Digital Industrial Revolution: Quo Vadis, Simulation?
Digital Industry is here. Data volume explosion and new computing capabilities require fast adoption. Cloud computing, Big Data & Analytics, Mobile computing, and Internet of Things (IoT) are already making a big difference in all industries. Traditional production processes are becoming Digital Manufacturing.
Digital Industry disruption in manufacturing
Starting from the Steam Engine Revolution, each innovation wave had a positive role, with more or less disruptive effects. Governed by the essential driver “how to make better products, more quickly and more efficiently”,manufacturing process evolved in a natural spiral trace, with continuous improvement of human-machines interaction and fast assimilation of automation, robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), and additive technology (AT) better known as 3D Printing.
How to reduce the disrupting effect in the core of manufacturing processes? Digital Industry technologies are transforming every digit and every link in a manufacturing value chain, from R&D, supply chain, and factory operations to marketing, sales, and services. Digital Industry connectivity between human forces (engineers, designers, managers, partners, and clients) and machine industrial assets will unlock enormous value and will change the landscape of global manufacturing market, estimated now at +10 trillion dollars.
Industry 4.0 and manufacturing transformation
Industry 4.0 is a project initiated by German government in a larger strategy to quickly adopt the digital industry benefits offered by innovative technologies. The term “Industry 4.0” is direct related to the 4th industrial revolution, after successive waves represented by stream engines, mass production enabled by electric energy, and the accelerate increase of computing and automation facilities.
According to the Industry 4.0 holistic approach, three aspects have to be implemented in any industrial process:
- Horizontal integration across company boundaries
- Vertical integration through networked production systems
- Integrated engineering throughout the product lifecycle.
From manufacturing perspective, the main drivers to achieve Industry 4.0 targets are second and third components. Vertical integration and end-to-end engineering are key of the digital manufacturing dream .
Due to the large variety of manufacturing processes, systems and technologies used in industrial enterprises, the key role of digital industry technology as open platform and de facto industry standard for automation is obvious. Automation solutions equipped with analytical software and access to the Cloud can upload data right to facility management. These solutions can be optimized to meet the dynamic and changing needs of an application to increase efficiency and even influence business decisions.
From CAE systems to digital engineering
Being essential high-tech engine in any manufacturing industry, computer-aided engineering infrastructure (software, workstations and additional appliances) was by default improved in parallel with the assimilation of IT innovation: new software versions, better machines, more processing power and storage resources, and increasing collaborative communication based on Web technologies.
But classic CAE software suites show more limitations related to software licensing issues and fast hardware depreciation. Disruptive here are not the simulation algorithms. Simulation theory is the same. The same mathematics algorithms, same logical schedule, same modelling methodologies. Dysfunction is coming from simulation infrastructure.
Migration of simulation software in the Cloud is coming with a major impact in manufacturing processes, offering spectacular reduction of product cost, better product quality and fast access to the market. Some major CAE providers start to offer alternative SaaS solutions to traditional simulation packages, but implementation is not 100% based on Cloud and many capabilities are still depending on the on-premise user infrastructure.
The whole digital manufacturing benefits are provided by simulation platforms 100% based on the Cloud. Offering full access to the most performant simulation analyses types via a simple Web browser, the SimScale platform is a win-win combination between the typical competitive advantages offered by Cloud models (unlimited power processing, storage resources, scalability, flexibility, easy deployment, manageability, and security standards), and specific benefits of best in class simulation algorithms (structural mechanics, fluid dynamics, thermodynamics, acoustics, and discrete particle analyses).
Digital product model as base for simulation future
Digital product model concept was developed by a group of CEO and marketing directors from major software and service providers in the digital industry environment. In a working meeting organised in Hechenberg — a Bavarian village, in May 2014, this group adopted four theses defining digital product model :
- The basis of innovative, “smart”, connected products are digital product models.
- The digital product model must contain all the elements of mechanical, electrical, electronics and software reflecting their interaction virtually.
- Digital models make development, production and operation of complex products manageable.
- The integrated management of digital product models throughout their entire life cycle is an important prerequisite for Industry 4.0.
The modern manufacturing workflow is focused on the digital models which will drive the next development of simulation processes. Here are the main concerns related to simulation democratization trend as discussed at ASSESS (Analysis, Simulation & Systems Engineering Software Summit) :
- 1. Design centric workflow
- 2. Ease of use and/or usability
- 3. Analysis & simulation before CAD
- 4. The impact of web, cloud & mobile devices
- 5. Capturing and reuse of knowledge
- 6. Systems approach to combining heterogeneous models
- 7. Speed & model fidelity
- 8. Unattractive technical issues
- 9. Changes to licensing models
All these simulation issues are both driving and following the trends. We can expect a reduction of simulation expertise coupled with an increased demand for the analysis. Vendors should democratize CAE to fit-for-purpose applications. But there are currently three obstacles to this: the cost of the software, the cost of the hardware and training/expertise.
The first two obstacles are solved by the SimScale 100% cloud-based CAE platform which eliminate the needs to supplementary investment in computing infrastructure. The issues related to learning as a long and costly process are facilitated also by Web accessible simulation interfaces that require minimal training. The Public Simulations library and a rich schedule of free webinars offered by SimScale are the best ways to break the knowledge barriers.
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 — “How Industry 4.0 Will Change Manufacturing Forever”, engineering.com, April 2016
 — “The Digital Product Model — The Hechenberg theses”, Model Based System Engineering, September 2014
 — “Industry experts predict future of simulation”, engineering.com, 2014