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Getting Good Results with CAE

It’s more about domain knowledge than software ease of use

A shift in CAE software started, quite a long time ago, when SolidWorks started including a basic version of Cosmos FEA with their eponymous CAD package. It was the beginning of the “red is bad, green is good” school of thinking, where ease of use started to become an increasingly important requirement for a new generation of CAE users.

CAE companies can’t afford to ignore the market’s demand for ease of use. Yet, ease of use opens up CAE software to more misuse. It’s one thing to learn how to use CAE software; it’s a distinctly different thing to know what is required to get valid results with that software.

Modeling challenges
The difficulty in getting good results with CAE comes down to more than creating a mesh, boundary conditions, and loads. It requires creating a model that captures a fundamental understanding of the problem.

some of the challenges in modeling:

  • Many real life problems are ill defined
  • at the outset.
  • Often, getting good input data is the most difficult task.
  • Many problems are “multiphysics.”
  • Many systems are disordered in some sense.
  • Many problems are structured across multiple scale sizes.
  • It is important to understand sensitivities to model parameters.



In short, many real life problems are challenging enough that they can only be solved by smart people with relevant domain expertise.

In the realm of CAE, there are increasingly more people who can run the software, but who don’t have the domain expertise to be able to prepare the analysis model so that it captures a fundamental understanding of the problem.

When designers are asked to do CAE, it’s natural for them to setup the simulation, press the “solve” button, and assume that the results are valid—that red is bad and green is good. It’s hard to fault them for making that assumption. With CAD software, bad results usually make themselves obvious through rebuild error messages. With CAE, bad results are often cloaked in pretty von Mises diagrams.

There’s no simplistic answer that guarantees valid simulation results. Certainly, a first step is education.

While many CAE software companies have training programs, one  good source of education is NAFEMS (originally the National Agency for Finite Element Methods and Standards, in the UK.) They offer courses throughout Europe and the United States, as well as through e-learning.