The Role of Simulation Governance in the Democratization of Simulation Through Sim Apps Used in the A&D Industry
R. Actis, ESRD
The technical and business value of numerical simulation performed by engineers in the aviation, aerospace, and defense industry is well established. The performance requirements and system complexity of the projects and products these engineers design and sustain over many years of operational use have increased exponentially. This has created additional demands on engineering originating from the program office to improve the speed, cost, and reliability of simulation and analysis function. Incremental improvements made to the status quo without greater innovation are reaching a point of diminishing returns as they are no longer sufficient to address these new challenges. All this is occurring at the same time that the capabilities and complexity of the analysis tools and workflow processes require ever greater levels of expertise and specialization from the engineering staff.
The concept of Simulation Governance originated from an appreciation that the practice of numerical simulation in a high-tech industry like A&D is in itself a highly complex activity. A continuous investment in the training and management of simulation professionals, tools, and processes with numerous interdependent multi-disciplinary competencies is required. As the value on the simulation function increases, the practice of simulation governance, that is the command and control over simulation activities, becomes critical to ensuring the reliability and robustness of analysis methods and tools used in support of engineering decision-making processes. Simulation tools properly managed can be a major corporate asset, while when they are poorly managed can be a source of systemic risk. As example, for many valid reasons, finite element modeling software is regarded as so specialized that only expertly trained analysts can employ it with any degree of reliability and confidence in the results. Attempts to promote the use of FEA by general design engineers without expert training have been disappointing for equally valid reasons.
There has been much discussion about the democratization of simulation, but is it feasible in an industry like A&D? The admirable vision for expanding the use of simulation by non-experts cannot be safely realized unless a new approach to analysis based on predictive computational science and numerical simulation emerges to replace the subjective art and craft of finite element modeling as it has been practiced up to now. The solution lies in the practice of Simulation Governance which provides analytical guard rails to ensure that the most difficult computational problems can be solved by experts with confidence, while more routine analysis in support of design decisions can be performed by engineers without expert training.
To illustrate that a level of democratization is not only theoretically possible but readily feasible, examples from the aerospace industry of expert-designed smart engineering simulation apps will be presented. One specific example of a Sim App will be from the durability and damage tolerance (DaDT) analysis of life estimates for cracks emanating from cold-worked holes where the requirement of accurate computation of stress intensity factors along the crack front is compounded by the fact that the shape of the propagating crack is solution-dependent. The technical requirements and challenges to the creation, deployment, and use of Sim Apps, such as this example, within A&D industry will be examined without emphasis on any software product, solution provider, or customer.
The standardization, automation, and democratization of new technologies such as Sim Apps through the adherence to Simulation Governance offers the aerospace industry many benefits at the engineering, project, and business levels. These benefits include encapsulating complexity, improving productivity, containing cost, and ensuring reliability for the expert simulation analyst and non-expert design engineer alike.