Although I am a Mechanical Engineer by profession and understand the geek speak involved in simulation and analysis, I almost never write about that side of the design process. Somehow I have always concentrated more on the geometry side of things. Probably because that is linked directly to my day job of writing software that creates and edits geometry. However, I intend to change that. Going forward, I would like to spend some time with analysis and simulation software. Although simulation and analysis are sciences in their own right for which you need to receive formal training in, the software these days does make things a bit easier for people not trained the art to do simulation and analysis. This was the subject of one of the presentations called “Digital Simulation” given by Jeff Wymer, Senior Product Line Manager, Digital Simulation and Hilde Sevens, Director of Product Management, Digital Factory and who were assisted by a couple of people in technical marketing.
According to Jeff, the main reasons why CAD users shy away from adopting Digital Simulation are:
1) Ease of Use: Due to the complex nature of simulation itself simulation software is difficult to use. For example, in the case of Finite Element Analysis, you need to bother yourself with meshing and the parameters that you need to adjust to control it.
2) Interoperability: Since simulation software is complex, it usually sits in a specialized application and transferring data back and forth with a CAD system while maintaining associativity can sometimes become a problem.
3) Cost of Ownership: Needless to say, due to its sheer nature, simulation software is expensive.
The real effect of Autodesk’s acquisitions of Algor, MoldFlow and other similar analysis and simulation software vendors is quite evident in this years releases of products. The whole point of the presentation was to highlight how Autodesk was trying to address the exact three barriers to adoption mentioned above. Here are a few pictures showing how Autodesk customers now have a wide range of options to choose from whether they want to do initial low level simulation right inside Inventor or accurate (as accurate simulation can be, that is) high level simulation in Algor. The key point to note is the efficient way by which rich data flows between the various products involved. Click the images for larger views.
The frame analysis tool has videos embedded right into the ribbon that shows the user how the apply constraints and set various parameters. Also there a number of simulation guides built into Inventor that act like wizards which help new users set up constraints, boundary conditions, loads, etc.
Direct Manipulation has found its place in Simulation as well. Here you see a load being positioned and oriented in the graphics window while at the same time setting up its parameters as well. Autodesk has gone to lengths to offer a superior user experience across their product line.
I find the last two pictures particularly interesting because although Autodesk is being tight lipped about the plans that they have for the standalone Fusion application after the technology has been embedded into Inventor, it is not very difficult to see that they may do exactly what Spaceclaim is doing with ANSYS. After all Fusion is a direct modeler like SpaceClaim and can be pitted directly against the ANSYS SpaceClaim Direct Modeler.