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Simulation Driven Design: Just How Far Have We Come?

16 October 2013

by Chad Jackson, President and Principal Analyst of Lifecycle Insights

It's time for a litmus test, isn't it? We've been talking about this issue for well over a decade now.

Simulation has traditionally been used for verification and validation right before testing begins. Its a great way to avoid the effort of building prototypes that, according to simulation predictions, will fail. There's value there. However, those results are often gained too late to influence the design.

Instead, the concept is to use simulation as the basis for decisions in the design cycle. Using simulation results, you can size parts and components, select off-the-shelf equipment and choose between alternative designs. In general, these types of simulations tend to be directional as opposed to ultimately accurate.

Yes. We all know the theory by memory. But I'm the curious type. How successfully has this change be adopted?

Continue reading->



Shot-Peening Over Coffee and Pie

20 September 2013

by Tony Abbey, NAFEMS Training Manager

Firstly, I must make an apology for yet another aviation related blog intro. 

On Saturday I was offered, out of the blue, a ride in an open cockpit Stearman biplane from 1942. It has a 220 hp engine, but is quite a heavy plane at just over 2 tons fully loaded. It is also a tail dragger – a small wheel at the rear means it sits, taxies and lands in a nose up attitude.

It has been over 20 years since I flew anything in anger, so I expected just a very pleasant ride around the area. However, Bob the pilot had other ideas. “She’s all yours”, was the instruction, after the initial take-off. The subsequent “Take her in “as we flew down wind, was even more amazing. After a few circuits and then taxiing back to Bob’s hangar very, very carefully the somewhat wry conclusion was; “well we didn’t scare each other too badly”.

Continue Reading ->


Unwind With A Little Post-Crash Mozart

11 September 2013

by Tony Abbey, NAFEMS Training Manager


I had the privilege of attending the NAFEMS World Congress in Salzburg in June. It was a busy time  for myself and my e-learning colleague Kamran Fouladi as we gave a series of short classes to act as tasters for the full courses run throughout the year.  It was very pleasant to meet NAFEMS  members who had already attended the e-learning courses. Teaching the classes is quite a remote  experience and it is great to get feedback and encouragement first hand. Being recognized by a  Russian attendee whilst visiting the Eagle’s Nest was a unique experience.

I did manage to attend some of the papers and was very impressed by their range and quality. I spoke to several first time attendees and they were all struck by the unique insights into the  Simulation community that the NAFEMS conference gives.

Of the many themes that emerged, one in particular struck me. A keynote paper by Mr Hasselblad  of Volvo showed the extraordinary lengths automotive manufacturers go to ensure safety of the  vehicles and how important a role simulation plays in this. Volvo continues to be, probably, the  leader in this field and this was underpinned by the stated goal that that by 2020 there would be  no serious injuries to an occupant of a Volvo vehicle involved in an accident. This is an incredible  mission statement and an amazing humanitarian vision, just think about it for a moment. I hope I have not misquoted – it made a deep impression on me.

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Clyde Cessna's Famous Photo

29 August 2013

by Tony Abbey, NAFEMS Training Manager



Every Saturday when I am in town I work as a part time volunteer at Yank’s Air Museum in Chino, California. If you are in the area please come and check it out, it is rather special. If I am there don’t forget to say hello.

One of the museum aircraft has always intrigued me because of the photo blow-up set on an easel next to it. The aircraft is a Cessna A model, the first aircraft built and flown by Cessna as an independent company. It is a high wing monoplane with very sleek lines for 1928. Clyde Cessna, the founder of the company designed it, and believed in the advantages of the monoplane - much less drag and the opportunity to develop a very efficient wing structure. However the majority of the aircraft industry, the military and certainly the public, were very mistrustful of the monoplane. Rugged biplanes with plenty of struts and bracing wires looked safer and were the standard of the time.

Clyde Cessna was an innovator, and it seems, a shrewd businessman. He needed to convince the public that his planes were as strong as the biplanes. The photo on view in the museum shows his determination to prove his point. A Cessna A model sits on the Kansas plains, under a dramatic sky. Standing along the top of the wing, looking very proud and equally determined are half the design office! There are eighteen people in this photo, and there are other photos with even more.

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The Future of Simulation: An Interview with Ralph Sundermeier, Volkswagen

2 August 2013






Dr Ralph Sundermeier works in the Technical Design Department of Volkswagen, where he is responsible for the interior calculation within car projects and mainly for the development of calculation methods. 

Dr Sundermeier was Keynote speaker at NAFEMS recent World Congress in Salzburg, Austria. His presentation entitled '

Frontloading by calculation  - Evolution or Revolution?' shared Volkswagen's experience of frontloading calculations in the early stages of product development. 


Below is an extract from our interview with 

Dr Sundermeier at NAFEMS World Congress where we discuss his presentation in more depth and where he believes the future of simulation to be. 


(Dr Sundermeier's presentation from NWC13 can be downloaded from here.)


What do you think are the risks of front-loading calculations ?

 The risk is always that quality might not be assured. You should make sure that the right things are done at the right time. If we were to make calculations in the early phase with data of too poor quality, then make decisions based on the results of the simulation runs, and those decisions were to lead to wrong or faulty functions of the cars, then this would be a very bad thing. So I believe that front-loadingis the correct step, but in the future we have to change a lot of things to do this successfully.

How will  method coupling and co-simulation drive the revolution? 

If you couple methods, you get new needs. These new needs will be transferred to those who support the codes and deliver the software. This is what is changing. This initiates the changes. And when we change processes, a similar thing happens, because the usual tools on the market are made for special situations. If you change the situation by front-loading, for example, somehow you have to change the tools as well. Some tools may be changed by evolution, but I feel a lot of them have to be changed by revolution – in-depth changes need to be made.

Read the full interview here ->



Continuous Systems Validation- Implications for Software Solutions

24 July 2013

by Chad Jackson, President and Principal Analyst of Lifecycle Insights


Continuous systems validation brings a whole new level of complication to simulation. In my first post in this series, we looked at how designs progress in various engineering disciplines. In the second one, we looked at how cross-disciplinary simulations are actually assembled out of these different designs. But furthermore, as the design progresses at the system level, that configuration will change. Today, in this post, we'll look at some of the most critical capabilities that a software solution needs to address this reality. Let's dive in.

Flexibly Connecting Design Representations

An obvious first step is being able to run these simulations. Obvious, right? But this capability isn't as widely available as you might think. A lot of progress has been made insofar as Hardware in the Loop (HIL) for controllers. Today, with some simulation solutions, you can plug physical mechanical hardware and physical boards and processors into controller software running on a desktop (as opposed to controller hardware). You can test out the configuration before you ever receive your controller hardware.

But the opposite isn't quite as available. The idea of connecting a mechanical simulation to a board simulation and a physical controller isn't very accessible. Every possible permutation of digital concept, detailed design and physical item for each engineering discipline needs to be covered. This is mainly due to the frequent reuse of items in the design cycle. Complete system clean sheet design is rare.

This marks the first area that needs improvement.

Continue reading ->


Continuous Systems Validation - System Simulation Configurations

11 July 2013

by Chad Jackson, President and Principal Analyst of Lifecycle Insights

Ready for more system simulation?

Well, strap in. This is where things get complicated.

In the last post, we dove into the progressive means of representing and assessing designs in mechanical, electrical and software domains. We found that in each discipline, the representations changed. We also found that the means by which each design representation is assessed progressed as well.

Now why is that important?

Simulating Systems by Leveraging Discipline Specific Assessments

When it comes to simulating systems, you can always create a system model that is representative. You can use that model to simulation a system's performance. However, and here's the catch, the holistic system model will always lack the fidelity of discipline specific representations and assessments. Essentially, I'm saying that the system model will never predict the behavior of the mechanical design more accurately than the mechanical model.

Instead, what some organizations are trying to accomplish it assemble system models form the disparate discipline specific models. But there are two challenges that await such organizations.

Continue reading ->


Continuous Systems Validation - Progressive Design Representations

5 July 2013

by Chad Jackson, President and Principal Analyst of Lifecycle Insights

I now have no doubt left in my mind: system simulation is now all the rage.

A few weeks ago, I hopped on the bandwagon to write on the topic. I published a post titled Systems Simulation: Far-off Future or Feasible Now?here at the NAFEMs blog. That post focused on how to build a simulation model that incorporates various digital and physical representations from different engineering disciplines. Its complicated stuff in its own right. In that post, I posed the question of whether we're close to reality or some future vision.

Reality, however, is actually far far more complicated. Some organizations actually don't want to just simulate a system's performance at a single point in time, but want to progressively check behavior and validate requirements continuously during the design cycle. In simulation-speak, that makes it a transient problem. Suddenly a seemingly complex challenge becomes an order of magnitude more complicated.

With this post, I'm starting a three part series that looks at the next level of complexity and ultimately what capabilities are needed by software solutions. Where do we start? It makes sense to kick things off by looking at reality right in the face. Let's examine how design representations progressively change over time by engineering discipline.

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The Implications of the Cloud for Simulation

4 June 2013

by Chad Jackson, President and Principal Analyst of Lifecycle Insights


Is the cloud that big a deal for simulation anymore? I mean, we basically know what it means. Run simulation sin the cloud. Leverage all that compute horsepower up there. Get lots of results way faster. Rinse. Wash. Repeat. Right?

Well, that's where I disagree. Bigger changes for simulation in the cloud are hidden just below the horizon.

Undercutting that Beautiful Dream

All that compute power is enticing, right? It's a great story. But there's just one big problem: getting your simulation model into the cloud. And that wouldn't be a problem if these simulation models weren't quite so humongous. I mean, you wouldn't need all that compute power if these simulations were easy to solve, right?

For me, this along with concerns about intellectual property have been the factors limiting the success behind the vision of performing simulations in the cloud. But interestingly enough, this will soon be changing.

Continue Reading ->


Anecdotal Evidence

29 May 2013

by Tony Abbey, NAFEMS Training Manager


My Uncle started as a River Pilot on the English Humber River; a treacherous place with strong currents and constantly changing sandbanks. He then served in the Merchant Navy and was torpedoed twice. Post war he captained a survey and salvage ship for the Royal Air Force. This included marking out and monitoring offshore target ranges. 

A grim task was salvaging aircraft that crashed during bombing practice. Sometimes this occurred within sight of land. Sonar and other search methods were not so advanced as today, so to jumpstart the search he would visit witnesses onshore; either from the official list or just from casual inquiry. With a few good witnesses he could establish a cross bearing plot. It didn’t always work - but on several occasions he pinpointed the location and sped up the salvage process. Investigating anecdotal evidence is a useful method when trying to confirm the validity of an analysis. It is always an implicit part of the analyst’s job to seek out any information that can help support the simulation. 

Formal test correlation methods are an essential part of many projects. However, if unavailable, anecdotal evidence becomes important. Coming across information by chance helped me on many projects. 

Continue Reading ->


The "Usual Suspects"

20 May 2013

by Tony Abbey, NAFEMS Training Manager


I have been living in the US now for 13 years and occasionally I get a little nostalgic for the TV shows I grew up with in the UK. I found a DVD catalogue which included what in the US we call Cop Shows. The English vernacular I remember is Police Dramas. I ordered some old favourites such as “The Sweeney”, “The Professionals” and even an extraordinarily dated “Dixon of Dock Green”.

As I sat through a few it struck me that there was often a common stage in the plot line. If a bank had been robbed, security van hijacked or similar knavery, the first thing our heroes did was to arrest the ‘usual suspects’. The thinking is pretty logical; if somebody’s going to rob a bank they have probably done it before. Police dramas are somewhat telescoped in time. We need a solution within an hour - or if it’s a special show at most 90 minutes.

I’m sure real policemen cringe at some of the procedures but there is probably merit in the ‘usual suspects’ theory. In FE Analysis we don’t have many crimes but sometimes things do go dramatically wrong. The solution fails to run or we get dubious answers. 

Continue Reading ->


Systems Simulation: Far-off Future or Feasible Now?

8 May 2013

by Chad Jackson, President and Principal Analyst of Lifecycle Insights



Move over multi-physics. There's now a different field that qualifies as the bleeding edge of technology in simulation: system simulation. Many organizations are just starting to broach this field in an effort to better understand how systems perform holistically.

But what is it? Is it really feasible for practical use today? Let's dive in and discuss.

Setting Baselines: Systems Engineering

Terminology can be such a challenge. So before we go barreling off to talk about the questions above, let's set some baselines. To start, if you're unfamiliar with systems engineering, go check out its entry in wikipedia. It does a fairly good job explaining the key points.

Furthermore, if you want even more information on systems engineering, you'll want to head over to the site of the International Council on Systems Engineering, or INCOSE for short. They have developed a system engineering standard, both in terms of processes and definitions, that are fairly mature.

Between those two, you should get a good idea of what system engineering is all about.

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Kamran Fouladi

Growing Pains

26 April 2013

by Kamran Fouladi,  President of InfoMec


Commercial marketplace for CAE software is undoubtedly similar to any other marketplace where competitors vie for increased market share. Add to this landscape, organizations and individuals who believe in open source environments and the landscape becomes even more competitive for CAE software companies. This paradigm certainly holds true for CFD software as evident by “significant” number of available software and frequent new releases and upgrades. Discussing this landscape with a friend, he made an insightful comment that today’s CFD software (commercial or open source) seems to be about 10 to 15 years behind the currently available FEA tools in terms of maturity. Now, I don’t know enough about FEA software to gauge the accuracy of this comment. However, with some certainty, I can declare that the present CFD tools cannot be considered “mature” at this time.

Continue Reading ->


Pre-CAD Simulation: Where True Engineering Occurs?

19 April 2013

by Chad Jackson, President and Principal Analyst of Lifecycle Insights


This last week, I attended the Council on the Future of Engineering Software (COFES)in Phoenix AZ. It's a great event that brings together many of the leaders of the industry from the ranks of software providers, journalists, industry analysts and manufacturers. We get together a debate a lot of edge topics relevant to the technology that engineers use to design and develop products. And this year was no different.

Lots of Debates, My Central Theme

Like every year, there are some topics that are edgier than others. And I came across one in particular in three separate conversations and briefings over the course of the event. All of it was essentially based on this premise.

By the time someone starts using CAD, all the major design decisions have been made.

Now, if you've followed my posts in the past, you already know that I subscribe to this concept wholeheartedly. That is, at least in part, why I advocate that 2D still has a legitimate use in design for engineers (see past posts including Every Engineer's Dirty Little Secret? The Stigma of 2D). But I think there are some other serious implications, especially for simulation.

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A Train of Thought

12 April 2013

by Tony Abbey, NAFEMS Training Manager


Earlier this year I travelled from London to Glasgow for a meeting. That gave me the opportunity to ride on a railway train for the first time in Britain since the era of British Rail. My memories are of a system that was starved for funds with much neglect and decay. Returning by rail to my hometown on one trip was a shock. The elegant Victorian station had been savagely removed, and a corrugated iron shed had been put in its place, losing a few hundred yards of track.

However the journey to Glasgow drove away all those memories – it was a brilliant ride! The journey only took four hours and it was comfortable, quiet and very relaxing. It was tempting to sit back and thoroughly enjoy the experience, instead of working as planned.

One of the main improvements was the ride smoothness at around 125 mph. I had to do some ‘engineering’ experiments to detect the vibration (I will leave you to guess what those were and perhaps get some feedback on ideas, in the spirit of exploding dough and carrots). I walked along the carriages without the violent swaying and rocking that I remember well. I have since read an article explaining that it is a combination of track straightening and banking, together with carriages that can tilt into the curves. The combined bank angle was impressive; with the surrounding countryside rolling about the carriage axis quite happily.

Continue Reading ->


The Four ROIs of Simulation

5 April 2013

by Chad Jackson, President and Principal Analyst of Lifecycle Insights


A couple weeks ago, I wrote a post titled The Key to Championing Simulation here on the NAFEMS blog that looked at the best way to move the simulation capabilities of an organization forward. The key, I said, was to befriend the bean counter. The idea is to get their help building out an ROI case that is credible and specific to your company and, as a result,make a more convincing case to executive leadership.

While I've said that you should work with the finance folks to build out that justification organically, tailoring it to the specific financial challenges of your organization, that doesn't mean you can't walk into a discussion with the finance folks without some ideas. In this post, you'll find some starters along those lines. Let's take a look.

Saving the Engineering Budget

Engineering, like any other functional department in a manufacturer, carries a budget. Now,of course, most of engineering's budget is tied up in human capital expense(paying people). But individual development project budgets carry money to design and engineer new products, systems, assemblies and parts. That budget is often spent towards the back-end of the design phase in the form of building physical prototypes and testing, as this has to occur prior to design release. 

Simulation can play a significant role in this context. One of the primary advantages it provides is the verification and validation of a item's performance before any prototype is built and tested. If you can avoid building multiple prototypes and avoid multiple rounds of testing, then those are hard dollars the engineering organization would have spent that they now don't.

Continue Reading ->



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