OPINION: Universities need to make engineering a priority
UK universities don’t see it as their responsibility to create engineers – that’s down to industry. So says a recent article on the Guardian website. Ken Christie, UK Director of EPLAN, believes that this attitude undermines the country’s future prosperity and calls for urgent change.
There’s no doubt that Britain needs engineers – their work provides the essential foundation for major projects like Crossrail that are driving this country’s increasing prosperity. Yet, as the Guardian item makes clear, when engineering graduates take up their roles in industry they are all too often found to be 'not fit for purpose'.
This is no reflection on the graduates themselves. The problem lies with the education they’ve received at university, which is invariably focussed on general scientific and mathematical topics. Such topics are, of course, an essential part of an engineer’s education but, in that statement, the words 'part of' are crucial. These topics alone are not enough – graduates need to understand and have experience of the practical problems and techniques that relate to real-world engineering.
I wholeheartedly agree with the Guardian writer that the solution lies in allowing industrial organisations to become more involved with engineering degree courses. Surely those who will employ the graduates these courses produce should have a say in how they are educated? And surely students, who are now paying up to £40,000 for a four-year degree course, deserve to benefit from the insight that can only be provided by engineers who have practical experience of major projects?
While it is, I believe, imperative that we should make this radical change in approach, it would be folly to suggest that it could be implemented overnight. There are, however, positive actions that can be taken very quickly. One of these is for universities to start teaching their students with the design software they will be using when they graduate, rather than clinging to out-dated products and techniques.
Engineering underpins virtually every aspect of our lives. If, therefore, this country is to have a successful and prosperous future, we need our universities to turn out graduates with practical insight and experience that matches the roles they will take on. Achieving this will take time and involve radical change, but there are crucial first steps that can be taken today. We must not delay - for future prosperity, we need skilled engineers and we need them sooner rather than later!
Mindful of the need for universities and industry to cooperate to offer more relevant training and education for future engineers, EPLAN is currently offering classroom licences completely free-of charge for its full range of widely used CAE software.
The licences cover EPLAN Electric P8, EPLAN Fluid, EPLAN ProPanel and EPLAN Pre-Planning, which between them give users all the tools they need to design complete functional systems. EPLAN supports the licences with on-site installation and a five-day training course for lecturers, complemented by an extensive range of lecture plans and training material.
Students also get access to the EPLAN web-based data portal, which holds detailed information about close to half-a-million products from 66 leading manufacturers.
Hexagon Revolutionises Manufacturing Design Process
A global leader in sensor, software and autonomous solutions, Hexagon recently announced that complex CFD (computational fluid dynamics) simulations can now be completed with the help of the world’s fastest supercomputer, Fugaku. Before this breakthrough, CFD simulations were far too expensive and time-consuming to run. Now, however, engineers can use these high-detail simulations to explore new ideas, iterate their designs, and optimise next-gen aircraft and electric vehicle manufacturing.
Thanks to Hexagon, manufacturers can now analyse what they’re up against before starting their build process—with one-third the energy use of traditional simulations and a fraction of the cost. This is only the latest step in Hexagon’s mission to use design and engineering data to speed up smart manufacturing. As the company wrote: ‘The idea of putting data to work is part of Hexagon’s DNA’.
What Are CFD Simulations?
Simply put, they’re simulations so complex and powerful that engineers usually have to spend hours upon hours simplifying their designs. 90% of an engineer’s time can centre around this task—but not with Fugaku-powered simulations. Now, original designs can be fed into the simulation software, reaching a much closer approximation of reality.
With the ARM-powered Fugaku supercomputer, Hexagon’s Cradle CFD clients can now reduce simulation cost, conserve valuable energy, and integrate high-detail simulations into their daily operations. At a time when the automotive and aerospace industries are racing to bring safe and sustainable transport options to market, in fact, CFD simulations could be the key to success.
How Does CFD Change the Game?
As auto manufacturers transition to electric vehicles, they must understand how design adjustments will affect the vehicle in real-time. Instead of physically iterating their blueprints, they’d rather work it out in theory. With CFD, engineers can now pre-test critical safety, performance, and longevity features—for example, how aerodynamics will interact with energy efficiency, or how thermal management will operate under a range of parameters. Essentially, CFD simulations speed up the design process and cut down on costly mistakes.
Said Roger Assaker, President of Design & Engineering in Hexagon’s Manufacturing Intelligence division: ‘Simulation holds the key to innovations in aerospace and eMobility. Advances such as the low-power Fugaku supercomputing architecture are one of the ways we can tap into these insights without costing the Earth, and I am delighted by what our Cradle CFD team and our partners have achieved’.
How Did Testing Unfold?
- Prototyped a typical family car. This is only possible with enhanced computing power. The car model consisted of 70 million elements using 960 cores and was simulated until it reached a steady-state using the RANS equation over 1000 cycles.
- Simulated transonic compressible fluid around an aeroplane. Made up of approximately 230 million elements, the simulation used 4,000 nodes using 192,000 computing cores and relied on 48,000 processes via Message Passing Interface (MPI).
Tomohiro Irie, Hexagon’s Director of R&D for Cradle CFD, commented on the recent progress: ‘I expect that these technical developments will contribute to making the power of Fugaku more accessible for general use, bringing huge freedom and improved insights to engineering teams solving tomorrow’s problems today’.
Overall, Hexagon intends to continue driving product innovation forward, with smart manufacturing that adapts to conditions in real-time, pursues perfect quality, and optimises designs for zero waste. And there’s little doubt about it. With 20,000 employees in 50 countries, coupled with Fugaku’s supercomputing capabilities, Hexagon is uniquely poised to succeed.