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What is Simulation-Driven Design for Manufacturing?

As simulation technology has become more and more adept at modeling real-world product behavior, companies have increasingly embraced the benefits of simulation-driven design for manufacturing, optimization, and virtual testing. In an effort to increase innovation, cut costs, and streamline design and production schedules, implementation of simulation-driven design practices throughout the product development cycle have proven to be key to staying ahead of the competition. 

An often overlooked aspect of product design and simulation, however, is part manufacturability. A simulation-driven design on a computer screen might not exactly match what ends up being manufactured, or even be possible if part details cannot be executed by the chosen manufacturing method. Discrepancies between virtual and physical prototypes can end up being a major burden at such a late stage in the product development process. For example, on average, correcting defects during a mold trial adds an additional 26% to the total cost of the mold, according to a survey conducted by Tech-Clarity. The choice of manufacturing process, materials used, and machine tolerances can dramatically affect what designs can be efficiently produced and how well that part performs compared to its virtual counterpart. 

Trial-and-error approaches can make it difficult to anticipate manufacturing issues and know how best to correct them. This often results in engineering teams committing time and resources to modify designs and physically retest new prototypes, and as a result, parts run the risk of being over-engineered, adding cost and negatively impacting performance.  

By contrast, a simulation-driven design for manufacturing (SDfM) approach delivers manufacturability insights directly into the hands of product designers. Design flaws can be detected and corrected early, allowing users to confidently design to their chosen manufacturing method. Designing for production right the first time helps bring products to the market faster and enables the exploration of more cost-effective workflows for additive manufacturing, casting, molding, metal forming, and more.


Addressing Design for Manufacturing Challenges with Simulation-Driven Design

When designing products, manufacturers typically run into challenges involved with cost, development and production speed, and maintaining quality at scale. Rather than moving back and forth between CAD tools and simulation models, users want to perform quick evaluations without needing to be a CAE expert. 

Altair Inspire™ is well-suited for upfront simulation-driven design, allowing teams to collaborate, quickly evaluate and modify designs, and rapidly converge on an optimal path forward. 

A collage of four images: A cycle featuring industrial design; a close-up of an element showcasing computational physics; a simulation-driven design of a machine part; and A process defining manufacturability.

Each of the four categories above - design, physics, ideation and optimization, and manufacturability - play a major role in the success of a simulation-driven design. The Inspire family of products provides users all of these tools together in one unified user interface.


Solver Power for Every Step

Inspire users never have to compromise accuracy for speed because dependable Altair solvers power all tools within the platform. For example, structural analysis can be run with Altair SimSolid™, which is integrated into Inspire. The same goes for multibody dynamics analysis and topology optimization. Altair’s dynamic motion simulation and structural analysis solvers are also integrated with Inspire, making geometry creation, structural optimization, and assessment of mechanisms a seamless process.


Integrating Simulation-Driven Design with Manufacturing

Altair offers a unique set of simulation tools for manufacturers of all experience levels to evaluate product feasibility, optimize the manufacturing process through SDfM, and run virtual try-outs for many traditional, subtractive, and additive manufacturing processes. Users can validate designs early in the manufacturing process with the simplicity and affordability of the simulation-driven design software, as well as use optimization technology with specific manufacturing constraints to design better, more efficient products.

A visual representation of the steps in simulation-driven design

Generate designs, simulate, and analyze results with Altair Inspire


Additive Manufacturing

Let’s take 3D printing, for example. Altair additive manufacturing (AM) software goes beyond the creation of unique prototypes and provides a robust simulation toolchain to support production designs. Altair Inspire Print3D can cut product development and AM costs by reducing material usage, print times, and post processing. It also provides a fast and accurate toolset for the design and process simulation of selective laser melting (SLM) parts. 


Design of a large engine pylon structure
By utilizing Altair HyperWorks™, SOGECLAIR Aerospace streamlined the design of a large engine pylon structure using topology optimization to reduce weight on the component. 


Advanced injection molding can easily be performed through a five-step workflow with Altair Inspire Mold. Virtual testing, validation, correction, and optimization of molding designs are all features within the software, which provide insights to evaluate injection molded part manufacturability. Common manufacturing defects such as warping, sink marks, and short shots can be corrected early by product designers and engineers, long before a mold is made. 


Injection molding overview


“We use OptiStruct, an Altair software solution, for topology optimization. With this solution we were able to build injection molds which weigh only 25 percent of the original part. This means we saved 75 percent of weight on each tool.” – Ralf Gärtner, unit leader at Phoenix Contact and managing director at Protiq GmbH.


Metal Forming

Altair Inspire Form offers a fully integrated solution for enhanced sheet metal forming, product feasibility, detailed process analysis and virtual try-out. As a complete stamping simulation environment, product and process engineers can utilize the software’s highly scalable incremental solver to accurately analyze material flow, splits, wrinkles, loose metal, and springback. The solver supports multistage forming and trimming and enables the production of high-quality parts in a modern and intuitive user interface. 


Altair Inspire Form virtual stamping tryout



Fast, accurate, and affordable, Altair Inspire Cast is the only tool that caters to beginners and experts alike, from product designers to foundry engineers. Guided process templates offer five easy steps to simulate gravity die, gravity sand, investment, high pressure, low pressure die casting, and tilt pouring.


Altair Inspire Cast overview


“We have seen significant time and cost savings while using Altair Inspire Cast: €5,000-10,000 and 3 weeks for actual trials vs. €500-600 and 1 day of simulations in Altair Inspire Cast.” Ahmed EL ABIDI, CAE manager and senior expert, U-Shin



Altair Inspire Extrude is an easy-to-use platform for both metal and polymer extrusion simulation. Using Inspire Extrude Metal, CAD can be quickly de-featured and modified inside the tool, ensuring potential profile distortion, damage from deflection, backend contamination, charge weld defects, bad seam weld, bad grain size, overheating profile quality, and poor surface quality issues are corrected early in development. With Inspire Extrude Polymer, users can increase their understanding of how profile features and process variables interact for any particular metal alloy. Learn more about how the Extrude Metal workflow can be implemented, demonstrated by a typical workflow for metal extrusion simulation.  


Altair Inspire Extrude Polymer overview


Polyurethane Foaming

With Altair Inspire PolyFoam, manufacturers can efficiently simulate polyurethane molding and foaming processes early to improve product quality and cycle time and reduce scrap and tooling rework costs. The software has the ability to inject multiple foams into the same mold simultaneously and allows for quick and accurate simulation of different foam compositions. An easy-to-use, five-step workflow with Inspire PolyFoam ensures that foam product designs can be validated fast and efficiently.   


Altair Inspire PolyFoam overview


Altair Simulation-Driven Design for Manufacturing

When developing a new product, manufacturers want to be sure their development process is going to be as efficient as possible. With a SDfM approach, product designers can be confident in their chosen manufacturing method because design flaws can be detected much earlier and corrected before any physical prototyping has to be done. Implementing simulation-driven design early allows engineers to create innovative, manufacturable products beginning at the earliest stage of production. Altair Inspire™ products cover all facets of manufacturing, from casting and PU foaming, to extrusion and metal forming, allowing for quick, generative design for manufacturing processes.

Click here to learn more about Altair’s simulation-driven design for manufacturing solutions.