The data volume explosion and new computing capabilities provided by cloud computing are having a huge impact on computer-aided engineering (CAE) and computer-aided design (CAD). Starting with the steam engine and industrial revolution, each historical engineering innovation has played an essential role in driving engineering progress to create products faster, better, and more efficiently.
From Definitions to Practice — CAE and CAD
Computer-aided design (CAD) is the use of computer systems to aid in the creation, modification, analysis, or optimization of a design . But CAD should not be considered for these activities alone. CAD is an integrated part of the whole digital product development cycle, including product lifecycle management (PLM) processes, together with other tools like finite element analysis (FEA), computer-aided manufacturing (CAM), photorealistic rendering, and document management.
Computer-aided engineering (CAE) refers to the broad usage of computer software to aid in engineering analysis and may include: finite element analysis (FEA), computational fluid dynamics (CFD), multibody dynamics (MBD), and optimization. All these CAE tools are being used in the simulation, validation, and optimization of products and manufacturing tools, with applicability in many industries such as automotive, aerospace, and shipbuilding. 
Two Domains with Many Engineering Specialities
By integrating product design in pre- and post-processing phases, CAE is becoming an effective driver for CAD applications. But in the majority of complex systems, CAD represents multi-layered modeling activities that may include a transfer function in an engineering domain, a heat source in another domain, and a rigid body in another. A simple change in the design is becoming increasingly challenging, as adjustments are required in all derived “data models”.
Looking at virtual simulation in a specific engineering domain, the challenge is amplified by the translation of a design data model into a solver data model. Simulation accuracy depends on the description of the system to the solver. Due to the complexity of the whole process: engineering – design – simulation – validation – redesign – simulation – final validation, each CAE and CAD activity requires different engineering specialties. If different teams don’t have good communication and collaboration experience, the quality of the whole process could be compromised.
Using a Centric Design
Considering the same digital model in all workflow processes, simulation can be involved in the early stages of design. In his “CAE-centric Design” article published in 2009, Paul Schreier  demonstrates how simulation-driven design can solve problems early in the product lifecycle, and how engineers can validate and change designs based on these simulations. CAE tools are now working with native CAD geometries, and it is no longer necessary to export a CAD geometry to a standard file format before importing that file into the CAE tools. Furthermore, integrated links between CAE and CAD systems allow automatic updates between both environments.
Benefits of CAE and CAD Integration
One of the major benefits of integration is that it takes far less time to perform parametric analyses, which is a very common task where a designer changes the dimensions of a product feature to find the one that achieves optimal performance. In fact, many CAE systems have automated features that sweep through a range of parameters and highlight the results that come closest to the desired one. Another advantage is the ability to couple CAD and CAE with virtual prototyping, offering a fundamental change in the way engineers work, not to mention increasing productivity during the workflow.
Other benefits of traditional CAE and CAD integration are related to:
Time and error reduction for the design of engineering ensembles and independent components
The possibility to make corrections early in the engineering conceptualization and design phases
Dramatic cost reduction associated with the physical testing of prototypes
Keeping the established deadlines in different phases of the engineering workflow
Radical improvement of product quality and enriching the customer satisfaction level
Increasing the competitive advantages associated with a quicker time to market, better quality and customer retention
Cloud Migration Benefits
The large-scale assimilation of cloud computing and the continuous improvement of human-machine interaction, automation, robotics, artificial intelligence and additive technology, have all transformed engineering simulation into a high-tech asset. For engineering simulation software offered as Software-as-a-Service subscriptions, this CAE/CAD integration asset value is becoming increasingly preferred. This is because the user gains significant benefits and is empowered by very specific cloud competitive advantages, including:
Unlimited power processing, storage, backup and security
Elastic resources allocation function of modeling and engineering complexity, extending workflow beyond the desktop
Real-time modeling in the cloud: form, function, fabrication, and performances
Improved collaboration by project access and sharing between multi-specialized engineering and design teams without location, time or communication limits
Better operational management of company resources, transforming IT costs into a “utility like pay-per-use model”
Relaxing the financial balance by moving the whole model cost from capital expenses – CAPEX to operational expenses – OPEX
Cloud security compliance of encrypted data transfer, processing, storage, and backup according to international standards and commercial SLA
A Modern Cloud-Based CAE Platform
Viewed from this perspective and compared with traditional on-premises packages, the SimScale 3D simulation platform is recommended as one of the most powerful solutions on the market, based on a comprehensive set of simulation model analyses and cloud-computing infrastructure.
SimScale has created a completely new approach to how engineering simulation can be used by making it accessible, cost-efficient, and easy-to-learn and use. Here are the most important differentiators:
Web-based environment, only needs Internet connection
Powerful end-to-end simulation solutions for structural mechanics, fluid dynamics, and thermodynamics
Proprietary or pre-designed CAD models that are ready to be used
Fast, efficient, and flexible iterations
No supplementary hardware and software resources necessary
CAD models are easy to upload and simulate, even by design engineers.