulation to take cost out of products. They use simulation to identify opportunities to remove cost and evaluate options that may be less expensive, without compromising quality.
As a result of using simulation for these purposes, Top Performers report numerous benefits. Figure 2 shows some of the top ones:
Figure 2 – Benefits Top Performers Enjoy as a Result of SimulationTime savings is the top benefit that most Top Performers report. First, because they use simulation to reduce physical prototypes, they are able to find problems earlier, when it takes less time to fix them. Plus, they’re able to reduce the time required for physical prototype testing. In addition, because they are using simulation for optimization, they are able to make better informed decisions throughout the development process, which leads to greater efficiency.
Top Performers also report cost savings in both the development process and in the product itself. Since time is money, cost savings come from the reduced time to develop products. Because they use simulation for optimization, they’re able to evaluate more opportunities to remove cost and look at different alternatives while considering cost. For example, they can examine different approaches to maintain structural integrity. They can assess alternative approaches for cooling, perhaps considering a wider cooling channel rather than a heat sink. With better insight, they can then make better decisions that enable them to take cost out of products.
Part of optimization also means evaluating more iterations to arrive at the best design possible. More iterations, especially early on, means more ideas are evaluated which will lead to greater innovation. With a wider net of ideas, you are more likely to make larger jumps in innovation.
Top Performers also report improved reliability. Some of this comes from the failure analysis they do. By using simulation, they can get a more thorough understanding of the root cause of a failure. Armed with this information, they can do a better job of correcting design flaws, which will improve future reliability and reduce recalls.
Finally, reduced weight and less material comes from optimization. When optimizing the design, they can identify areas that have been overengineered and remove excess material without hurting performance. With less material, they can reduce weight, which will improve energy efficiency, and also lower material costs. Along with this, they can look at different materials. Simulation allows them to understand the impact of different material properties on product performance. Consequently, they can do a better job evaluating potential material options and select the best possible material for the product.
The key take away is that Top Performers use simulation beyond just replacing physical prototypes. Because of this, they enjoy many benefits, which helps them improve product competitiveness and profitability