CAD Trends and Challenges: Simulation

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Simulation is one of the great innovations in computer-aided design. Everyone knows that if you can simulate, you can skip prototypes (well, some of them), pass testing faster, and generally create more optimized products. By now simulation is everywhere. Right?

European automaker Brink uses simulation to design innovative tow hitches. The company says that simulation technology has reduced its physical testing efforts by 35%.

We weren’t actually sure about that. We know from previous Aberdeen Research over the years that the most successful companies (the “best in class”) use simulation tools, but were other companies following in their footsteps? We thought it was time for an update, and we conducted a survey of our own. Very recently, we asked readers whether they or their companies already use simulation tools, and whether they plan to invest further in the coming years.

The survey closed yesterday (September 30, 2015), with respondents from 182 manufacturing organizations in 17 countries weighing in. Here are the early results:

What we learned

  • 66.4% of respondents use simulation in their organizations today, whether their business is small, medium, or large.
  • Among those not yet using the technology, 21% plan to invest in simulation in 2016.
  • Both current simulation users and nonusers plan to invest in the technology in the next 5 years, which would bring overall usage to 80%.
  • Small to medium-sized businesses were 23% more likely to invest in simulation in the next 5 years compared to larger businesses.

 What we conclude

In previous research, Aberdeen Research wrote that simulation is essential to any manufacturer that wants to be “best in class.” That is, those who fall in the top 20% on measures such as new product introduction rate, number of post-release engineering change orders, and operating margin (see table below).


“The Best-in-Class start by linking the design requirements to a test case,“ Aberdeen writes. „This makes the requirements clearer while making it easier to determine if the requirements have been met. The test case can then be referenced during both simulated tests in addition to physical tests. The Best-in-Class are 72% more likely than competitors to start with a virtual prototype to validate those requirements have been met.”

Our results suggest that the digital prototyping „haves“ are eclipsing the „have nots“ as the majority of manufacturers now or will soon rely on simulation. Where once analysis was the job of a few highly trained specialists, simulation is quickly become standard practice for all design engineers.


Simulation adds structural, thermal and vibration analysis to your design environment, as well as a comprehensive set of finite element analysis capabilities. When you start using this technology, you cut costs by reducing physical prototypes–as described by Aberdeen above. At the same time, you create higher quality models because you can quickly compare multiple design iterations and variations—all from your desktop.

What’s the takeaway? If you’re not among those already using simulation (or planning for it in 2016), you’re quickly falling behind the majority of your peers.

We strongly recommend that you explore PTC Creo Simulation tools today to see how you can improve your product design cycle with better virtual prototypes and more reliable requirements validation. Simulation may make all the difference between a company that’s lagging and one that’s best in class.