What is Computer Aided Engineering (CAE)?

Selin Cinemre Selin Cinemre February 1, 2024

5 min read

This article explores the world of Computer Aided Engineering (CAE), highlighting its crucial role in modern product development.

Computer aided engineering (CAE) is among the most robust engineering tools available. CAE provides engineers with the ability to accurately simulate and test designs digitally—improving efficiency in the design process for optimizing final products. However, what exactly is CAE, and what makes it so powerful?

Understanding CAE

CAE is an engineering approach that employs software and computational tools to aid in the design, analysis, and manufacturing of products across industries. As such, CAE encompasses a range of functionalities, including simulation, optimization, and validation for products and processes. These capabilities extend from the initial design stages to testing and even planning for manufacturing. 

The CAE process typically comprises of three key steps: pre-processing, solving, and post-processing. In the pre-processing stage, engineers model a system and its physical properties, including the operating environment. This stage is critical, as it defines the constraints and applied loads, which determine the accuracy of subsequent simulations. Next, the solving phase entails running simulations that mimic real-world conditions and physics.

Lastly, the post-processing phase involves reviewing the results of previous simulations, essential for decision-making and further design refinements. High-performance computing, particularly with the rise of cloud-based solutions, has broadened the reach of Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE). This development allows even small-scale companies to utilize its advantages without costly hardware investments.

CAE techniques

Finite Element Analysis (FEA)

FEA is a numerical method used for predicting how products react to real-world forces, vibration, fluid flow, and other physical effects. Engineers use FEA to understand a product’s design and how it will respond to real-world conditions.

Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD)

CFD analyzes and solves problems related to fluid flows, heat transfer, and associated phenomena. By simulating the behavior of fluids and their interaction with surfaces, engineers can predict airflow, fluid forces, and heat transfer in and around products.

Multibody Dynamic (BMD) and Kinematic Analysis

MBD analyzes the dynamics and forces involved in the motion of systems composed of interconnected bodies. Engineers use it to simulate and understand the motion, as well as the reaction forces, within mechanisms like engines, suspensions, or robotic components.

Mechatronic System Simulation (1D CAE)

1D CAE simulation is used for the integrated simulation of mechanical, electrical, control, and other systems. It’s often applied in the design and simulation of complex mechatronic systems, where the interaction between different types of components is significant.

Mechanical Event Simulation (MES)

MES is used to simulate and analyze the mechanical performance under conditions such as impacts, crashes, and other high-speed dynamic events. This technique is vital in understanding and improving the safety and durability of products.

Manufacturing Process Simulation

This involves simulating manufacturing processes to predict the outcome of those processes on the material properties and product performance. It helps in optimizing the manufacturing method, tooling, and predicting the final product’s quality.

Product Optimization

In CAE, product optimization involves using simulation data to iteratively improve product design. Techniques include adjusting material properties, geometries, and design parameters to achieve desired performance characteristics while minimizing costs and maximizing efficiency.

Control System Analysis

Control system analysis in CAE involves the simulation and validation of control strategies for mechanical systems. It’s crucial in systems where feedback and control are integral, such as in automotive, aerospace, and industrial machinery, ensuring that the systems respond as intended under various scenarios.

Each technique addresses a specific aspect of product design and analysis and involves a cycle of pre-processing, analysis, and post-processing steps. These steps are typically repeated multiple times to refine designs and ensure product integrity and performance​.

Real-world advantages

There are many advantages to CAE. Firstly, CAE minimizes manual effort and error risk by automating much of the design process, thereby improving product quality. It also aids better decision-making by allowing designers to assess the impact of their choices early in development. Moreover, CAE fosters a more efficient design process, allowing for quicker and more accurate iterations. As a result, design alterations can be made swiftly, leading to earlier problem resolution and cost savings.

To demonstrate, consider the design of automobile crash testing. Automakers must ensure vehicles meet safety standards, however, performing physical crash testing is time-consuming and expensive. To address this, CAE offers a means of simulating crash tests digitally. This allows for quicker and less costly testing options, streamlining design iterations.

Autodesk Fusion’s CAE tools

Autodesk Fusion is a well-recognized tool in the Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE) industry. The software offers a robust set of features that are designed to aid in the product development process. Additionally, it has an intuitive interface that users find easy to navigate. What sets Autodesk Fusion apart is its integrated platform. It combines Computer-Aided Design (CAD), Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM), PCB Design and CAE all in one tool, making it a powerful tool for professionals in the industry.

Among the essential CAE-related capabilities of Autodesk Fusion is its advanced simulation features, which enable designers and engineers to rigorously test designs under real-world conditions digitally. This reduces the need for costly and time-consuming physical prototyping. It optimizes products for performance and durability before they leave the digital space to ensure they will be functional in the real world​​.

Simulation capabilities in Fusion 360.

Simulation capabilities in Autodesk Fusion. (Source: Autodesk).

For example, designers can utilize static stress simulation tools to assess the structural integrity and performance of designs before manufacturing. These tools can also support thermal analysis to understand energy conduction across the geometry of a design. In addition, Autodesk Fusion’s finite element analysis (FEA) verification, testing, and simulation features offer a comprehensive suite for validating and refining designs, ensuring that they meet required specifications and performance standards​​.

Furthermore, Autodesk Fusion’s integration CAD/CAM environment, which is particularly beneficial in the CAE context. It allows for a seamless transition from designing to manufacturing within the same tool. Engineers can engage in additive manufacturing, subtractive manufacturing, and injection molding, all in one platform. This integrated approach saves time and enhances coordination among different phases of product development, thus streamlining the entire design pipeline.

Improving Engineering

With tools like Autodesk Fusion, CAE has been revolutionizing the way we conceive, design, and execute projects. By providing engineers with more efficient and accurate ways to design products, CAE enables innovation and efficiency across the product design lifecycle. As industries continue to evolve, the integration and advancement of CAE will undoubtedly be central to shaping the future landscape of product design and development.

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