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New Hardware Design Software 86

An anonymous reader writes "AScribe is reporting that mechanical engineers from Purdue University have developed software they claim will increase the efficiency of creating a wide range of industrial parts. From the article: 'The new approach integrates the design and analysis processes, which are now carried out separately. Currently, the geometry of a part is first created using computer-aided design, or CAD, software. This geometry is then converted into a mesh of simple shapes, such as triangles or rectangles, which, when analyzed using a computer, indicates the part's strength and other characteristics. The painstaking procedure, called finite-element analysis, is extensively used in industry.'"
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New Hardware Design Software

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  • The gist of it is that when one polygon in a mesh is changed, that the entire mesh does not need to be redesigned. The updated polygon only affects the polygons it is connected to, so on the fly analysis of the design can be performed without the need for a separate analyst.

    It's kind of appropriate that a Chinese guy and an Indian guy are the ones coming up with ways to eliminate jobs.
    • Tis funny how widespread computer literacy has eliminated so many jobs. Was a time when your boss would have a secretary to type up his reports/memos/whatever, now he does it himself. That same person would typically be responsible for getting the boss his coffee.. now he has to walk to the kitchen himself. I find it funny that so many tech companies offer their employees free snacks and drinks as a motivational aid, but none of them offer someone to get those snacks and drinks.
      • I think that's because they realise that having all employees occasionally moving and interacting with other staff, was good for the health, well-being and productivity of all staff.

        Allot of "new age" managers rarely get offices, some don't even have a desk, having laptops and a range of meeting spaces, so they can move to the work instead of it coming to them.
        • Bullshit. It's simple cost cutting. Shit, when I want a day off I have to fill in a form and carry it to HR. Was a time when I'd just ask my manager and *he* would fill in the form. Can't have that anymore, he's too busy typing things.
          • The obvious question is why dont they just make the form electronic so you dont have to fill it in and take it to HR, you sit at your desk and fill it in and then it gets sent to HR automatically.
          • That means your company is doing things the wrong way. At my last 2 jobs, when I wanted a day off I went to 1 webpage, clicked the day, and hit submit. About 30 seconds if the intranet is slow. Another 60 seconds to type an email to m group saying that I'll be off.
            • Well, duh. It's not like I'm suggesting that companies are actually run intelligently.
            • That means your company is doing things the wrong way.

              All companies do everything the wrong way. It's not worth having a superiority complex over.

              At my last 2 jobs, when I wanted a day off I went to 1 webpage, clicked the day, and hit submit. About 30 seconds if the intranet is slow. Another 60 seconds to type an email to m group saying that I'll be off.

              You must not have been a very essential part of the team if your absence didn't require prior approval from a higher-up.
              • You must not have been a very essential part of the team if your absence didn't require prior approval from a higher-up.

                I'm a programmer- just a general employee. As long as I'm not taking off around the time of a release, it damn well shouldn't matter. I get x days off per year, and will take them when I please. You don't like it- put it on my year end review, and I'll happily tell you how much I don't give a fuck. Hell, even if I was tech lead, so long as it wasn't a day I had an important meeting or

          • Of coarse it's simple cost cutting.
            It's making it buzzword compliant that's the hard part.
            Mostly by trying to make people sick less, and wasting hours scheduling meetings for things that can be resolved in 5-minute casual encounters.
            • Unless they want to do their work.. Ultimately, machines will do all non-creative work, just look at Moore's Law.. Efficiency is good.. It's *society's* duty to sort the social implications of it all out. Companies duty is to do what they do the best possible way they can.. which means doing it with efficiency. What we should be doing is training people to *think* not how to do specific jobs. Those jobs will disappear, its a given. If people have the skills and the inquisitive minds to understand and em
              • Using current and even foreseeable technologies "machines" can only really replace precision jobs. Anything that requires even a mild degree of flexibility or reaction to prevailing conditions is going to need a person.

                While agree that training people to use their innate flexibility is good for all concerned, and employment is certainly moving towards project based (although we may still more of the team moving,than the individuals, already the M.O. of most professions). The Efficiency of machines really ha
      • Huh? We still have secretaries to do things like booking flights etc, and they take coffee up to meetings etc. I wouldnt exactly say everyone's boss is computer literate either, in fact the opposite could be true - the higher you go, the less people are concerned with how machines work (unless you're working in an IT company), and just get their underlings to fix their messes.
    • In case anyone is wondering why the parent post is bringing the Chinese and Indians into this:

      Information about the software tool is detailed in a research paper recently published online and will appear in the May issue of the journal Advances in Engineering Software. The paper was written by doctoral student Xuefeng Zhang and Subbarayan. The software tool is based on theoretical work by another doctoral student, Devendra Natekar. Natekar graduated in 2002 and now works for Intel Corp., and Zhang gra

      • My company's CAD/CAE/CAM application used to be 1+ million lines of code (C,C++, and FORTRAN) back in 2000, so 35K lines of Java isn't that much at all...
      • The code size isn't really representative of much. You can do simple finite element analysis in a few hundred lines of Matlab. Indeed, once you've formulated your element equations, solving them for a given mesh is quite straightforward. The real meat in most finite element programs is in the mesh generator and the solver. Building a mesh generator that can create good meshes for a wide variety of situations is a non-trivial task. The same is true for creating solvers that can handle (quickly) the extremely
    • You can only do away with the analyst if the CAD operator is competent to correctly interpret the results.

      The problem with simulation is just that, it is *not* real world performance. Gaining accurate and useful data from FEA or CFD requires competent, skilled and highly trained operators (yes, all 3). Otherwise all you get are pretty coloured pictures.

      In line analysis tools built into CAD for near real time analysis of models is nothing new. Its been around for the better part of a decade.

      The difference
      • I'm fairly certain that the part designer would have to understand the goal of the part - that is to hold this or that in position against the stress, thermal expansion, and vibration induced under the application scenario. A more interesting next step would be to mutate the part and hunt about for a more highly optimal shape (generally by removing unnecessary material where it is unwarranted). In fact there is an early American poem about such optimization which describes a horse carriage so perfectly bala
      • Either way, the press release was typical oversold hype, but the tool SEEMS like it could be useful in low end design descisions

        Nothing to see here

        I absolutely agree, current academic research in the field is looking at the solution of 1e6 element problems in seconds in order that parameters can be changed in real time by someone with the skill of both an analyser and designer. 1e6 element would allow the design of the whole product, say a car, to be worked on in real time, by the aerodynamics, ele

    • This may help, however, there are other promising approaches. We no longer have to rely on low order approximations to curves for finite element analysis. In some applications, like thin shells, low order representations of surfaces tend to give unreliable results. Prof. Tom Hughes and his research group at U. of Texas have been working on finite element methods using NURBS. The obvious advantage is the easier and more accurate representation of surfaces, as you are more closely tied to what CAD program
    • I didn't quite understand that. Could you give me a car analogy?
  • Damn, I thought there was some New Software Design Hardware. Ah well.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I am a Mechanical Engineering studnet in my last semester and I have to say that this is nothing new. There has been a program for years called Pro-Engineer with the add on Pro-Mechanica that does this more or less just as described and ive personally used to design lightweight parts for a racecar.
    • this is just a dup from the 1980s.

      You heard it last on /.

    • I think you should read the article.
    • What's new here is that they are not remeshing the part after a design change. There isn't enough meat in the aricle to be able to tell whether their approach can be applied to all engineering problems where discretized analysis software techniques are now used.

      I think that a better approach to reducing the turnaround time for designs is to break down the distinction (that tends to exist in large engineering companies) between engineers, designers and draughtsmen. To a large extent the CAE software compani

      • See also SolidWorks and CosmosWorks for design+FEA analysis packages. As argueably the best mainstream software used in the mechanical design industry, SW comes with tons of add-ons, COSMOSWorks being one of them, it's also a lot cheaper than most of the packages described here. This article describes a process in which the mesh is not re-created on part redesign, but since a new problem must be created once any force or input to the part is changed, you probably would not save any time in the long run. I
  • I am really amased that noone came up with anything like this before. The approach suggested is commonly used in computational physics (i.e. modelling EM fields, etc.). Still, the finite-element analysis is here to stay. While the method can suggest in what direction to go in terms of design can in no way replace the 'holistic' view FE analysis offers.
    • At my university (Michigan Tech), they just restructured the general engineering classes. All engineering students use to learn IDEAS, the CAD software designed by Nasa. Now they are teaching us Unigraphics' NX 3, which does modeling and stress tests for parts all in one program. It's pretty slick, but I believe the automotive industry has been using similar software for a while now. I don't think it's that new of an idea...
    • The fundementals behind it have been in use for a long time, and trace back to the basics of engineering (software engineering as well): define the inputs and outputs, and design an element to meet those needs. In this case, the inputs/outputs are forces, and the elements are fragments of a structure. In basic particle dynamics (physics), the same principals are applied to individual static bodies. Finite element analysis simply takes the same basics, throws in a bit of calculus with integrals to the point
    • Yeah, well it's too bad you don't get the Discovery Channel.

      They had a show documenting Boeing's mechanical design process. Same thing exactly. And I'll bet Boeing is using something other than 35k lines of Java to do it.
  • hardware design (Score:2, Insightful)

    by doubleshot ( 863072 )
    The title makes reference to hardware design, in most of us in the technological world this seems like it might be a new PSpice or the likes. However this is a mechanical engineering software program, not a hardware design program. Agh, I got all excited for a second.
  • What's this fine-eyed elephant analysis they're talking about?
    • I was about to ask the same thing. Thank you, Mr. Hornblower.
    • FEA :
      Finite Element Analysis
      Materials internal stresses can be calculated by modelling the part as small elements, each of which have a uniform stress and a simple form.

      In areas where the greatest stresses are anticipated the elements are smaller and thus "the net" is more fine-grained. The problem is that the solving time of the matrix calculations increases with the amount of elements and calculation times can be hours or longer. It takes a pro to say where the smallest elements are needed.

      This of course
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Tuesday February 28, 2006 @10:56PM (#14823877) Homepage
    Here's the technical paper: Constructive solid analysis: a hierarchical, geometry-based meshless analysis procedure for integrated design and analysis []. This extends finite element analysis from rectangular cells to elements defined by NURBS surfaces. Difficult mathematically, but if you set up the problem that way, fewer cells and less number-crunching is required. Very nice.

    This may have applications for soft-body physics in games.

  • So you're telling me that there isn't "New Hardware" that "Designs Software"? Whew! I thought I was out of a job there for a sec.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Slashdot, please stop reporting lame hyped-up press releases.
  • I don't see anything new here. A bunch of enterprise CAD programs including NX (formerly Unigraphics) [] and Pro/E [] have similar design/FEA capabilities. There are typically many options for optimizing certain aspects of the design be it strength in a certain area, weight, etc. I haven't used them, but I'm sure higher-end versions of AutoCAD and the like have similar capabilities.

    Maybe I missed something, but I didn't read anything in that article that isn't already done in industry every day.


    • The press release sounds like it was written by somoeone who has never worked in an integrated production environment. Pro/E has had the end-to-end capability for close to a decade (though at $50k a seat). I didn't like (or didn't trust) the meshers in the 90s, and solid elements also didn't always behave properly, especially at boundries, so I did most of the work by hand. Parts of the writeup seem to suggest that the FEM created would contain boundries that would remain static, and the re-meshing would o
    • Re:Nothing new (Score:2, Insightful)

      by EndingPop ( 827718 )
      This particular paper isn't new, and neither is design optimization. NX, Pro/E, ABAQUS, ANSYS, etc. are all just analysis tools. True design optimization, that is, the ability to find non-intuitive solutions to problems with literally hundreds of variables is a burgeoning market. This article is surprisingly sparse with details, but topology optimization is powerful in that it can bypass the mesh generation because it uses the same mesh with every analysis. It does several analyses (sometimes hundreds)
  • by JoshWurzel ( 320371 ) on Tuesday February 28, 2006 @11:46PM (#14824089) Homepage
    I'm a mechanical engineer who uses Pro/Engineer at work. I design geometry and then use built-in software (Pro/Mechanica) to analyze the parts every day. How is this new?

    At first it sounded like it was simultaneously computing something about parts as you design, but this just isn't possible or even useful as far as I can tell. The whole point of having a separate step is that you can define different loading scenarious. "What is the strength of this part?" is a meaningless question. What you want to know is "how much force will it take to displace the end of this beam by 2 inches?". There just isn't anything to compute on the fly.

    So again, what is it that this is doing? The integration of FEA modules in CAD is already pretty seamless. It saves the analysis features as part features.

    Reading the article, I see some interesting quotes:

    "The way it is now, the same CAD software used to make the shape of the part can't be used to analyze the mesh" - flat out wrong. Pro/E, ANSYS, and NX all have integrated FEA modules. Its a separate module, true, but you just push a button in the GUI to change your mode from modelling to analysis.

    "After the designer designs the object, it is thrown over to the analyst, and the analyst says, 'OK, I think, based on my analysis, that your design has to be modified this way,' and then throws it back to the designer, who makes the modification" - sorry, but this is not the way things should be designed. The company I work for is small, but in general there are only a few designers who have *extensive* knowledge of manufacturing capabilites and extensive experience. This enables them to make good judgements when designing parts. When they do make a mistake, the engineers have sufficient CAD skills to make the change themselves. There is very little "back and forth". Now, if the analysis indicates the design is completely non-viable (i.e. "Not strong enough now and never will be!") then the designer goes back to the drawing board. But that's an entire re-design and not nearly as similar to phone-tag as the article makes it sound.

    And don't even get me started on the fact that its written in may be a fine language for web apps, but I've used FEMLAB and if someone else writes a CAD package in Java I may well be forced to hit them in the face with a trout.
    • The difference is that you can use software packages to optimize your design based on any design variable and response you can come up with. That's the whole point of design optimization. Check out [] who make HEEDS. You set up your design variables, thickness here, length here, what material is this made of, etc. and then say that the max. stress must be less than this, the first natural frequency must be higher than this, the deflection of this point must be smaller than this,
    • "This geometry is then converted into a mesh of simple shapes, such as triangles or rectangles"

      When I left the industry 8 years ago we'd already moved on to solid modelling. Meshes are so 20th Century.

      I had a vast array of tools that seemed to do far more this new software is boasting. Nothing to see here as the Slashdot crowd would say.

      I would love to get back into CAD work. Would anyone like to offer me a shot at a job in the South West of England?
  • "...The painstaking procedure, called finite-element analysis..."

    I wonder when we'll have infinite-element analysis... Of course, whoever manages this, will most likely be lynched for being a smartass.
  • "Replicators", coming to a store near you, Very Soon.

On a clear disk you can seek forever.