Simulations engineers play a vital role in complex engineering projects. They use their technical expertise and knowledge of computer simulation technologies to test the performance, durability, safety and functionality of engineering solutions in a virtual environment.
When an engineering company is working on an incredibly intricate and expensive project, such as a new helicopter, satellite or submarine, simulation is massively advantageous. It saves time, it allows the company to cut down on costs, and it means the solution can be tested in situations where physical testing would be impossible.
For instance, if you’re working on a robot which will be used to collect soil samples on Mars, you can’t send a new prototype out into space every time you want to test the durability of one small component. Simulation offers flexibility and efficiency as well as cost-effectiveness.
So what does a simulations engineer actually do?
Firstly, simulations engineers need to understand the complex environment and the physical components of the technical solution that they are tasked with simulating. Initially, this process involves analysing the customer’s needs and liaising with other engineers.
After this consultation period, simulations engineers focus their efforts on solving complex mathematical problems and applying their knowledge of scientific phenomena, such as thermodynamics, fluid dynamics and quantum mechanics.
Based on all this scientific analysis, simulations engineers use computer programming languages, such as C++ and Fortran, to model simulated environments. During this process, simulations engineers model a range of different scenarios and variables in quick succession to really put the technical solution through its paces and make sure all the bases are covered.
Often, simulations engineers simply develop numerical simulations and draw conclusions based on the results of the equations that have been processed. However, from time to time, they may also be tasked with developing simulations which have a graphical user interface (GUI), so that the performance of the solution can be visualised.
Based on the performance of the solution in the simulated environment, changes can be implemented and improvements can be made.