In conversations with work colleagues, we often discuss and debate the question, “What constitutes a state-of-the-art simulation tool?” Having worked in the simulation world for 25 years, I say that the time for a “state-of-the-art simulation tool” has passed. I now answer anyone who asks me, “It is not a tool that represents the state of the art but, rather, a methodology.”
There are many tools that simulate various things, and many of them are quite good. For example, I am firmly convinced that ANSYS HFSS represents the gold standard of 3-D computational electromagnetic simulation tools. However, this is simply one tool in a bag of tools used by engineers; individual tools by themselves do not represent the state of the art in simulation.
Consider the wing on the F-35 joint strike fighter. It is an advanced design, superior to many, if not all, wing designs, but the wing itself does not make the F-35 the most advanced jet aircraft in the world. It is the combination and integration of all the various mechanical parts, airfoil configurations and electronic systems that have created this state-of-the-art in jet aircraft design.
And it is exactly this same methodology — the ability to integrate mechanical, fluid and electrical simulation paradigms into an overarching end-to-end system simulation system design — that represents the state of the art in simulation technology.
As an electrical engineer right out of graduate school, I realized that to design complex structures, I needed to simulate them. And back in the 1980s, the state of the art of simulation was using a physics-based tool to help solve the complex problems associated with electric or electromagnetic component designs. After becoming proficient in simulating various electromagnetic devices, components and problems, however, I realized that my optimized components rarely worked as well as expected when integrated into the larger assembly that my team was developing.
Fundamentally, I discovered that assembling optimized components does not guarantee that the final assembly, or final system, will be optimized. Another thing I learned was that mechanical, thermal and other electronic circuits/components will very likely impact my optimally designed components. This interaction between components created a new environment for my design, one that was not optimized for the original design. I needed to take all the other physics and system components into consideration if I wanted to create a perfect design. And, back in the late 80s, there was no simulation tool available that could do this. As a result, I continued to optimize my components and hoped for the best when they were integrated.
Near the turn of the century, software became available that incorporated other physics into a single simulation. These multiphysics tools addressed some of the issues I faced as a young engineer. Together with advances in computer capacity and speed, the toolset allowed engineers ever-greater insight into designs. However, the key problem was still not addressed: These advanced multiphysics tools did not allow me to understand how electrically, mechanically and thermally optimized components behaved in the final assembly or system. While the multiphysics tools were very useful, they did not represent the state of the art in simulation, since they could not be used to simulate entire systems.
So is there a way that an entire system can be simulated that allows engineers to optimize the entire system and take into account electrical, thermal and mechanical physics? Clearly, now, there is. ANSYS is leading the way and has a methodology that can be used to simulate the entire system. The various physics-based solvers such as HFSS, ANSYS Fluent and mechanical tools can be used in optimizing individual system components. And thermal and mechanical effects can be determined by linking the results from these individual tools with each other in ANSYS Workbench.
Furthermore, ANSYS tools can be combined in either ANSYS Simplorer or Ansoft Designer, and entire systems can be created: systems such as entire Wi-Fi communications channels with realistic deployment environments, entire end-to-end wind power generation systems, implanted medical devices that communicate wirelessly with external data monitoring equipment, and electronically controlled active automotive suspension systems. All of these, and many others, can now all be created, simulated and optimized using ANSYS mechanical, fluid and electronics tools. It is a truly state-of-the-art methodology, applicable to all systems design, and equally as effective.
It is this ability — the ability to easily combine physics-based simulations into a full end-to-end system simulation methodology — that represents the state of the art in simulation technology. And it is this superior ability that now allows engineers, engineering teams and engineering organization to realize their product promise.