Making a Proposal for Digital Prototyping in 7 Steps

In the present day using digital prototypes can complement and, in some instances, even substitute using bodily prototypes. Digital prototypes assist scale back the dangers, prices, and time for creating revolutionary new merchandise. Design engineers can assemble and retailer 1000’s and even hundreds of thousands of 3-D digital prototypes of a possible product in a design choice tradespace. The efficiency and habits of every digital prototype could be assessed shortly utilizing simplified physics-based software program. Extra refined high-fidelity computational evaluation instruments can then be used to precisely predict the efficiency of probably the most promising candidates—all this earlier than a bodily prototype exists. Lastly, if wanted, a bodily prototype of the ultimate design could be constructed and examined for last validation of the design earlier than manufacture. Digital prototypes assist scale back the price of scientific analysis and handle analysis issues that can not be addressed by way of experiments.

The principle enablers for digital prototyping are software program purposes and high-performance computer systems. Excessive efficiency computer systems are a commodity, however the wanted software program shouldn’t be. In lots of instances the required software program should be developed to satisfy the wants of digital prototyping. Growing efficient software program engineering practices for digital prototyping and different varieties of software program are essential analysis subjects for the SEI.

Regardless of its promise, digital prototyping presents a critical problem: engineers and scientists usually have no idea easy methods to create a compelling proposal for a digital prototyping program—particularly the important thing software program part—and get it in entrance of the proper set of eyes to acquire funding and help.

This weblog put up, which is excerpted and tailored from Creating and Utilizing Digital Prototyping Software program, a e-book that I coauthored with Dr. Richard Kendall, outlines seven steps to create a compelling proposal for potential sponsors to help a program to develop, deploy, and maintain suites of digital prototyping instruments. The suggestions within the e-book are primarily based on our expertise over the past 17 years establishing and sustaining the Division of Protection (DoD) digital prototyping program CREATE (Computational Analysis and Engineering Acquisition Instruments and Environments). Launched in 2006, the CREATE program permits DoD engineers and scientists to assemble digital prototypes of main weapons methods, corresponding to ships, air and floor autos, and radio frequency antennas.

In the course of the formative stage of CREATE, its founders (together with this e-book’s authors) didn’t have a information for creating and advertising proposals for virtual-prototype software improvement. To treatment this hole, we’ve got reviewed our experiences from CREATE and different advanced, science-based software program improvement applications, each profitable and unsuccessful, to determine the components that led to their success or failure and to derive a set of classes realized. Some examples of our sources embody Software program Engineering for Science by Carver et al and the journal article “Software program Undertaking Administration and High quality Engineering Practices for Complicated, Coupled MultiPhysics, Massively Parallel Computational Simulations,” which I coauthored with Dr. Richard Kendall.

We ship these insights as a set of seven steps supplied as a information for comparable undertakings. Though these steps is likely to be thought-about apparent to anybody in Silicon Valley, we’ve got discovered that the majority engineers and scientists haven’t been uncovered to them. Few have expertise with creating proposals for the development of sturdy software program that they will use to make the shift to digital prototyping potential.

The seven steps we advocate for producing such proposals adhere to the rules described within the well-known Heilmeier Catechism, outlined in Determine 1 beneath. The Heilmeier Catechism was developed for assessing proposals to DARPA, and it has lengthy served as a information for producing proposals for profitable technical applications.

Determine 1: George H. Heilmeier, a former DARPA director (1975-1977), crafted a set of questions generally known as the “Heilmeier Catechism” to assist company officers assume by way of and consider proposed analysis applications. Supply:


Determine 1: George H. Heilmeier, a former DARPA director (1975-1977), crafted a set of questions generally known as the “Heilmeier Catechism” to assist company officers assume by way of and consider proposed analysis applications.

Supply: Protection Advance Analysis Initiatives Company

Earlier than beginning, it’s essential to evaluate whether or not switching to digital product design and testing can plausibly make a considerable enchancment in a corporation’s product improvement course of. It may very well be, for instance, that present laptop modeling approaches are too immature to help the change, or that the computing energy wanted shouldn’t be available. Furthermore, there could also be insurmountable cultural obstacles to adoption of the paradigm.

Likewise, switching to using digital prototyping for scientific analysis ought to be executed provided that compelling benefits could be gained over conventional scientific analysis strategies. As an illustration, supernova analysis carried out by way of experiments with high-energy-density laser amenities, such because the Nationwide Ignition Facility (NIF) on the Lawrence Livermore Nationwide Laboratory, are possible, however very costly. Laptop simulations of supernova habits that can be utilized to determine the important thing traits and physics components by evaluating the calculations with observational knowledge are each possible and comparatively reasonably priced (Lamb 2011).

If transferring ahead is believable, then listed below are the steps.

Step 1: Develop a imaginative and prescient and determine a sponsor.

We’ve studied and adopted dozens of digital prototyping applications by way of both private participation or remark and evaluation. The applications usually begin with a small staff that develops an idea, or “imaginative and prescient,” for the way digital prototyping may enhance (i.e., make extra aggressive) a corporation’s product improvement or scientific analysis. In virtually all of the profitable instances we all know, the main focus was on a selected use of digital prototyping, corresponding to climate forecasting or plane design and efficiency evaluation. The staff was capable of flip its imaginative and prescient right into a proposal {that a} sponsor then accepted and funded.

The institution of an actual program is all the time preceded by the conversion of the imaginative and prescient right into a written proposal. Preparation of the proposal usually obtained help (normally at a really modest degree) from advocates throughout the group who had been eager about exploring the idea. Generally a bunch of passionate volunteers had been the sparkplugs who obtained issues transferring and satisfied the group’s management that digital prototyping was value exploring.

With a imaginative and prescient in hand, the main focus ought to flip to figuring out potential sponsors. More often than not, the sponsor is the group’s administration staff or some a part of it. A little bit of evangelizing could also be required to get a dedication from a possible sponsor to fund the event of a proposal. Nonetheless, the assets wanted to develop a proposal are small in comparison with the potential profit. Our expertise with CREATE signifies {that a} good begin on a reputable proposal may even be developed by volunteers, working totally on their very own time.

Step 2: Do your homework.

The solutions to the next questions ought to be investigated in preparation for the proposal:

  • For product design, is the group dropping market share to an revolutionary competitor? How can digital prototyping assist repair this?
  • Equally, can using digital prototyping enhance the standard of scientific analysis by supplementing or changing giant, costly analysis amenities?
  • What are the very best precedence wants for product design software program:
    • preliminary design?
    • efficiency prediction?
    • manufacturability?
  • What are the best obstacles that will stop potential sponsors from adopting the digital prototyping paradigm:
    • a scarcity of appreciation by center administration of the implications of the group’s declining competitiveness and the necessity to handle it?
    • concern about the necessity to practice the work pressure in digital prototyping and the potential resistance to alter?
  • What do potential sponsors must do to combine digital prototyping into their product improvement or analysis workflows to beat the obstacles?


  • What assets and adjustments to the organizational tradition are required?

After finishing steps 1 and a pair of, the proposal staff ought to be educated concerning the candidate sponsor’s tradition, personnel construction, product design functionality and strategies, high quality management processes, and different attributes essential to transferring ahead. This information will likely be essential throughout the improvement of a plan that features estimates for the wanted assets (price range, time, coaching, computer systems, IT help, and many others.). Pilot tasks could also be useful, in addition to the experiences of comparable non-competing tasks, if they are often shared.

Step 3: Establish and start to recruit potential stakeholders.

It’s important that the proposal staff domesticate help inside every potential sponsor’s management staff and workers. Different stakeholders will doubtless profit from digital prototyping, and an effort to enlist their advocacy could be useful. Adopting digital prototyping entails a serious paradigm shift for everybody. That degree of cultural change usually (normally) encounters sturdy resistance, as Machiavelli famous in The Prince.

Our expertise signifies that adoption faces much less resistance in two instances. The primary is with sponsors which have a historical past of innovation. The second is when a corporation has encountered an existential risk and it’s clear that digital prototyping gives a reputable strategy to mitigate that risk. It’s laborious to overstate resistance to alter; evidently those that most want to alter are sometimes those most immune to it.

Along with funded efforts, senior folks within the discipline are sometimes prepared to spend time to debate points and supply recommendation to applications that they see filling an essential group want, as we noticed with CREATE. The proposal will doubtless not get far with out allies and supporters, each within the group and in associated communities. To enlist them, the proposal staff must do the next:

  1. Discover and determine stakeholders whose success will likely be tremendously aided by the enhancements that digital product design and testing can supply.
  2. Interact their curiosity and enlist their endorsement and help.

Nonetheless, a little bit of warning is required. The most important function of digital prototyping is to ascertain a aggressive benefit. The aggressive benefit could be misplaced if a competitor has detailed information of your program. It’s thus essential to just remember to solely share data with folks you belief and who do not need a battle of curiosity.

In observe, all these steps ought to be taken kind of concurrently. They are going to doubtless require a number of iterations and shut collaboration among the many proposal staff leaders and potential stakeholder teams. Crucial stakeholders are the potential sponsors, however all potential stakeholders are precious; they supply gravitas.

Step 4: Consider the software program choices.

The proposal will likely be stronger if it identifies at the very least a number of particular exterior examples of digital prototyping software program purposes that members of the potential sponsor’s group can acknowledge and perceive. The proposal will likely be even stronger if the proposal staff can discover illustrative examples of software program purposes that display the effectiveness of digital prototyping for the sponsor’s product improvement or scientific analysis subjects. As an illustration, if fluid stream is essential, an instance of using a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) code could also be acceptable. CFD is ubiquitous within the evaluation of air automobile efficiency, decreasing vehicle wind resistance, and designing quick crusing ships (such because the America’s Cup ships). These makes use of are wealthy sources of examples.

Efficiently establishing a digital prototyping functionality requires acquiring the proper software program purposes, both by way of inside improvement or by exterior acquisition. The software program purposes should have the capabilities and options wanted to attain a aggressive benefit.

After finishing step 4, the proposal staff ought to perceive the technical challenges concerned in creating a product or conducting scientific analysis. An exception often is the challenges particular to creating physics-based, high-performance computing software program, which can be a brand new specialised space for a lot of software program improvement teams. With the ability to overcome the challenges of creating physics-based high-performance primarily based software program is essential to the success of the proposal. If the staff doesn’t have already got that experience, it might want to purchase it to supply a reputable proposal and a profitable program.

Step 5: Assemble the proposal.

The target in step 5 is to show the imaginative and prescient of step one into a proper proposal for the software program improvement program that has a great probability of being accepted and funded. The proposal ought to have two elements. The primary half ought to

  • present a compelling description of the product improvement or analysis issues that digital prototyping will clear up
  • clarify why fixing these issues is essential to the potential sponsor, and
  • describe the potential affect of fixing these issues

Steps 2, 3, and 4 are mandatory precursors right here.

The primary a part of the proposal is a very powerful half. It should set up the worth of digital prototyping to the success of the sponsors. If the sponsors aren’t satisfied that what’s being proposed will make them extra aggressive, the second a part of the proposal (plans and assets) will likely be irrelevant.

Proposal define.

Along with the three subjects above, first half ought to embody the next:

  • an outline of the stakeholder communities (together with the sponsor)
  • a compelling and credible imaginative and prescient for the way the proposed software program purposes to allow digital prototyping will likely be used
  • a plan to take care of the adoption problem—persuading the product designers or analysis scientists to maneuver from a bodily prototype or experiment-based workflow to a digital prototyping workflow
  • an outline of the required software program purposes that will likely be wanted, whether or not by way of inside improvement, from exterior sources, or each
  • a reputable method and plan for the way the software program purposes could be both developed or acquired from exterior sources after which deployed
  • if the software program is to be developed internally, a reputable method for recruiting and organizing the software program improvement staff that may efficiently develop and deploy the required software program
  • an outline of the organizational construction of the proposed program, together with the next:
    • names, skilled credentials, abilities, and expertise of potential program and improvement code staff leaders and staff members, if potential
    • background, abilities, and expertise of potential members of the consumer group
  • the explanation why the proposed program will succeed and why the proposal is credible (Software program improvement is a dangerous enterprise.)

The second a part of the proposal ought to embody these parts:

  • an outline of the assets required for this system (funding, skilled employees, laptop and laptop infrastructure assets, enterprise assets, validation knowledge, and extra)
  • a high-level conceptual improvement and deployment plan (together with a notional schedule) for the staged supply of the software program’s options
  • a short-term plan for beginning up this system throughout the first 3 to six months if the proposal is accepted

Step 6: Market the proposal to the potential sponsors and stakeholders.

For advertising to an organization or authorities engineering group, the sponsors are the company administration, together with the engineering and monetary managers, the company advertising group, and the engineering consumer teams. For advertising to a scientific analysis group, the sponsors are the management of the establishments that execute analysis tasks and the organizations that fund or approve the establishment’s analysis program.

Advertising the primary a part of the proposal ought to handle these areas:

  • the necessity for change
  • the imaginative and prescient for the position of digital prototyping within the path ahead
  • a plan to have interaction the stakeholder group
  • a reputable software program deployment technique (together with software program improvement or procurement)
  • Affirmation that this system management can assemble a reputable software program improvement staff and lead it to success

If the potential sponsors aren’t attracted by these subjects, they won’t have an interest within the particulars of the execution plan. It’s essential that the proposed price range, schedules, and deliverables be lifelike and that the proposal staff can defend the numbers. Potential sponsors will use the realism of the price range, schedule, and program targets as an essential measure of the proposal’s credibility.

The proposal is primarily a bid to develop (or procure) and deploy software program to help the digital prototyping functionality that the sponsor wants. Right here “deploy” signifies that the software program turns into a part of the product improvement workflow. Additionally it is essential to not underbid the associated fee and the time. If the sponsor agrees to fund the challenge, the event groups will likely be accountable to ship an affordable approximation of the deliberate software program on time and inside price range.

It is necessary for the sponsor to know that the software program’s capabilities will in all chance be delivered incrementally and that it should be supported for so long as the consumer group relies on it. The engineering and analysis necessities will evolve and alter, and the software program might want to change to satisfy the brand new necessities. As well as, computing applied sciences (together with laptop architectures and laptop safety safeguards) are regularly altering, and the software program must adapt to those adjustments. It’s a fallacy to assume that the software program will ever be “completed.” As quickly because the help for the software program purposes ceases, it is going to die.

For brand spanking new groups creating software program, the funding ought to begin at about 20 p.c to 40 p.c of the deliberate asymptotic funding degree and ramp as much as it over a interval of three to five years. If the staff will likely be staffed by workers of the sponsor, increase extra quickly is likely to be potential. If present software program is being configured (versus developed) to help the digital prototyping paradigm, much less time will likely be wanted.

Step 7: Reply to proposal choice.

If the proposal is accepted, transfer ahead with planning and executing the proposed program (Chapter 7 in our e-book consists of subsequent steps). If the proposal shouldn’t be accepted, discover out why it was poor and see in case you can treatment the deficiencies. If not, do a autopsy retrospective to extract the teachings realized and take into account whether or not to strive once more with one other candidate sponsor.

Alternatives and Challenges for Digital Prototyping

Trying forward, there are alternatives (and challenges) for digital prototyping, together with

  • sustainment
  • manufacturability
  • design automation
  • autonomous methods
  • operational simulators for coaching, certification, testing, and exploring operational choices
  • digital scientific experiments
  • uncertainty quantification

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