The Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE) Lab was created as a joint effort between the College of Engineering and the Center for Manufacturing Research. The lab's mission is to provide support for research projects, while also supporting the instructional activities of the college. Many research projects are being conducted in the CAE Lab at any given time, most of them involving solid modeling, finite element analysis, or computational fluid dynamics. Top-notch equipment, combined with the expertise of trained engineers, makes the CAE Lab an ideal environment for a wide variety of manufacturing problems. For example, graduate students working with Dr. Chris Wilson use the ANSYS finite element analysis software to predict the behavior of three-dimensional models using various part assemblies. These analyses result in improved product efficiency and reduced manufacturing costs.
The lab is open 24 hours per day, 7 days per week to meet the needs of faculty and students. It provides a physical center for students to grow individually as researchers and to learn from other students. Ample work space is provided for students and an area for small meetings exists for students, faculty, and others. During the 2004-2005 academic year, nearly 75 graduate students working for 19 faculty in 5 academic departments used CAE Lab facilities in their research and graduate studies.
Computer software is invaluable in all stages of manufacturing, from product design to process control. Major software packages in the lab serve the following functions: finite element analysis and modeling, solid modeling, rapid prototyping, computer drafting, structural dynamic analysis, general computer graphics, electrical schematics, systems analysis, plastic injection-molding modeling, computer-controlled machining, modal analysis and air foil design and machining. A significant portion of this capability is contained in the Pro/ENGINEER and AutoCAD software suites. Other commercial simulation tools include ANSYS, ABAQUS, Patran, HyperWorks, and Fluent. In addition, a number of general purpose programs for symbolic and numerical computing are available: MATLAB, Maple, and Tecplot. Programming tools for C, C++, Fortran (77, 90, and High-Performance), Java, and Python are available for users as well.
The CAE Lab houses a mix of high-speed computers running Windows XP, Debian GNU/Linux, and Sun Solaris Unix. In addition, the lab contains computer terminals to provide fast graphical access to the Debian and Solaris. The lab's switched fast ethernet network is firewalled from the rest of the campus, maximizing performance and security. The lab has a terabyte-scale file server which backs up the lab's research daily (both in the lab and on faculty workstations), providing insurance against physical disaster and user error.