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Analysis Software: From A to Z

The entire lifecycle of a product—from design through production—can exist in a virtual world available for simulation, analysis, and optimization. And for each problem in that lifecycle, there's an analysis tool.


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Pick a problem in automotive engineering and production. Any problem. A hunk of software exists to help solve it.

Here's a list of such problems, and some of the analysis tools used. This isn't a complete list; a complete list of analysis software, their applications, and the vendors supplying that software, including duplications both in applications and competitive products, would fill this entire magazine, and then some.

Suffice to say, the major vendors of analysis products have extensive suites of software tools, modules, and options that examine broad swaths of real-world analysis problems in product design or production management, or both. And many of these products handle several, sometimes seemingly unrelated, analysis applications.

So from A to Z, here is what analysis tools can do for you.

Analysis Vendors Market Share by Revenue, 1998
1998 total software revenue for the analysis market (not including service, maintenance, and consulting revenues), U.S.: $441 million
The CAGR (compound annual growth rate), 1998-2003: 6.8%



MSC.Akusmod predicts dynamic acoustic behavior of enclosures, the interactions between structures and fluids, and the influences of insulating and absorbing materials.


CATIA Assembly and Substructure Analysis investigates the structural coupling of different parts within part assemblies.

Assembly Operations

Tecnomatix Dynamo visualizations of assembly/disassembly processes help analyze insertion/extraction paths for parts, available space in assemblies, service and maintenance procedures, collision-free part/subassembly paths, and product packaging.


Body-in-White Processes

Tecnomatix Robcad/Line 3D visualizations of manufacturing include the sequencing of robots, humans, parts flow, and mechanical operations.


The nonlinear structural analysis in Ansys/Structural can determine the stability of any load-carrying structure, which can become the basis for stress stiffness and a car chassis' ability to resist lateral loads.


Cam Profile

ADAMS/Engine can compare the results of valve displacement over RPM, crank angle, and displacement characteristics. The software can also model the entire valve train to investigate torsional dynamics on the camshaft.


Without writing the mechanical system equations directly, ADAMS/Controls can simulate block-diagram models of control systems involving hydraulic, electronic, pneumatic, fluid, and other control mechanisms.


I-DEAS Electronic System Cooling simulates 3D air flow and thermal behavior in electronic systems, which is applicable in designing automotive electronic modules and electrical systems exposed to extreme environments.

Crash Analysis

Ansys/LS-Dyna analyzes nonlinear structural problems involving contact, large deformations, and nonlinear materials in extremely short periods of time, such as the split seconds in a car crash.

Computational Fluid Dynamics

Ansys/Flotran simulates laminar, turbulent, Newtonian, non-Newtonian, compressible, and incompressible fluid flows for solving fluid flow problems, including those in wind tunnel testing.



ADAMS/Linear calculates the natural frequencies (eigenvalues) and mode shapes (eigenvectors) in a mechanical system design by simulating its vibratory and the full-motion behavior, including the damping associated with each frequency and the stability of various system motions.

Dimensional Management

VisEPM Dimensional Management analyzes manufacturing tolerances (stack up) and dimensional variations that occur in production, and helps optimize component designs, locator positions, and assembly processes for a given design requirement.

Driver Interactions (see also Ergonomics)

ADAMS/Driver simulates the control maneuvers of a vehicle driver, including steering, braking, accelerating, gear shifting, and clutching, in such conditions as turning, braking in a turn, lane changing, and cross-wind applications.

ADAMS prototyping models can provide information about tire handling and durability by dynamically simulating vehicle behavior involving such maneuvers as braking, steering, acceleration, free-rolling, and skidding.

Durability (see also Fatigue Testing)

I-DEAS Durability predicts the response, safety factors, and life expectancy of products, such as engine blocks (a block-type structure) and car bodies (a thin-shell structure), subjected to prescribed loading histories and duty cycles.



Ansys/Emag includes 3D, full-wave, high-frequency electromagnetic simulations, which can show the propagation and affects of electromagnetic fields and waves in automotive environments

Engine (see also Cam Profile, Rotating Parts, and Vehicle)

ADAMS/Engine analyzes the performance of powertrain systems (including timing mechanisms, belts, cranks, and pistons) as part of an overall vehicle design and within user-defined cost, weight, and packaging constraints.

Ergonomics (see also Driver Interactions)

VisEPM human modeling considers the human factors for design, manufacturing, maintenance, and material-handling operations, such as the positioning and comfort of components (e.g., a foot pedal or machine tool access); sizes and shapes of people; ingress and egress (e.g., climbing in and out of a vehicle or a production workcell); and strength assessment (does the task require inordinate strength?).


Fatigue Testing (see also Durability)

MSC.Fatigue predicts the expected life of a structure or component, such as powertrain, car seat mechanisms, seat belts, trunk and hood latches, and door locks.

Flexible Parts (see Linkages)



UG/Scenario for FEA lets users evaluate the performance of various design alternatives with user-defined loads and boundary constraints. With UG/FEA, the software analyzes design considerations such as gaps in assemblies, linear statics, steady-state heat transfer, and linear buckling.


Heat Transfer

I-DEAS TMG Thermal Analysis models nonlinear and transient heat transfer processes, including conduction, radiation, free and forced convection, fluid flow, and phase change.

Hydraulics (see also Controls)

ADAMS/Hydraulics creates block-diagram representations of hydraulic circuits, which can then be connected to the mechanism model.


Injection Molding

UG/MF Part Adviser simulates plastic flow for injection molded parts, showing how design modifications to geometry, injection gate locations, materials, and injection machine pressure affect molding a particular part.

Interference Checking (see also Assemblies and Assembly Operations)

Pro/Engineer Mechanism Design Extension simulates the assembly of parts and subassemblies using pre-defined connections (pin joints, ball joints, sliders, and so on) that can be manipulated to study real-world behaviors, including the maximum extent of movement and volumetric interference between parts.


J Turn

ADAMS/Pre models full-vehicle or vehicle-subsystem designs for studying and then refining multiple automotive design variations, simultaneously calculating the interdependent results of these changes. The virtual prototyping can include over 20 full-vehicle events, such as J turn, steady-state drift, and throttle off in turn, as well as eight half-vehicle events, including dynamic load case and various static vehicle characteristics.



UG/Scenario for Motion+ creates virtual prototypes of moving mechanical systems by providing static, kinematic, and kinetic (dynamic) simulation.



ADAMS/Flex analyzes mechanical systems comprising both flexible and rigid bodies, thereby providing loads and flexible-structure displacement data for studying the motion and forces on individual mechanism components.

CATIA Generative Part Stress Analysis analyzes cast, forged, or thick-walled parts that can be restrained in various ways. Loads are user-specified, including pressure, traction, contact, force, momentum, gravity, and centrifugal. (Source: IBM Corporation)

Loads and Load Variation

CATIA Generative Part Stress Analysis analyzes cast, forged, or thick-walled parts restrained in any number of ways, such as clamped, sliding, contact (cylindrical, conical, revolute), or by a virtual part.


Materials Handling (see also Plant Layout)

FactoryFLOW generates flow, congestion, and safety diagrams to evaluate layout alternatives for cellular and focused-factory production and to analyze routings, material handling equipment, aisle congestion, and other materials handling issues.

Mechanisms and Mechanical Structures (see also Rotating Parts)

Pro/Mechanica Structural Simulation Package analyzes static and dynamic structural designs for loads and stresses, vibrations, design goals, and other mechanical design performance evaluations.


Noise, Vibration, and Harshness

I-DEAS Rayon FEM solves interior cavity problems (such as car interiors, powertrain, and exhaust systems) and can be used to compute acoustic modal parameters.


Optimizing (see also Understanding)

Optimization of parts and product design and production processes is the goal of all analysis tools.


Pedal Forces and Positions (see Mechanisms and Ergonomics)

Plant Layout (see also Materials Handling)

VisFactory focuses on such factory issues as activity location analysis, space planning, material handling system design, material flow and congestion analysis, equipment relocation cost estimating, and equipment and utility use.

Powertrain Engineering (see Cam Profile, Engine, and Vehicle)


Quietness (see Acoustics and Noise, Vibration, and Harshness)


Rotating Parts (see also Kinematics and Mechanisms)

Pro/Mechanica Motion Simulation simulates moving parts and assemblies to evaluate such properties as velocity, part angular acceleration, part mass properties, point position, point velocity, point acceleration, net force, separation speed, mechanism redundancies, and kinetic energy.


Seat Mechanisms (see Assemblies, Linkages, and Mechanisms)

Solid-Fluid Interactions

MSC.Dytran analyzes short-duration, non-dynamic events involving fluids and structures or applications involving the extreme deformation of structural materials, such as airbag deployment and occupant motion in vehicle crashes, and fluids sloshing in tanks.

Steering Mechanisms (see Linkages)

Suspension Systems (Mechanical)

The BUSH1D element of MSC.Nastran provides material and geometric nonlinear damping analysis, such as for shock absorber and suspension analysis.

Suspension Systems (Controls)

ADAMS/Control can help analyze the automatic controls in suspension and handling systems in a particular vehicle design, such as the control systems to handle a vehicle on wet pavement.

Investigating the true operation of a car engine requires diverse analyses, including linear and nonlinear structural, steady-state and transient thermal, and coupled-field (acoustic, thermal-structural, and thermal-electric), such as from MSC.Nastran. Source: MSC.Software



Pro/Mechanica Thermal Simulation Package simulates the temperature and heat performance of parts and assemblies subject to thermal loading, giving designers the option for simultaneous structural, thermal, and motion design optimization.

Transmissions (see Cam Profile, Engine, and Vehicle)


Understanding (see also Optimizing)

Understanding is the motive behind all analysis tools. And from that come some very noble goals: Reduce or eliminate costly redesigns; reduce testing costs before physical prototyping—in fact, eliminate prototypes—help improve product design before committing to tooling and production; reduce time-to-market; reduce product development costs; increase product quality and performance; decrease product recalls.

Ultimately, save money.


Valvetrain Dynamics (see Cam Profile, Engine, and Vehicle)

For total vehicle analysis, ADAMS/Car vehicle models can be exercised in various road conditions—on a virtual test track, if you will—to predict handling characteristics, such as body roll, ride quality, and vehicle safety. Source: Mechanical Dynamics


Entire vehicle models, complete with suspensions, powertrains, engines, steering mechanisms, anti-lock braking systems, and other complex assemblies, can be built in template-based ADAMS/Car and then exercised in various road conditions.


CATIA Generative Part Dynamic Analysis performs dynamic (modal) computation on parts to show their behavior from vibration. The analysis package can account for external and distributed masses, such as attached equipment or painting weight.


Windshield Wipers (see Linkages)


XYZ Space

µuSE combines data visualization, virtual reality, and networked collaboration capabilities into a single, multi-sensory environment with visual presentation capabilities, touch feedback, voice command, head tracking, and other presentation and navigational functions. Users can control the speed and direction of time, manipulate components, examine subsystems, create cross-sectional views, and disassemble designs while the models are operating in virtual space.

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