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I want (CAE) candy!

I want (CAE) candy!

by The CAE Guy

Springtime is in the air here in the Midwestern US, which means there is a transfer happening from indoor to outdoor activities. For me, that means the end of coaching volleyball to attempting to find time to ride my bicycle more (one of my New Year’s resolutions …), and playing pickup Ultimate[1]. Since I managed to not finish all (or, technically, any…) of the woodworking/home projects I planned for over the winter, I do still need to spend time in my shop; however, I also need to start yard work. Along those line, a few years ago, my wife bought me a chain saw, which I have been known to use as part of a springtime activity: making firewood for our fire pit. I gather tree branches, either from our own yard or down at the park, which have fallen to the ground over the winter or early spring. The branches get chain sawed into manageable sizes then I get out an axe and spend the next hour or two chopping firewood. I have to say that there is something primal about chopping firewood. When I am done chopping and looking proudly at a stack of firewood, I feel not just like a man, but a man’s man: I made – with my own two hands – that stack of firewood. This is something that men have done for ages (whether this is a PC thought or not, I will leave for another forum). Nonetheless, after an hour, the fact that I am pushing 50 years old kicks in and I need a nap – not to mention that since I do not chop wood on a regular basis, I have two days of body aches to look forward to. But it’s that hour immediately afterward that is completely worth it as I simply bask in the glow of the accomplishment itself.

It was this feeling of accomplishment that I was thinking about in relation to Computer aided Engineering -CAE- (but before I would take a nap). The test engineers/technicians get to stand back and “see” the results of their efforts: models or vehicles as they can point to parts they have tested. However, Computer Aided Engineering does not result directly in an “real” parts (yes, I realize it’s possible to make a part – or parts – from a CAE model, but most laymen understand that CAE delivers digital results; plus they are ultimately tested anyway). So what are we, the CAE community, to do? I think there is an opportunity to leverage CAE results and speak to the next generation of CAE analysts, who are immersed in gaming and CG media, by make high quality and realistically rendered animations.

Movies, architecture, gaming, even product development all use photo-realistic rendering as part of their normal set of deliverables; Why not Computer Aided Engineering? Think of it: how cool would it be to see the internal structure of a FEA deformation that is so realistically rendered that it looks “real”. How about total pressure iso-surfaces overlaid on an accurately rendered vehicle. Yes, this would take effort in the form of time and money (but doesn’t everything?) – and the results could be stunning. I am not talking about surface pressure distribution of an airplane overlaid on a picture of a mountain range; I am talking about ways to combine photo-quality renderings with physics-based CAE results. I hear many versions of “that is just so cool” from others when showing simple Computational Fluid Dynamics movies and animations. How much more understanding, awareness, and interest could be shown with rendered CAE results? Yes, I realize the CAE community would just consider this type of work eye candy [2], but if it furthers the expansion of Computer Aided Engineering, why not at least try?

Do you know of any photo-realistic renderings of CAE results? What did you think of them? How did others react to them? Drop me an e-mail at: thecaeguy{at}nafems{dot}org. (The e-mail format is to – hopefully – deter the auto spammers that just troll for on-line e-mail addresses; yes, I have had problems with this.)

-The CAE Guy

[1] Or also called Ultimate Frisbee, a field-based team game that uses a Frisbee instead of a ball and/or stick combination.

[2] Something purely aesthetically pleasing, that is, pleasing to the senses. Can be a person, a film, a sunset, a flower, or anything else you can see. “God, look at that, its eye candy.” The Urban Dictionary.