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What is Simulation Engineering?

By Carol Francois
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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Simulation engineering is a broad term used to describe computer simulation technologies and programs used to model engineering projects and evaluate the risks and benefits in a virtual environment. The use of these types of programs has expanded exponentially in the past 10 years, allowing engineering advances in every area, ranging from bioengineering to environmental science. There are four main components to simulation engineering: software, memory requirements, hardware resources, and user interfaces.

All simulation engineering tools are designed for use by trained engineers or engineering technologists. Many engineering post-secondary programs now have courses in simulation engineering, when it should be used, and how to interpret the results. This advance in technology has greatly reduced costly errors, allows engineering research to expand into new areas at a much lower cost, and to work out the landscape of their research before actually starting the physical project.

The software used in simulation engineering is specifically designed for each discipline. The quality and flexibility of these programs have increased dramatically with expanded usage. As such, the software products available now include time lapse and projections, impact of natural forces over extended time frames, and the impact of temperature fluctuations.

One of the remaining hurdles with simulation engineering is the sheer volume of memory and system resources required to use this type of software. It is interesting to note that it was not a change in the requirements, but improved processing and lower costs for memory that have allowed this industry to expand. As computer memory manufacturers improve their processes, costs decreased. According to Moore’s law, the cost for memory should drop by 50 percent every 18 months.

Hardware requirements for these software products are significant. In the interest of cost savings, many large research universities combine resources and funding to create separate institutes for engineering research. These institutes function independently, but are responsible to a board of directors representing all the partner institutes. As such, the research is able to progress, and the knowledge shared. This type of partnership is not uncommon in the post-secondary sector, but is not viable in the private sector.

User interfaces required for simulation engineering have advanced in the past few years. Traditionally, users were required to learn programming languages, and key in all the specifications and requirements. The computer would process the request and provide the results of the calculations. Advances in technology and resource allocation now allow users to have graphical interfaces, multidimensional projections, and view the impact of specific actions on the shape and other physical characteristics.

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Discussion Comments
By MrMoody — On Aug 19, 2011

@everetra - One thing that simulation has not done however is removed the need for raw talent.

You mentioned graphic designers. I’ve seen young people who called themselves graphic designers yet had no basic, raw artistic talent. Yet they knew how to use a computer program, and could create basic 3D models, with a few primitives like spheres and cubes and so forth.

However, they could not pull it all together to create something that I thought was aesthetically pleasing. If there’s anything that’s deceptive about the trend towards computer modeling, it’s how easy it makes it all look to outsiders.

Basically my advice to aspiring graphic designers is to learn to draw – on paper. Take some basic art classes. Then when you bring that talent to the simulation program, you will create something that shines.

By everetra — On Aug 19, 2011

@hamje32 - There is a whole generation of engineers who know nothing about the old way of designing with pen and paper.

Simulation models have become the de facto standard, so these people have lost some of the wow factor of the new technology. But I am with you; I remember the tediousness of drawing things by hand.

I am not an engineer by trade but have worked in the past with graphic designers and the software has made the work we did a million times easier.

By hamje32 — On Aug 18, 2011

CAD engineering has to be one of the greatest boons to architectural drawing in my opinion.

I had a summer job once at a design firm, way back when architects were drawing things by hand. I wasn’t an architect myself at the time, but worked as an apprentice to someone who was.

It was incredibly laborious and intensive work. When the CAD software applications came on the scene however, they proved to be the killer apps that these designers were waiting for.

Now it was a snap to draw designs on the computer, and just as easily modify those designs. You could then go into preview mode where you could see the simulated effect of your design, giving you a birds eye view of how the whole thing would look before construction ever started.

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