Danger Danger! Design Engineers using CAE…

danger.jpg…the world might just explode!

Back in 1992, my company set out to put Computational Fluid Dynamics in the hands of design engineers. We specifically targeted frontline Mechanical Engineers (most with a basic 4 year degree) who wore multiple hats and sat on the frontline of product development. The traditional CFD companies at the time were developing software tools exclusively for PhD level analysts working on deep research projects. They all (quite literally) laughed at us and our mission. It’s interesting to see that they are now scrambling to come up with tools to address the design engineering market… but that’s a topic for another day.

These companies and the PhD level users of such traditional FEA, CFD, and magnetic analysis tools have propagated a myth that giving this technology to mere design engineers is like giving guns to children. They created the enduring notion that design engineers can’t possibly understand the complex calculations under the hood and will inevitably trust bad simulation resuls. In the process, these childlike professionals will deliver products to market that are destined to catastrophically fail and send the company into chapter 11.

I can understand why this myth lives on. It’s a logical (although flawed) progression. It also originates with companies and PhD users who actually believe it to be the truth!  It is an elitest, self serving attitude that shows an amazing lack of respect and understanding of product development teams and processes.

Mechanical Engineers aren’t stupid. They don’t rely on single data points and untested theories. These folks slogged through 4 years of engineering school while their liberal arts buddies took electives in bowling and 1980s pop music. They have forgotten more math than most people learn in a lifetime. Not only do they have the educational background to effectively use upfront CAE tools, but they also have the pragmatic sense to take simulation results with the appropriate grain of salt.

Any design engineer who blindly trusts the results of some sexy new software tool before building up his or her own experience is an engineer who makes plenty of bad decisions in all other areas of the job. That’s the kind of engineer we all try NOT to hire in the first place.