The growing practice of virtual testing

Simulation stimulates innovation

Between the idea and the reality… 

Simulation has a long history. Originally, technological development proceeded largely by “hands-on” trial and error. The primitive wooden club, randomly found in the woods, eventually evolved into the stone axe or tomahawk, hatchet or battle axe, and became the finely-honed and hardened steel axe with a molded shock-absorbing plastic shaft of today.

Nor was technical innovation a two-dimensional affair. Rather than work from a drawing or blueprint, new developments and plans often took the form of small models. Were models used for the Egyptian pyramids? Most likely. We definitely do know that a large three-dimensional model was used by Michelangelo in completing Saint-Peter’s Basilica. Small models were even used in French dressmaking. Patterns were usually developed and transmitted to foreign dressmakers via “dolls,” which became young girl’s playthings.

Later, inexpensive small technical models were used to test design improvements in real conditions. For example, in the aviation industry, new airfoils and fuselage designs were rigorously tested in smoke-streamed wind tunnels.

Today, in the virtual age, there is no longer the need to proceed by trial and error, models or physical prototypes. We can use the power of computers, systems theory and cybernetics to imitate a real thing, a state of affairs or a process. In this way, an object like a cable can be thoroughly tested even before it exists in terms of performance, safety, resistance, or feasibility.

Within Nexans, cable performance can be simulated under various environmental conditions. This entails representing certain key characteristics, material behavior, or the advantages of a projected design. A computer simulation models a real-life or hypothetical situation to see how it works. By changing variables, predictions can be made about cable or system performance.

Simulation1
Temperature mapping of cables heating up in a steel pipe

Thus, simulation at Nexans requires a broad definition since it involves complex physics (mechanical, thermal, electrical, coupled-physics) with our own research objectives.

The approach will differ whether we aim to understand physical phenomena within the framework of an R&D project, want to support a unit in the development of a new product, or attempt to answer a customer’s tough technical questions through simulation.

Generally speaking, numerical simulation allows us to:

  • Unleash creativity by making it possible to virtually prototype and explore new solutions quickly without excessive investment
  • Use simulation results as an argumentation tool internally (for project guidance and informed decision-making)
  • Promote new products and solutions to our customers by proving their advantages in terms of efficiency, safety, performance, cost-savings, etc.

Simulation2
Strain distribution in a pressure-loaded junction box