Why Do Top-Performing Companies Simulate Early and Often?
Written by: Cat McClintock

Making sure products hold up under real-world conditions is crucial to product development. That’s why labs run analyses and build prototypes. Experts subject the digital model to various loads and temperatures to find flaws in the design. Model builders then construct physical mock ups and drop them off desks and subject them to wind tunnels to reproduce real-world conditions.

Orion drop test

Or, if you’re NASA, you might push prototypes out of cargo planes. [Image: NASA drop tests Orion.]

These painstaking measures clearly take time and cost money, but they’re worth it, right? They prevent disasters, recalls, and unhappy customers. And, let’s face it, this is how products have been developed for a long, long time.

Well it turns out that some companies are rethinking the wisdom of the traditional design>analyze>prototype process. Consider this:


  • The fix/test cycle takes too much time. Let’s say an engineer builds a model, and the analysts find a weak area in a design. It goes back to design, design fixes it, sends it back, and repeat. And of course building physical prototypes is rarely trivial (read: inexpensive). Either process can drain resources and threaten deadlines.
  • Designers may be engineering more than necessary. The typical design/test cycle also sets up your team to engineer their models more than necessary. Is that bracket as lean as it can be? Could a more common fastener do the job? Better go with the safer (fatter, more expensive) alternative.
  • It’s always more expensive to fix problems later. It’s well known that finding problems early is always less expensive. For example, a NASA study [PDF] reports: “If the cost of fixing a requirements error discovered during the requirements phase is defined to be 1 unit, the cost to fix that error if found during the design phase increases to 3 — 8 units; at the manufacturing/build phase, the cost to fix the error is 7 — 16 units; at the integration and test phase, the cost to fix the error becomes 21 — 78 units; and at the operations phase, the cost to fix the requirements error ranged from 29 units to more than 1500 units.”

Simulation as an alternative

So what’s a better way? Encourage engineers to run their own simulation software throughout the design process. That way they can spot design flaws and even try alternatives with little risk.  With simulation software, they create the most reliable and optimized models before analysis and prototyping ever begins.

Now your engineers can try that thinner wall, that aluminum fastener, that more attractive round—it only takes a few minutes to find out whether it will work or not. And you end up with more innovative products, fewer design iterations, and all in less time.

Integrating design and simulation: How to get started

If you’re engineering design team isn’t using simulation as part of the design process yet, we’d like to help you get started.

We put together an e-book, Best Practices: Better Design with Simulation, that covers why companies like yours use simulation to save time and money without sacrificing product quality. We also share best practices from top-performing teams that already use simulation in the design process.

If your company has been on the fence about whether your engineers should start using simulation earlier and more often, download our e-book to find out:

●     The advantages of using simulation in design.

●     How simulation can help engineers make better design decisions.

●     What other manufacturers say about using simulation in design for better products.

●     Why management support is key to integrating design and simulation.

●     How to tackle the challenges that come with changing your design process.

●     How top performing companies use simulation to stay a step ahead of the competition.

All that, and it’s free

Ready to learn more about why top performing companies--and maybe your direct competitors--design with simulation? Download the free e-book now. The few minutes you take to read it might end up saving your company a lot of time, materials, and money. Where are you going to find a better deal than that?

Best practices, better design, with simulation: Download the eBook


Tags: CAD
About the Author Cat McClintock

Cat McClintock edits the Creo and Mathcad blogs for PTC.  She has been a writer and editor for 15+ years,  working for CAD, PDM, ERP, and CRM software companies. Prior to that, she edited science journals for an academic publisher and aligned optical assemblies for a medical device manufacturer. She holds degrees in Technical Journalism, Classics, and Electro-Optics. She loves talking to PTC customers and learning about the interesting work they're doing and the innovative ways they use the software.