The Engineering Simulation Revolution Has Begun

The Engineering Simulation Revolution Has Begun
The Engineering Simulation Revolution Has Begun

Engineering simulation has grown into significant importance in the engineering design process over the past four decades with technology drivers enabling its broader and improved application. This growth in importance has been accompanied by a growth in awareness of the benefits and key business drivers, which then also brings a new set of opportunities and challenges related to increased demand.

The engineering simulation market is struggling to meet this surge in demand, and a simulation revolution is needed to overcome the shortage of expertise, which prevents broader application. Since 2015, Cambashi has been providing insights into the 2D and 3D computeraided engineering (CAE) market with its CAE Observatory. The 2020 release of the CAE Observatory illustrates that the simulation revolution has begun, with increasing annual market growth rates forecast compared to previous years—excluding 2020 of course. The emergence of generative design and digital twins is combining with the other business drivers to increase the demand for engineering simulation.

Evolution through technology drivers

From the mid-1970s until recently, the role of simulation has been determined by the state of the technology. The advancement of technology enabled more applications and the more efficient application of engineering simulation while delivering higher value. The application and role of engineering simulation within organizations have typically followed a series of technology drivers—failure analysis / design validation / design decision support / design drivers / systems engineering / generative design. The nature of the technology advancements and the technology drivers associated with engineering simulation made it clear that longterm evolutionary growth was sustainable.

Revolution through business drivers

The worldwide downturn in 2009 had a broad impact on business in general and caused a complete rethink of what it takes to build and maintain competitiveness. The changing role of engineering simulation since 2009 is really about business drivers for improved competitiveness:

▶ increase innovation
▶ increase performance
▶ improve quality/risk management
▶ reduce time
▶ reduce cost

Organizations around the world began to realize that a better understanding of product and process behavior and the associated risk was crucial for having a positive impact on these business drivers. The additional realization that engineering simulation is the only viable method to achieve this improved understanding and is, therefore, a major key to all five business drivers is quickly following. However, engineering simulation software is still typically used only by expert analysts leveraging more and more sophisticated tools, and there is a need to significantly expand the usage to a broader audience to affect the business drivers. The business drivers are going to force a “simulation revolution” to overcome the expertise-based limitation, and engineering simulation will be forced to find a way to support its newly found role as a key enabler to increased competitiveness.

The simulation revolution is real

The concept of an inevitable simulation revolution was first introduced by the ASSESS Initiative, which was formed in 2016 to facilitate a revolution of enablement that will vastly increase the availability and utility of engineering simulation, leading to significantly increased usage and business benefits across the full spectrum of industries, applications, and users. Cambashi’s latest CAE Market Observatory data shows that the CAE market has been growing in double digit figures and will continue on that path—except for 2020—illustrating that the efforts of the ASSESS Initiative and other organizations are beginning to overcome the expertise-based limitations for engineering simulation.

While 2020 will present lower growth rates, and Cambashi expects negative growth from the automotive industry, for example, growth overall is still expected to be positive. Going forward, the trends that were driving the adoption of simulation have not gone away. The need to develop new, greener versions of any kind of product will accelerate, especially in industries generating vapor trails. And COVID-19 is also opening up new opportunities for simulation in any industry where people spend significant amounts of time in close proximity. The need to provide a safe working environment to get industries back to some kind of normal situation could also result in new linkages between CAE and building information modeling (BIM) vendors and CAE and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)/Connected Application technology providers.

The emergence of generative design

Generative design has the potential to initiate a significant paradigm shift in the design processes used today with designs that are computer-generated based on a clear specification of rules, requirements, and constraints. This overturns the current practice of design, where designs must first be created so they can be evaluated against their performance requirements. Generative design could be a key enabler of the democratization of engineering simulation by enabling the user to define a design scenario and a generative design tool to explore the design space for feasible design options. Driving generative design upfront to the “early stages” of the development process will change the nature of the work that is done, which will cascade to change the work done later in the process. Generative design tools are continuing to expand their support of different manufacturing processes. Some generative design tools support “design for manufacturability” and manufacturing cost estimation.

The emergence of engineering simulation digital twins

Digital twins and specifically engineering simulation digital twins are essential to digital transformation across the domains of product development, manufacturing, and in-service operations. To address the objectives of digital transformation, most major project lifecycle management and engineering simulation vendors are actively pursuing some form of digital twin strategy that includes a physicsbased engineering simulation digital twin to capture knowledge and develop an understanding of the current and predicted state and performance of its physical twin.

Exploitation of engineering simulation digital twins is a potentially positive disruptive approach for certain types of physical assets where a) servicing is hard or extremely expensive, b) ongoing maintenance is critical, c) physical assets have a long life, or d) physical asset operations are considered mission critical and/or safety critical. The use of engineering simulation digital twins is also expected to open up the potential for multiple new business models for products-as-a-service, such as aircraft engine contracts that provide “power by the hour” to the airlines, including 24×7×365 maintenance.

The simulation revolution has already begun!

The changing role of engineering simulation is really about business drivers for improved competitiveness. Engineering simulation provides a better understanding of product and process behavior, variability, and risk to support the drivers for increased competitiveness. The revolution supporting simulation’s changing role has already begun and is gaining traction. Substantial, sustained growth of the engineering simulation market is likely for the foreseeable future.

About The Author

Joe Walsh founded intrinSIM in late 2009 to enable rapid next-generation application development for engineering software, and he also co-founded the ASSESS Initiative in mid-2016 to significantly increase the usage and benefit of engineering simulation. Walsh has more than 40 years of experience, expertise, relationships, and collaborations in the CAE, CAD, interoperability, and component software industries. Before founding intrinSIM, he was the vice president of business development for Simmetrix, where he was responsible for sales, marketing, and business relationships. Before joining Simmetrix, he was vice president of worldwide sales for IronCAD LLC, vice president of North American sales for DS/Spatial and Spatial Corp., partner and founder of New Renaissance, president/CEO and co-founder of FEGS Inc. (the North American subsidiary of FEGS, Ltd. of Cambridge U.K.), president/CEO of PAFEC Inc. (the North American subsidiary of PAFEC Ltd. of Nottingham U.K.), and director of engineering applications for Clevenger Corporation. Walsh has almost 10 years of experience in engineering analysis positions specializing in CAD/CAE integration, CAE automation, and design optimization. He holds an architectural engineering degree from Milwaukee School of Engineering.

Petra Gartzen is a senior consultant at the market analyst and consulting firm Cambashi ( She has been providing market intelligence, insights, and advice to business leaders in technical software companies for most of her working life. Prior to joining Cambashi, she held senior market intelligence positions at Adobe, Sun Microsystems, and Gartner.

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