Sometimes you don’t have the luxury of “upfront” CFD

I write and talk a lot about upfront CFD… a little too much according to my wife!
Last week, an Engineering VP at one of my largest customers said the following:

“You keep talking about using these tools ‘upfront’ in the design process, but we are rarely in that mode. Most of the time we’re starting with existing products that are already fully defined and making small modifications and part substitutions.”

That statement hit me right between the eyes. I realized that I need to do a better job of covering all the potential uses of CFdesign. I guess I talk so much about the early design phases because (as we’ve all heard for years) a problem fixed there costs nothing compared to a problem fixed at the end of the design cycle. To be completely accurate, however, our customers often use CFdesign in multiple design phases. A few never even have the opportunity to use it in an upfront manner!

Here are 3 places to use CFdesign or any other upfront CAE tool:

Upfront Design
Your design engineers are concepting and imagineering. No detailed drawings or CAD models exist. Some general marketing “wishes” have been generated, but there are plenty of design directions and possibilities. Your engineers can make some assumptions and use upfront CAE tools to downselect design directions on the back of a very sophisticated envelope. As the best direction emerges, new details can be added to the existing simulation models.

Product Evolution
Marketing wants to raise the performance bar a bit, but the new product model will borrow heavily from an existing, fully developed product. Without proper training on efficient CAE best-practices, your design engineers will feel compelled to base their simulations on these gigantic, production-ready CAD assemblies. Lots of screws, rivets, gaskets, stickers, and nubbies that don’t affect the simulation at all! They end up spending all their time on clean-up and setup instead of just creating a simplified representation including only the important parts. Make sure to instill the correct philosophy or they’ll soon be heading out to the lab for time-consuming and costly physical tests.

Warranty Trouble-Shooting
Ouch… 30000 products just got recalled due to some overheating electronics! We need a fix, and we need it now! Firstly, you need to figure out what’s causing the overheating. Then, you have to figure out how to fix it while changing as little of this final design as possible. From a CAE perspective, this situation is very similar to Product Evolution. Just a bigger time crunch! Upfront CAE tools can save your bacon here, but only if you can get your engineers to pull their attention away from running fully detailed models featuring every production nook and cranny.