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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