4 Big Tips to Effectively Manage CAE Software Usage
A competitive CAE engineering team in today’s fast-paced industries has to make excellent use of the technological tools available. As a leading Dassault Systèmes reseller, Computer Aided Technology, Inc. has access to the latest and greatest engineering software. Moreover, as an advanced consulting company, we know how to leverage those tools very well. Here are some tips on how you can make sure you’re getting the most productivity out of your time, money, and personnel where CAE software is concerned:
1. Be aware of what you’re already paying for.
Stay current on the state of the software you’re using. Has it had recent upgrades? Abaqus, for example, receives general performance improvements in every yearly release. Sometimes the developers add new solver features and methods whose sole purpose is to quicken solve speed, and the difference may not be subtle. For example, Abaqus has three natural frequency solvers now, one of which supports GPU acceleration. They have also been known to add new element types that calculate faster or behave more realistically.
Some new features may even have dramatic implications for worker productivity. Abaqus’s general contact capability has become far more robust in recent times, so if your engineers are still defining contact pairs, they may be literally wasting time.
Look out for entirely new capabilities that may present solutions to problems that you haven’t been using Abaqus (or any FEA) to address. For example, Abaqus’s recent Coupled Eulerian-Lagrangian technology may open new possibilities in fluid-structure interaction that would be useful if you were using simulation for some aspects of tire performance.
Instructions for accessing Abaqus release notes are available in our Support & Tools section.
2. Emphasize active learning and tech savvy among your engineers.
Encourage your engineers to attend classes and webinars, read product updates, and talk to support (i.e. us!). They may be sitting on useful software capabilities that they’re unaware of, and it may be as simple as watching a video, reading a patch note, or asking a question. Encourage them to consider the pain points in their work (analysis takes too long, a method is laborious, accuracy isn’t great) and seek out solutions either on their own or with your VAR’s help.
Technological literacy and organized, systematic thinking should not go under appreciated. A capable scripter, for example, can save countless hours by exercising some creativity and intellect to automate routine repetitive activities. There’s lots of traditionally manual work in FE model definition and results processing (like load and interaction definitions, data plotting and visualization, etc.) that can be dramatically compressed with some ingenuity.
Even simple Windows and application shortcuts, happening hundreds to thousands of times per day, can add up to major time savings. Manual data entry tasks, for example, can be reduced from hours to minutes by simply using keyboard and mouse shortcuts rather than simple point-and-click operations. Similar savings can be expected in pre-processors like HyperMesh and Abaqus/CAE, especially where repetitive parts are concerned, like large bolted castings or weldments—avoid multiplying inefficient methods!
The more complicated the work, the more potential gain there is in assigning an individual who is comfortable and organized in a technological environment. They can be counted on to assemble superior FEA input decks that are easy for anyone to read, modify, debug, and update. They will also have an easier time learning new software to expand your simulation possibilities. With new and improved solutions coming out all the time, those who learn fast represent a serious organizational benefit.
3. Regularly revisit your simulation strategy
The technology of CAE services is always advancing, becoming faster, more accurate, more interconnected, and more convenient. At the same time, your development responsibilities may also be changing, according to executive mandates, industry trends, or myriad other reasons. Therefore, it makes sense to routinely ensure the tools your team uses remain the ideal fit for the purpose. Similarly, it may be very tempting to stick to “tried and true” FEA programs and methods, but an investment in new technology (maybe to augment rather than replace) could yield huge productivity gains. Some questions to ask yourself:
- Are your ideas of what can and cannot be simulated up-to-date? The SIMULIA portfolio, for example, is growing every year. Abaqus purchases now include fatigue and optimization solutions, and Dassault Systèmes’s recent XFlow and PowerFlow acquisitions have greatly expanded CFD capability.
- Is your simulation team equipped and trained to meet a recent shift in their predictive needs? Perhaps a manufacturing change now necessitates a fatigue code. Perhaps a new material choice will demand more intensive and sensitive nonlinear simulation. There’s lots of online and in-person training on useful CAE support topics and software.
- Is your conception of efficient simulation solve time still accurate? Every year brings a new generation of CPUs, and every few years brings a new generation of GPUs. Old monopolies of Nvidia and Intel are now facing very serious competition and pressure to innovate. The software also sees regular improvement as faster methods are invented and refined. The same hardware/software budget could be producing much faster results, and that doesn’t just mean doing more of the same work in less time. A late-stage validation becomes early, automated design iteration. A single component simulation becomes a full assembly simulation. A simple stress analysis becomes a temperature-mapped multi-step stress analysis with nonlinear contact.
It is naturally to want to avoid risk or new investments and stick to what we know has worked in the past, but industry and technology is moving faster and faster, and it’s important to keep up or, better yet, get ahead. It is, at the very least, worth the time to have a talk with your VAR (read why we’re an excellent choice for one) to see if they can find you opportunities to beat the competition.
4. Make sure your hardware matches your software
Almost any computer (within reason) can run Abaqus, but it takes a certain setup to run Abaqus well, and just buying a more expensive machine won’t necessarily do the trick. It is critically important to spend responsibly, so talk to an official Abaqus reseller to discuss your specific simulation needs, as that will dictate optimal processing, memory, storage, GPU acceleration, etc. As a consultancy, Computer Aided Technology has a wide variety of machines, and we can benchmark your analyses on our systems to see what works best. If you’ve never asked these questions of a knowledgeable Abaqus VAR, it could be an open question as to whether your system is properly configured for Abaqus, let alone optimally configured for simulation productivity within your budget.
Maintaining peak productivity with the tools of your industry is an active process. The world is constantly changing and productivity is accelerating — new solutions and new methods are regularly being invented, and many of them are made available to you over the course of time. It is up to you to be aware of these changes and make them work for you. If you keep an open and curious mindset and encourage that in your engineers, you can ensure that you aren’t left behind as industry moves forward and remain at the forefront of competitive advantage.