Role of Simulation Technology in Modern Engineering

Role of Simulation Technology in Modern Engineering structural analysis

Simulation technology has a key role in the development of engineering sciences. From papyrus sketches of Egyptian pyramids to the Da Vinci’s draws of revolutionary machinery and wood prototypes, until the stream engine industrial revolution, the whole engineering history is closely associated with testing, modelling, and simulation.

Brief Evolution of Simulation Technology

Simulation technology has developed in close relationship with the computer industry and engineering processes.  Associated with the process manufacturing industries, simulation was mainly used as a tool to increase the production capacity.

At the beginning, however, computer simulation was not a very accessible tool: a too long simulation process, large ambiguity of resulting models, too many specialists needed, very expensive associated costs. Until the large adoption of computing algorithms in 70’s, industrial engineers hear about simulation in schools but rarely applied.

Computing development and modern programming language, visualization tools and graphics development had a huge impact on the evolution of simulation technology. Easy-to-use modelling became more accessible, hard to believe a few years ago.

Main History Milestones:

SimScale Simulation Technologies1943 – ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer), the first digital machinery construction started in secret at the Moore School of Electrical Engineering, University of Pennsylvania, having as main goal ballistic trajectory calculation [1];

1945 – Jon Von Neumann developed “merge sort” algorithm, integrated into one of the first computer simulation program running on the DVAC (Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer) [2];

1952 – John McLeod, a pioneer in modern simulation, founded the first Simulation Council, known today as Society for Computer Simulation (SCS) [3];

1961 – IBM presented the “Gordon Simulator” to Norden (systems design company), a tool used to design the system to distribute weather information to general aviation [4];

1964 – CACI Products Company released SIMSCRIPT, a powerful free-form simulation language designed to simplify writing programs for simulation models, used especially in inventory simulations [3];

1967 – Norwegian Computer Center developed language Simula67 [3];

1967 – Continuous System Simulation Language (CSSL) was developed by the Society for Computer Simulation [3];

1979 – Alan Pritsker develops the first version of SLAM, a FORTRAN based computer simulation language;

1998 – Micro Saint v2.0 for Windows 95 provided automatic data collection, optimization, and new Windows interface, without any programming language requirement;

2008 – NASA released a Standard for development of Models and Simulations;

2012 – Barna Szabo and Ricardo Actis introduced Simulation governance as technical requirements for mechanical design [5];

2013SimScale officially released a cloud-based 3D engineering simulation platform [6];

What is Simulation Technology Offering Today?

Today’s modern versions of simulation technology regularly provide a set of features:

  • Uniquely structured environment facilitates models with quickly geometry setup function;
  • Automatically details generation, windows interfaces, and pop-up menus;
  • Easy and quickly to use, with fewer risks of errors;
  • Built-in material handling patterns and templates;
  • Product design verified and tested faster, offering 3D views alternatives;
  • 3D graphics automatically created as the user enters data;
  • Simulations results can be instantly viewed in 3D animation [3].

SimScale Simulation TechnologiesReal-time simulation technology is used today in various industrial applications in the fields of manufacturing, energy and power systems, industrial equipment, valves, pumps, automotive and airplane engines, and so on. The key challenges in the industrial simulation are digital models integration, shortest time to market, computational processing power, energy economy, and associated cost reduction.

The first step in simulation processes simplification was the separation from traditionally design applications by the universal recognition of major project file with standard extension. This offered totally independence between product design and simulation process.

A massive impact in product cost reduction, quality improvement, and market-ready effectiveness was the migration of simulation software in the Cloud. All major CAE providers started offering alternative services to traditional on-premise simulation software, but not covering all Cloud benefits.

What is “the Next” in Computer Simulation?

Here are some of the main trends industry analysts involving vendors, users, and academics discussed during keynotes in the last edition of NAFEMS World Congress – International Association for the Engineering Modelling, Analysis, and Simulation Community established in 1983 [6].

  • Design-centric workflow – already adopted in the digital industry models;
  • Ease of use and/or usability – applications should be friendly, for a larger number of users;
  • Analysis & simulation of CAD – as part of modern digital processes;
  • The impact of Web, cloud & mobile devices – opening access and communication facilities;
  • Capturing and reuse of knowledge – by embedding digital data science models;
  • Systems approach to combining heterogeneous models – multiphysics simulations;
  • Speed and model fidelity – improved by Cloud infinite computational power;
  • Unattractive technical issues – limited by opening access to knowledge;
  • Changes to licensing models – due to essential differences offered by Cloud subscription Software as a Service (SaaS) models;
  • Nano simulations – finite element analysis and simulation at the nanoscale will open up a huge applicability field in biological engineering.

SS030 cover micAll these trends are related to a major imperative to expand the use and benefit of analysis simulation and systems engineering software to larger user categories. “The goal is to gain better advantage and growth of CAE software given the business drivers that push the need for more innovation and creative competitiveness”, says Joe Walsh, CEO of IntrinSIM [6].

Experts appreciate the simulation democratization process has currently three obstacles: software costs, hardware expenses, and expertise training. The Cloud models are offering a solution for first two of these obstacles, opening the doors to vendors which offer freemium versions of simulation analysis on a pay-by-use model. “We need to reduce the level of expertise required to do simulation,” says Walsh in an interview for [6]. “This is referred to as design-centric workflow rather than simulation-centric. This way simulation is used to derive and drive design decisions as opposed to just using it to do an analysis.”

“The Next” is Here, with Reliable Alternatives

With its web-based 3D simulation platform, SimScale is offering realistic answers to all three major obstacles in the simulation democratization process. SimScale has created a completely new approach to how CAE technology can be used by making it accessible, cost-efficient, and easy-to-learn and to use:

Accessibility – any user has access to necessary powerful simulation tools running in a simple browser, without any supplementary hardware, software or maintenance resources;

Cost-efficiency – using SimScale, users pay only for what they use, achieving the best cost/ performance in the engineering process;

David Heiny Managing Director

David Heiny, Managing Director at SimScale

Breaking knowledge barriers – any SimScale operation is easy to learn and to use. “With SimScale, we have this unique situation that for the first time in the history of simulation software, the functionality itself, the people, the content and the know-how are all brought together in one place, on one platform which can ultimately help everybody to learn simulation faster and apply it more effectively,” said David Heiny, Managing Director and Co-Founder SimScale in an interview for DEVELOP3D LIVE magazine.


[1] Weik, M. (1961) – “The ENIAC Story”, American Ordnance Association;

[2] Knuth, D. (1987) – “Von Neumann’s First Computer Program”, MIT Press;

[3] Raczynski, S. (2014) – “Modeling and Simulation: The Computer Science of Illusion”, John Wiley & Sons, 2014;

[4] – “Simulation: 20th Century Issue”, Society of Computer Simulation.

[5] Szabó, B.; Actis, R. (2011) – “Simulation governance: New technical requirements for software tools in computational solid mechanics”. International Workshop on Verification and Validation in Computational Science University of Notre Dame;

[6] Desktop Engineering (2013) – SimScale Online Platform for Simulation

[7] Wasserman S. (2015) – “CAE Industry Experts Predict Future of Simulation”,

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