Benefits of Simulation Modeling for Product Development

September 22, 2020

Before a new product is brought to market, the product development team must prove that its product meets both the user needs and regulatory standards. In the world of product development, there are at least two schools of thought to get a concept to manufacturing: prototype or simulate.

Chronologically, simulation is a relatively new arrival that is now challenging the old-fashioned prototype-iterate cycle. Regardless of which side you take, both prototyping and simulation modeling have advantages and disadvantages. Overall, prototyping usually offers insight into whether a particular concept will work while simulation tries to predict whether the concept will break. Developers and engineers should use simulation modeling because of its many advantages over alternate methods such as prototyping. In this article, we analyze the benefits of simulation modeling over prototyping.

Below are four reasons simulation modeling is beneficial:

Provides clarity and clear direction to product developers

Finite element simulation, especially when employed early in the design process, can steer a product developer towards the concept that will meet most of the product's acceptance criteria. Whether you develop a new product, improve on an existing one, or attempt to discover the root cause of a failure, a simulation may not always give you the answer right away.  However, it can help you make an informed decision. While simulation modeling points engineers in the right direction towards a safe and high-performance product, simulations can also lead to failures if not critically and carefully evaluated.

Evaluates design concepts safely and effectively at a fraction of the cost and time of prototyping

Prototyping can be cost-prohibitive in complex systems and can significantly delay projects due to timing and supply chain. Recent developments in rapid prototyping can create high-fidelity prototypes, but most 3D printed parts do not offer the same performance as machined or molded parts. Making sound decisions on underperforming parts can lead to over-design or, in some extreme cases, project cancellation. Also, obtaining potentially high-cost parts from a prototype shop requires set-up and lead-times. Simulation and modeling offer a viable alternative for running experiments, clinical studies, and stressing the design to limit loads in a virtual environment, all with relatively accurate results.

Challenges design concepts in extreme situations that cannot easily be reproduced in a lab

Simulation and modeling are the preferred option in fine-tuning a design to optimize its performance. Many complex designs can be evaluated against each other and performance requirements in a matter of days. The main advantage of simulation modeling is best showcased when engineers expose their design to extreme conditions and loads that are challenging to reproduce in a lab.  Simulating conditions in a testing lab is more complicated and sometimes even impossible compared to the ease of virtually simulating conditions.

Provides visual feedback on the product performance and the impact of the environment

Placing prototypes in wind tunnels or Faraday cages allow product developers to evaluate the performance of a product. Seeing the impact a product's environment has on it, such as flowlines and electromagnetic radiation, is more difficult in a physical lab than in a virtual environment. Simulation modeling helps the user understand these effects with the click of a button, ensuring that the product is good for the user and our environment.

Modeling and simulation help companies become smarter and more efficient in developing products while reducing unnecessary burdens associated with physical prototyping and pilot lines. Today, it is not only the products and their behavior under loads and boundary conditions that are simulated but also most business and commercial aspects such as supply chains and manufacturing lines.

Why use simulation modeling?The above images depict an example of a simulation-based approach that was used to design and develop wireless earbuds

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