Simulation doesn't replace experience

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

It is a misconception that simulation can replace experience in making design solutions. No company should use simulation results to overrule an engineer’s experience in making a design decision. At the end of the day, engineers make design decisions. Simulation is no replacement for engineering experience. However, simulation can enable engineers to make better design decisions in a couple of ways.

First, analysis results augment an engineer’s experience. During the development process, engineers use many different sources of information to make their decisions. That includes material specifications, industry standards, codes and regulations, reference works, periodicals, patents, and much more. Simulations only add to this set of information that engineers use to make their decisions. Armed with more insight, engineers make better decisions.

Second, simulation can validate and even extend an engineer’s experience. Individuals often know not to design components with certain features or traits because they fail in prototyping and testing. However, they might not know why those parts fail. A simulation run before — or even after — prototyping and testing can uncover the root cause of the failure. This allows engineers to authenticate their hypotheses. With that insight, they can augment that feature or trait to make it feasible in ways they might not have previously considered. Simulation can reveal the engineering physics behind the failure, deepening engineering’s knowledge about the behaviour of their products.

Engineers, of course, have a lot to gain by achieving more insight into product performance. Design flaws, once they get past design release, transform into change orders. Those are costly for the company, in terms of both money and time. However, there are serious implications for engineers as well. Those change orders are disruptive when they return to an engineer’s desk. It means the engineer must drop their current project and dedicate time to addressing the change order. Meanwhile, the deadlines don’t move for the current project, putting the engineer further and further behind. Simulation can enhance your experience in order to catch those issues before design release, allowing you to avoid change orders altogether.

Ultimately, simulation is meant to aid engineers. It augments their experience. It deepens their knowledge about the physics in their designs. It allows them to eliminate extra rounds of prototyping and testing as well as sidestep change orders. Simulation adds to the decision-making process; it does not replace it.