Strictly speaking that’s mechanical engineers, and the information comes from Parametric Design Corporation (PTC), in their white paper Five Things You Should Know About 3D CAD Software. As PTC say – it’s a startling fact.
Having had experience of keeping track of my own time to charge to different projects the figure really jumped out at me. I found that if you take away the time spent on internal stuff, meetings, etc. I was hard pressed to charge more than 70% of my time to specific project. Mechanical design is then very much a full time activity for anyone involved in it. Well OK, so what?
It struck me that as a single mechanical designer can make lots of changes to a product, there’s a lot of opportunity for those changes to affect the performance of the product – and not necessarily for the better. Many changes to existing designs will, at first sight, appear purely cosmetic in terms of product performance, for example aimed at continuously reducing product cost or improving manufacturability - not changing its function.
However, small changes can have a significant effect on performance, particularly when fluid flow is involved. Fluid flow behavior is notoriously difficult to anticipate, sometimes even surprising experienced fluid dynamicists, so there is certainly potential for unforeseen problems to arise.
Advanced 3D CAD software developed in the last 20 years has both revolutionized product design and compressed product design times, but also highlighted the bottleneck downstream in the analysis department. Companies are spending a lot of money trying to fix that, as evidenced by the high rate of growth of the CAE market, but I suspect a lot of that money is wasted.
There will always be the need for high-end expert-driven analysis tools for use in final design verification, but if the objective is to reduce overall design times, then focusing investment in the analysis department is the wrong response. Many design flows include analysis only late in the design, but it’s the wrong paradigm.
Mechanical designers need to be able to perform analyses themselves to improve their designs and quickly eliminate any changes that negatively impact performance. Mentor’s CAD-embedded FloEFD products are aimed at the mechanical designers referred to in PTC’s whitepaper. Indeed, FloEFD.Pro works inside versions 2 to 4 of PTC’s Wildfire product.
So what future then for the downstream analysis department? I think it’s a bright one. The need for final design verification isn’t going to go away, plus there is an opportunity for specialist analysts to provide oversight for the analysis work undertaken by designers. As the sophistication of analysis tools continues to increase the role of the professional analyst is safe.
Dr. J, Hampton Court