‘Multiphysics’: Engineering’s new frontier

Okay, so now it is rocket science.

I spent two days recently with the engineers and software developers who write and use the simulation programs that virtually all automakers use in product development.

The creation process that was once fairly simple — design blueprints to prototypes to testing to validation to production — now is often extremely complex, involving engineers from several disciplines who must think in areas outside of their training.

Today’s engineers — and especially future automotive engineers — better be good at what is known deep inside the engineering world as “multiphysics.”

“There are different people who look at the structure, who look at fluids, who look at electromagnets. That is single physics,” says Sandeep Sovani, manager of automotive strategy at ANSYS Inc., one of the industry’s largest suppliers of engineering simulation programs.

“That’s been the culture of automotive engineering. And that has been OK until now,” Sovani says. “Now, what we are seeing with complex systems is the intersection of two physics, where oftentimes it’s a grey area, where engineers from one discipline are not good at working in another area. And that’s where things can go bad. It can lead to a poorly designed product.”
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