GSC Simulation Consultant Brandon DonnellyAs a consultant for GSC, I enjoy the diversity of problems I get to work on with customers. Frames, pumps, automotive, aerospace, forming, and more. Finite Element Analysis (FEA) and other simulation tools can be applied anywhere and the product improvements, as a result, are often tremendous. I’ve been honored to help spread that knowledge and help our customers drive success.

I’ll be the first to tell you that I never expected to be here. I’ll even admit that when entering the engineering program in college, simulation wasn’t even on my radar.

All It Took Was Just One College Course

During my structural analysis class, a chapter on matrix and numerical methods caught my attention. When that professor promoted his upcoming class entitled, “Developing engineering applications,” I enrolled and was introduced to how these methods were turned into software.

The course also introduced me to the Finite Element Method, the mathematical basis of software like SOLIDWORKS Simulation. It taught me about writing a pre- and post-processor and a solver for problems related to 3D frames. It illuminated many applications that are impractical to solve by hand, such as large, dynamic, or nonlinear systems.

The class alone didn’t make me an expert, but it introduced me to what existed. It showed me what I didn’t yet know. It was a new adventure filled with topics to dig deeper. Looking back, I’m now in similar shoes to the professor, except I’m showing customers rather students.

Curiosity took me to graduate school to study advanced topics FEA and Structural Engineering. Graduate courses were far more in-depth than any undergraduate course. Learning the mathematical basis of convergence -- how forces distribute differently in a dynamic system vs. static, and how math can be applied to improve products -- made me a better engineer. I found deep, technical challenges and it was exhilarating to flex my intellectual muscle. The problems were more mathematically intense than what 95% of engineers in today’s working world encounter in their day-to-day work. The types of problems weren’t for every engineer. In fact, they were the type of problems most engineers would need software, like SOLIDWORKS Simulation, to solve.

Following grad school, I applied my knowledge to the design of steel joists, where saving tonnage was a way to increase profits. Of course, safety and economy were both critical.

Falling Into Consulting

Due to this combination of education and experience, I fell into the role of being a consultant, eventually helping others in all manners of industries. I say “fell,” because I was interviewing for a more typical position when, after reading about my FEA experience, the conversation turned toward a conversation the interviewer had hours earlier with a salesman about some analysis tools. I started explaining how those tools work, and how it could be beneficial for his company. While I wasn’t a good fit for that role, the interviewer gave me the salesman’s contact info and said I might be a better fit for that company. I followed up on that lead and, now, nearly five years later I’m still helping our customers solve their most challenging simulation problems.

Most of what I do stands on the shoulders of the mathematical, engineering and scientific works of guys like Isaac Newton, Robert Hooke, Leonhard Euler, Claude-Louis Navier, and many others. These guys developed such in-depth mathematical and scientific insight that was so far ahead of its time, it took time and numerous technology advancements for those insights to be applied economically to everyday engineering.

So, that’s my job, educating engineers about all these great mathematical principles that have existed for 50-100 years, that only now are capable of being applied to meet modern design needs. It’s like having a secret to improving a business and being able to share it with everyone. It feels good.

What's Next for Simulation?

As for this technology, want to know what’s next? First, more engineers will gain knowledge in how to use it, and how to improve designs with it. The software itself will start to do some heavy lifting, helping engineers choose starting concepts based on weighing different trade-offs such as weight, stiffness, heat dissipation, or any number of parameters. While this is taking place on the engineering side, scientists will work to fill-in the remaining knowledge gaps. We’re still missing knowledge about how turbulence works, or friction, or failure theories for all types of materials that are well correlated. While significant knowledge and technology are in use today, the future will hold even more promise. I’m excited to see where things go.

My path is a great reminder that you can plan all you like, but things don’t always go as planned. You learn along the way. You explore and discover, and then you adjust course. Sometimes the best path is one you were never seeking.