Design, modeling and simulation: A unified entity that needs differences

If you want to get serious about simulation-driven design, you have to give all teams the right digital roles and tools for their tasks, says Dr. Martin Küssner

Published 11/08/2022
Design, modeling and simulation: A unified entity that needs differences

It’s a much-discussed topic that comes with a whole array of buzzwords: simulation-driven design, frontloading or “simulation for designers”. You may also have heard of the “democratization of simulation” or about MODSIM, an acronym formed from modeling and simulation.

What’s behind these catchwords, and how does the concept contribute to the value chain? Below, we will try to shed some light on these questions.

When people talk about simulation, they don't always mean the same thing  

First of all, we have to clarify what simulation is actually good for. Simulation offers insights. That’s it. Insights into products or processes, even if they don’t yet exist physically.

These “insights” can be gained at different levels of abstraction. Each level represents a different way of looking at things. The observations thus relate to different phases of the value chain, and they are relevant to different stakeholders.

This means that “the” simulation doesn’t exist. For example, the behavior or creation of products can be simulated at system level, at a stage when the components and sub-components are represented solely by their behavior and not yet by any three-dimensional manifestation. This discipline is known as model-based simulation.  

But simulation can also occur at the level of fully engineered, three-dimensional components and sub-components. This is what people usually mean when they refer to “simulation”. Just like system simulation, it spans a wide range of physical disciplines.

The simulation methodology must match the purpose

What level of abstraction is better? An analogy from the field of cartography can give us an answer. What has the better maps – a world atlas or a city guide? Obviously, that depends on the type of geographical information you are looking for.

Simulation at system level and simulation based on three-dimensional models represent different levels of abstraction – there is no “better” or “worse”, just as the atlas and the city map each have their own purpose.

Now let’s move on to the “democratization” of simulation. It is correct that software improvements have made simulation programs more user-friendly and that a wider group of engineers can now run simulations. In that sense, the term “democratization” is an apt one.

But if you ask about the level at which the simulation is being conducted, or about the goals of the various stakeholders in the value-adding process, the term is not particularly helpful.

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MODSIM on 3DEXPERIENCE Cloud platform

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Design Model improvements versus validation for production and usage

Today, many people are involved in simulation, but they often pursue very different objectives. We may get the impression that the “democratization” of the discipline means that simulation is now being done by the design engineers instead of the simulation experts, but this would not accurately reflect reality.

It is indeed true that some complex simulation processes can be automated and thereby become accessible to people without specific CAE (computer aided engineering) skills. But if we use the correct term for the use of simulation in design environments, the essence of this use becomes clear: Simulation-driven design. The focus remains on design, while simulation is only a tool that serves to make the design model better.

The goal, therefore, is to provide simulation support for engineering decisions at an ever earlier stage – it’s not about validation. Simulation experts, on the other hand, don’t make engineering decisions: they validate designs. An entirely different objective! Engineers and simulation experts may use the same tools, but in simulation they don’t have the same goals.

MODSIM accelerates value adding processes – a pracitical example

Example: When engineers design a pressure tank, it’s very helpful if they can subject the vessel to a virtual pressure test, i.e. run a simulation assessment.

In simulation-driven design, we cannot expect quantitatively correct stress values – and how could we, because while engineering is still in progress, the exact pressures will remain unknown.   

But if the result is viewed as a qualitative test, and if that test indicates excessive stress values in certain areas, then the engineers can make changes to eliminate the problem. It should be apparent that this improves the design even though quantitatively correct pressure values are as yet unavailable.

The simulation experts would also have discovered the unwanted stress concentrations and would have asked the engineers to revise their design – but instead, they can now focus on problems that can’t be recognized quite so easily, ones where their specific expertise is needed to validate the product.  

The number of feedback loops between engineering and simulation goes down, the value-adding process is speeding up.

Your path to effective collaboration in simulation

An important aspect of simulation-driven design is close connectivity with CAD, letting the engineers launch simulations directly from their CAD tools, without media or data interruptions.

Both Catia V5 and the 3DEXPERIENCE platform by Dassault Systèmes offer simulation-driven design in a variety of expansion levels – from simple, linear-elastic single-component analysis to full Abaqus functionality.

Which level is the right one depends on the circumstances. At CENIT, we are proud that our consulting has opened up simulation driven design to many of our clients.

We begin with a close examination of their processes, followed by a consulting session and a joint target definition. We then determine what roles and responsibilities are needed to effectively drive simulation in the specific client business. On this basis, we can decide how digital collaboration should be implemented.

Simulation-driven design blurs the boundaries between engineering and simulation and lets all stakeholders participate seamlessly in what will be the future of value addition: Simulation as the core element of digitalization.

    MODSIM based on the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform – The Benefits for Your Business

    The term MODSIM is derived from the words modeling and simulation. It is used to describe the collaborative and digitally continuous use of simulation in engineering. CAD and CAE processes are optimally integrated, both at the data level and in terms of stakeholder collaboration.  

    The 3DEXPERIENCE platform integrates all activities relevant to product development within a single system, meaning that MODSIM is embedded in your PLM system right from the start.

    Benefits of MODSIM as embedded process on 3DEXPERIENCE platform

    • Working productively with the right data: Simulation and modeling are intrinsically linked within a uniform environment that offers fully updated data all times (single source of truth).
    • Simulation helps build your digital twin: Since MODSIM is embedded within the PLM system, simulation is integrated with the end-to-end processes of your innovation and optimization cycles.  
    • Faster validation: Because your validation paths are shorter, new products reach market maturity more quickly.
    • Lower development costs: Greater process productivity and the drastically reduced need for physical prototyping pays off for your development division’s KPIs.

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