|Virtual Engineering (VE) is a multidisciplinary field in Computeraided Engineering (CAE) technologies involving interaction of diverse computer-based engineering tools such as computer-aided design (CAD) in geometric modelling, finite element methods (FEM) in analysis and other mechanical and process simulation systems. Within a productâs lifecycle, design is the cornerstone and drives the aspiration of simulation-based engineering aimed to create smooth communication among the diverse CAE tools. This demands a collaborative engineering work where VE and the interface standards play a key role.
Obviously, engineering companies of today are facing a fierce competition in a global market. This race to win the market can be characterized as innovation based because the classical competitive factors should be reconciled with other challenges such as new product brands, ecological, safety and legislation aspects. The solution to this challenge lies in making design engineering data available for other processes used to realize the product where VE can contribute in reducing the product development time, assist engineers in decision making, simplifying generation of alternative design solutions, providing interfaces that allow 3D model manipulation in a virtual world, making necessary changes and design optimization at low cost, etc. Such capabilities of VE systems are necessary in many industries where testing using physical models is expensive, requires long development time and products are extremely complex.
The role of Virtual Engineering in design, as seen from current developments, is quite immense and important specially in integrating diverse engineering activities including easy communication among engineering teams located at different parts of the globe. This is particularly crucial in the context of globalization where companies are operating internationally and sharing data is a necessity.
Mechanical design requires competence and knowledge from diverse fields, for instance, mechanics, solid modelling, creativity, material science, production technology, control techniques, marketing and economics. In addition, the classic design process of design work of a mechanical part or system that is characterized by sequential activities is known to make the time to market very long and does not fit todayâs production philosophy. It is also a well-established fact that design work is characterized by cross-company collaboration involving intensive exchange of product data, where sequential processes are no longer the options. As a result of the huge rise of computing power and the available commercial and open-source tools the design practice is dynamically changing. For instance, engineers widely use diverse digital tools and operate in multidimensional engineering processes. This has initiated research ideas in collaborative product development where investigating the way engineers currently work and how the newly emerging VE technology and the idea of globalized companies influence the main engineering roles such as design, analysis and design validation. There are clear indications that current research in application of VE technologies using design data has focused on the usability and benefits of the technology by interfacing with standard simulation software such as FEA and multi-body systems. As a result, 3D model based computer simulations are now common practices in industry, while research on exploration of the analytical aspects of design process and how the design data is integrated to serve in various stages of the product lifecycle is lacking. Though 3D manipulation capabilities in virtual space have served in creating design visualization easier, making design modification based on real-time virtual simulation can be achieved, particularly in making significant added value for complex applications, only when virtual design technology is fully utilized.