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Simulation: Modeling the World to Understand and Improve It

By Dick Weisinger

Computer simulation has been used for decades to understand and predict complex interactions. As computers have grow increasingly powerful so have the capabilities of simulation.

Alex Chadwick, computer scientist from Cambridge University, said that between 1970 and the early 2000s … computers got a thousand times faster. If planes had done the same thing we’d now be able to fly from London to New York in 28 seconds.”

Today, simulations can model very complex interactions from fluid forces, electromagnets and thermal conditions. Combining these types of forces and effects into a single simulation leads to what is known as ‘multiphysics’ modeling.

Engineers, researchers and scientists everywhere are increasingly using simulation. The human body and physiology, dark matter and gas in the universe, just about anything can be simulated. Simulations are often used in product or engineering design. Designers are able to build and modify digital prototypes and simulate how those models will perform under different conditions. The benefits of using simulation include higher efficiencies, shortened development time and lower cost.

Brian Frank, senior product manager for generative design and simulation solutions at Autodesk, said that “one of the key trends in simulation software is to continue to reduce the barriers to usage. Everyone accepts that simulation can provide valuable insights and save time and money, but there are often barriers to adoption.”

Ajei Gopal, CEO at ANSYS, said that “our team is encouraged to test out new ideas with a fail-fast approach, because when you’re exploring ‘what if’ scenarios, you need to learn by failing.”

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