Man-hours cost more than CPU-hours

It has always been fun to watch high-end FEA and CFD companies jockey for market position based on solver speed.

“This year, our enhanced solver is 20% faster! Buy now!”

That stuff doesn’t hold my attention unless we’re talking about a 10x or better speedup. If you want faster performance today, you can simply go out and buy a faster PC. A $6k investment in new hardware will probably get you 20% improvement in solve times.

My real problem with all this solver speed talk, however, is that it redirects customer attention from the important costs buried in the CAE life cycle.

Who cares if a big, non-linear FEA run takes 6 hours instead of 4?
The engineer behind that simulation is off doing other productive work during that time. It’s “hands off” during the number crunching phase!

The most costly part of CAE happens during the manual model prep and simulation setup!

If Joe Engineer spends 5 hours translating and repairing the CAD geometry, 3 hours creating a mesh, and an hour applying the proper boundary conditions… that’s where I want to see CAE vendors focus!

It’s tough for CAE companies to offer improvements on the geometry side.
I give ’em lots of credit when they do, but there haven’t been many earth shattering advances on that front in awhile.

Luckily, you can largely attack the wasted geometry man-hours by giving your CAE engineers access to direct modeling tools such as SpaceClaim. Most of these hours in traditional CAD environments (Pro/E, SolidWorks, CATIA, etc) are eaten up fighting complex, history-based feature trees.

When I read a new marketing blurb on FEA tool X or CFD tool Y in Desktop Engineering, I’m looking for word of enhancements to the manual aspects of meshing and model setup. Save me 20% on that phase, and we are saving the most precious kind of time: man-hours.