Can you replace prototyping with simulation?

Written by: Dassault Systèmes SOLIDWORKS | Published: 01/20

No. To be perfectly clear, companies should not have any expectation that prototyping can be completely replaced with simulation. Every product should be physically tested to verify and validate the satisfaction of requirements, conformance to constraints, and performance against the engineer’s intent. That does not change with simulation. Period.

Can simulation help reduce the number of prototypes built?

Yes. Absolutely. Using simulation in verification and validation allows engineers and analysts to digitally check performance before a prototype is built. These highly accurate simulations catch most design flaws before any money is spent on hardware. Furthermore, analyses can reveal secondary and tertiary failure modes.

Engineers can mock up changes and rerun the analyses, verifying that their new designs do, in fact, pass the check. This stands in stark contrast to a testing-reliant approach that requires many prototype iterations to uncover a failure, perform a root-cause analysis of the issue causing the failure, make modifications to the design, and then build another physical prototype.

The difference is quite simple: One relies on digital approaches while the other relies on physical approaches. There are, however, significant implications of this difference for companies. The Cloud Adoption study conducted by Lifecycle Insights found that a single round of prototyping and testing costs $46,720, on average, and takes 30 days to complete. Findings from the study show that respondents averaged 2.6 rounds of prototyping and testing per project. That totals $121,472 and 78 days per project.

Obviously, these metrics will vary from industry to industry and company to company. However, this is one area where simulation can have a significant impact, on both keeping projects on schedule and reducing project costs.

The truth is that companies will not eliminate physical prototyping and testing with simulation. This is a key step in the development process. Companies can, however, dramatically reduce the amount of money and time spent on prototyping and testing through the use of simulation. Specifically, simulation calls for the application of highly accurate analysis in verification and validation, a step immediately before prototyping and testing