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Open Architecture Provides Easy-to-Use, Extensible, Collaborative CAE Solutions

Teresa C. Anania
Vice President of Operations
Pittsburgh, PA

Computer-aided engineering (CAE) software can enable engineers to improve time to market and make better, safer products at a lower cost. To that end, it needs to be easy to use, offer a wide range of design and analysis capabilities and directly exchange data with CAD solid modelers and other complementary software. Today’s CAE solutions are becoming easy to use, extensible and collaborative as a result of the next trend in CAE – open architecture. 

Open architecture is the use of the latest API and database tools to integrate and manage data from any source. Already embraced within the CAD industry, it enables CAE software vendors to support a larger number of CAD solid modelers, offer more analysis options and integrate design cycle support capabilities such as Product Data Management (PDM), Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) and collaboration tools. 

Benefitting from Ease of Use

The CAE interface must be easy to use and intuitive. A modern CAE interface provides a Windows-style graphical user interface with many easy-to-use features such as tree views that visually guide users to provide all necessary information, multiple view windows, docking toolbars and context-sensitive menus that are tailored to particular steps in the analysis process. An easy-to-use CAE interface enables users to learn new analysis tools, stay current with FEA advancements and realize the time savings that CAE offers. 

Supporting More CAD Solid Modelers

Most engineers work with at least one CAD solid modeler and many companies have more than one. The use of outside consultants, legacy systems and work split among different corporate divisions may all contribute to the number of CAD systems with which a CAE solution may need to work. 

Many CAE solutions are tied to a limited number of CAD solid modelers – perhaps just one. Moreover, each CAD/CAE solution may have a different user interface depending on where and how it is used. A more flexible approach enables CAE software applications to work directly with a wide range of CAD solid modelers and within the same user interface. 

Offering More Analysis Options

Through open architecture, the analysis capabilities of multiple CAE vendors can be easily integrated into the same user interface. By integrating the analysis capabilities of multiple vendors, engineers can choose from a variety of FEA processors including Mechanical Event Simulation for combined motion and stress analysis, multiphysics and even specialized analysis tools such as acoustics, fatigue and electromagnetics, all within the same user interface. 

This gives engineers the flexibility to choose whatever analysis type or combination of analysis types is needed to get their products to market. Extending a common, intuitive interface beyond the traditional bounds of one CAE vendor’s offerings increases an engineer’s overall productivity and reduces the learning curve and time needed when using a variety of user interfaces. 

Supporting the Design Cycle 

The return on investment in CAE is highest when it is fully integrated into the organizational design process and used throughout the entire design cycle. After all, when CAE is only performed as a proof-of-concept or validation step conducted at the end of the design cycle, it is often too late and/or too expensive to make product changes. 

Today, the design and analysis process is handled by an engineering team of analysts, CAD designers and marketing collaborators responsible for getting a product to market. Open architecture increases the potential for partnerships that enable the integration of design cycle support capabilities such as Internet collaboration and PDM/PLM applications. These capabilities help design teams optimize products for market value considerations such as ergonomics, aesthetics and cost as well as traditional engineering considerations such as weight, material choice and safety factors. Collaboration tools not only let the design team members communicate openly about model data, material data and geometry revisions, but also perform on-line sessions in which models are reviewed and revised. 

Open architecture is a natural progression for CAE vendors because it enables the support of a larger number of CAD solid modelers and other complementary applications, offers more analysis options and provides capabilities such as PDM/PLM and collaboration tools. By making software easy to use, extensible and collaborative, the leading CAE vendors are providing engineers with the tools they need to manage and streamline their design process and create better products.

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