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.