Simulation: engineering meaning and implications for industry
13-10-2021 | Posted by Principia
The Spanish dictionary of the Royal Academy defines simulation as “the act of pretending that something is real when it is not”, which is only the second meaning assigned by the Oxford English dictionary, while the first one is “a situation in which a particular set of conditions is created artificially in order to study or experience something that could exist in reality”. The latter indicates its sense in engineering: we construct a mathematical, hence digital, model of a system, product or process to recreate and analyse its behaviour before physically making it. With the model we can anticipate the expected behaviour and detect possible anomalies, thus allowing the design of suitable modifications to achieve its purpose without having to perform those operations in a real environment.
Studies show that 85% of the cost and time invested in developing a product are consumed in the initial stages of conception, which is the phase when fundamental decisions are taken regarding basic geometry and materials, as well as global configuration of the system and of the manufacturing processes.
The simulation software optimises this development time by virtually recreating what could happen with our products, greatly reducing the cost of testing. There is no longer a need to build prototypes with the successive modifications, and a large number of analyses can be performed with little cost and time. And, even more important, the information obtained from the simulations tells us not only what could happen, but also why.
Industrial simulation software, besides allowing us to design a product and detect its possible “weaknesses”, can also help us answer basic initial questions, such as:
- Can the initial design be improved?
- Will it break if it falls from one metre?
- Is it sufficiently safe? Will it satisfy the requirements?
- How long will it last? Will performance be affected if we make it lighter?
In this first phase the designer needs to identify the problems to be able to validate the design quickly; the simulation tools simplify the comparisons between different design alternatives, accelerating the production process and reducing the time to market, as well as the costs of the project and the product.
If anybody thinks that this may not be useful in his industry, we encourage him to contact us and we will be happy to show him examples from his industry, where people took advantage of simulation to turn around the design methodology of their products and solutions.