The trend of computer-aided engineering (CAE) worldwide is up-and-up, meaning more people are using it in more places for more applications. Besides the obvious benefits of using computer technology to aid in engineering, the reasons for this rising usage globally is simple: as everything in the world becomes more computerized (and digitized), so must the field of engineering, both to keep up and to stay ahead. And as the field grows, so will the demand for people seeking computer engineering careers.
What computer-aided engineering is about
Computer-aided engineering (CAE) is a broad term used by the electronic design automation (EDA) industry for the use of computers to aid in engineering tasks related to designing, analyzing, and manufacturing products and processes.
CAD systems consist of a computer with terminals, video monitors, and interactive graphics-input devices. They involve the use of numerically-controlled machine tools and high-performance, programmable industrial robots. [Britannica] Software tools have been developed to support CAE activities, like analyzing robustness and performance of components and assemblies.
Related supporting fields of CAE include:
- Computer-aided analysis (CAA)
- Computer-aided design (CAD)
- Computer-aided planning (CAP)
- Computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM)
- Computer-aided manufacturing (CAM), and
- Material requirements planning (MRP)
A CAE system must be phased properly, with a typical CAE process comprising three stages: 1) solving; 2) pre-processing; and 3) post-process. Pre-processing, defining the model and environmental factors to be applied to it, involves modeling geometric and physical processes. Mathematical formulas are then used to solve complex physical property issues, the results of which being laid out for engineering in the post-processing of results using visualization tools.
This cycle might be iterated numerous times, manually or with commercial optimization software.
Enormous benefits of computer-aided engineering
Using the computer as an aid in engineering doesn’t just help reduce production cost and time required to produce an item, or help design higher quality and more durable products. Designs developed through the use of CAE also help design and engineering professionals:
- Make project data accessible to designers and engineers in different areas or locations.
- Make design changes in early stages, and throughout the process.
- Manage performance implications and risks of their design.
- Refine and evaluate designs without expensive and time-draining physical prototype testing.
CAE helps teams simulate multiple designs and materials rapidly all the while optimizing design. Perhaps even more importantly, when integrated properly into design and development, CAE helps manufacturers detect faults with the product before related problems arise. [ITarticle] CAE drawings developed and revised during the design process convert directly into instructions for the production machines that manufacture desired objects.
An example of CAE application is simulating crash-worthiness in the automotive industry. Running the calculations beforehand means only a small number of vehicles must go through the crash process to confirm calculations. Cost of simulating the crashes are only 60 percent of the physical test; subsequent simulation costs are coming in as low as ten percent. The time savings are even greater. [esocaet]
Graduate-level training in computer-aided engineering
Among the many sub-component fields of study that comprise graduate-level coursework in CAE are:
- Stress analysis on components and assemblies using Finite Element Analysis (FEA).
- Thermal and fluid flow analysis using computational fluid dynamics (CFD).
- Multibody dynamics (MBD) and kinematics.
- Analysis tools for process simulation for operations such as casting, molding, and die press forming.
- Safety analysis of postulate loss-of-coolant accident in nuclear reactor using realistic thermal-hydraulics code.
As well as optimization of the product or process. The many sub-topics involved in this area of study include:
- Availability and application of CAE software tools.
- Related standards and specifications.
- Optimization and simulation technology.
- Development of related algorithms.
- Product lifecycle management.
Also included are advanced manufacturing technology, necessary data mining, and supply chain management.