Everything you need to know about Computer-Aided Engineering

Computer-aided engineering

What is Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE)?

Computer-aided engineering (CAE) Computer-aided engineering (CAE) is the method of using computers in design, analysis, and manufacturing of a product, process, or project. CAE relates to most elements of CADD in the industry. CAE is often recognized as the umbrella discipline that involves several computer-aided technologies including but not limited to, CAD, computer-aided industrial design (CAID), CAD/CAM, CNC, CIM, and PDM, plus the Internet and other technologies to collaborate on projects. CAE often focuses on mechanical design and product development automation. Some of the most familiar elements of CAE are surface and solid modeling and the simulation, analysis, testing, and optimization of mechanical structures and systems using digital prototypes. FEA is a process often associated with CAE. The figure shows a 3-D solid model being subjected to simulated tests and stress analysis.



Animations(b) Animations(c) Animation is the process of making drawings or models move and change according to a sequence of predefined images. Computer animations are made by defining, or recording, a series of still images in various positions of incremental movement; when played back, the series no longer appears as static images but as an unbroken motion. Figure provides an example of three images taken from an animation of a solid model assembly process. Based on the still images shown, try to imagine what the complete animation looks like as the components come together to build the assembly. Animation is a broad topic with a variety of applications for different requirements, including engineering, education, and entertainment.

  • Engineering Animations

Engineering Animations(a)
Engineering Animations(b)

Engineering Animations (c) Animations are a basic element of product design and analysis, and they are often useful for other stages of the engineering design process. Animations help explain and show designs in ways that 2-D drawings and motionless 3-D models cannot. Companies often use animations to analyze product functions, explore alternative designs and concepts, and effectively communicate design ideas to customers. For example, moving, dragging, or driving solid model parts and subassemblies is an effective way to explore the motion and relationship of assembly components. The figure shows still images from an animation of an engine crankshaft and pistons. The animation helps designers understand how components move and function, and it is used for analysis and simulation, such as to detect interference between components and evaluate stresses.

Inverse Kinematics (a)
Inverse Kinematics (b)
Inverse Kinematics (c)

Inverse kinematics (IK) is a method used to control how solid objects move in an assembly. IK joins solid objects together using natural links or joints such as that illustrated in the sequence of frames of the universal joint shown in Figure; for example, IK relationships can lock the rotation of an object around one particular axis. Adding this type of information allows the solid assembly to move as the finished product moves. IK is used extensively to animate human and mechanical joint movements. Building and simulating an IK model involves a number of steps, including:

  • Building a solid model of each jointed component.
  • Linking the solid model together by defining the joints.
  • Defining the joint behaviour at each point, such as the direction of rotation.
  • Animating the IK assembly using an animation sequence.
  • E-Learning Animations

Computer animations are a great tool for educators. Teachers and trainers create e-learning animations that can be used as an additional learning tool in the classroom or as an online or distance-learning presentation. Many companies and agencies use animations and simulations as an important part of their training routines. Examples of e-learning animations include corporate and military training activities, repair procedures, and complex simulations. For example, Figure shows still images taken from a full-length video of the assembly and disassembly of a product, which is an impressive tool for training assembly workers.

  • Entertainment

Entertainment is a well-known application for computer animations. The movie and television industries use computer animations heavily to add visual effects. In fact, some animated movies and television programs are created entirely using computer animation technology. Animations also provide the foundation for developing computer and video games. The increasing complexity of computer animation is resulting in video games that are more realistic and more exciting than ever before.

  • Animation Techniques

Animations can range from the simple movement of solid model components in an assembly to large-scale videos or presentations with dialogue, music, and a variety of graphics. Many CADD programs, especially parametric solid modelling software, contain tools and options that allow you to generate basic animations. Other systems, such as Autodesk 3ds Max & VIZ contain advanced animation tools that let you render solid models into very realistic 3-D motion simulations. Designated animation programs like Autodesk Maya and Maxon Cinema 4D are typically used for e-learning projects, films, and games. These programs are designed explicitly for realistic animations, renders, character creation, and rigging. Animators commonly import CADD models into animation software, sometimes removing unnecessary engineering data to allow for practical and smooth animation. However, re-creating models in the animation software is often more efficient for better animation or rendering. It is always a good idea to do some pre-production work before you record an animation.

  • Storyboarding

Storyboarding is a process by which you sketch out the key events of the animation. These sketches help ensure that key scenes are included to complete the story or demonstration. Video producers use storyboarding to preplan their production to help reduce costly studio editing time. Advanced rendering can take days to complete even on a high-speed computer.

If scenes are left out of the animation, then the animation has to be redone, costing significant time and money. Renderings, like video productions, are different from live-action film productions where improvising takes place. Improvising does not occur during animation rendering, and therefore it must be precisely planned. When storyboarding an animation, keep the focus on your audience. This focus should include the overall length of the animation, key points that must be demonstrated, and how these key points are to be best illustrated. Storyboarding is a simple process that can be done on note cards or plain paper. Include sketches of the key scenes that show how these events should be illustrated and the time allotted for each.

Most rendering software allows you to preview the animation sequences before rendering is executed. This feature is a good way to verify that an animation meets your expectations. When finished, select a rendering output file format and instruct the software to render your animation to a file. Animation software renders to a number of different file formats that allow for convenient playback.

Common file formats are

  • AVI
  • MPEG
  • QuickTime
  • WAV

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What is the role of CAE engineer?

CAD (Computer-Aided Design) software can generally be categorized into two main types based on their approach to modeling and design:
Parametric CAD Software: Parametric CAD software uses mathematical parameters and constraints to define the geometry of models. Users create features and components by specifying dimensions, relationships, and constraints, which are then used to generate the geometry. Parametric modeling allows for precise control over the design and facilitates making changes and updates by maintaining relationships between different elements of the model. Examples of parametric CAD software include SolidWorks, Autodesk Inventor, CATIA, and PTC Creo.

Direct Modeling CAD Software: Direct modeling CAD software, also known as explicit modeling or non-parametric modeling, allows users to manipulate geometry directly without relying on predefined parameters or constraints. With direct modeling, users can push, pull, and edit geometry intuitively, making it well-suited for quick concept modeling and making modifications to existing designs. Direct modeling software is often used in industries where flexibility and speed are prioritized over strict control over design parameters. Examples of direct modeling CAD software include Autodesk Fusion 360, Rhino 3D (Rhinoceros), and Siemens NX.
These two types of CAD software each have their own strengths and weaknesses, and the choice between them often depends on the specific needs of the user and the requirements of the project. Some CAD software packages incorporate elements of both parametric and direct modeling approaches to offer users flexibility and versatility in their design workflows.

What is the benefit of CAE?

Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE) offers several benefits throughout the product development lifecycle:

Cost Reduction: CAE allows for virtual testing and analysis, reducing the need for physical prototypes and expensive testing equipment. By catching design flaws and optimizing performance early in the design process, CAE helps prevent costly errors and redesigns later on.
Faster Time to Market: CAE enables engineers to iterate and refine designs more quickly than traditional methods. By simulating and evaluating multiple design variations rapidly, CAE accelerates the design optimization process, leading to shorter development cycles and faster time to market.

Improved Product Performance: CAE tools provide insights into how a product will perform under various operating conditions, allowing engineers to optimize designs for performance, efficiency, and reliability. By predicting and addressing potential issues early in the design phase, CAE helps ensure that products meet or exceed performance requirements.

Enhanced Innovation: CAE facilitates exploration of innovative design concepts and novel solutions by providing a platform for virtual experimentation and testing. Engineers can push the boundaries of traditional design approaches and explore new ideas without the constraints of physical prototyping.

Risk Mitigation: CAE enables engineers to identify and mitigate risks associated with product design and performance early in the development process. By simulating real-world conditions and evaluating the effects of design changes, CAE helps minimize the likelihood of product failures, recalls, and warranty issues.

Optimized Design for Manufacturing: CAE tools can be used to analyze manufacturing processes and identify opportunities for optimization. By simulating manufacturing operations and assessing factors such as material flow, tooling, and assembly processes, CAE helps engineers design products that are easier and more cost-effective to manufacture.

Environmental Impact Reduction: CAE allows engineers to evaluate the environmental impact of product designs, including factors such as energy consumption, emissions, and recyclability. By optimizing designs for sustainability and efficiency, CAE contributes to reducing the environmental footprint of products and processes.