Interview with Chris Randles and Blake Courter – Part 5

<< Part 4

Deelip: While you claim that you are not competing with the CAD vendors, I think you actually are because they have been putting more and more analysis functionality into their CAD systems. Also what do you say to the criticism that CAD vendors are putting dumbed down versions of their analysis tools into the hands of the CAD users which have no clue as to what analysis is?

Blake: There are two competing strategies of simulation right now. One is that the CAD vendors want to sell every CAD user a seat of simulation. And to do so they put forth a story that they have made their simulation tools so easy to use that someone without an engineering degree, someone who does not know units of stress, someone who has no clue what Von-Mises stress is, let alone understand how it relates to the actualyl yield stress of a part, I mean… (throws hand up in the air), can somehow do analysis. When I was in school doing design problems or working in the shop and I put bolts onto something, the professor would come up and ask why I chose that bolt. He would make me sit there and figure out how much stress would be on that bolt and whether it would yield without even a piece of paper. Simulation engineers are constantly doing that. They are constantly figuring out “what ballpark are we talking about here?” And that way when the numbers come out, they know whether the results makes sense or not. If you don’t have that skill you have no right to be doing simulation. I am actually kind of disgusted by this.

The CAD vendors are in a tough place. Their markets are flat. Their channels are complaining. Everyone needs to feed their babies. And so they come up with all these products to sell and make a story for it. It’s sickenning, really.

So we have put forth a different story that it is worth paying someone twice as much per year to give you good answers the first time. To not give you false confidence that your parts are going to be right. To be able to predict the cost of something, use simulation before bidding on a contract so you know exactly what it is going to cost and win more deals. These are things that have tramsformational benefits to a business.

Deelip: But what do you say to the argument, to which I subscribe to as well, that these dumbed down versions of simulation tools stuck into CAD systems are not meant to get real results. Rather they are more to educate CAD users who do not know a damn thing about analysis.

Blake: So you are saying taking LSD gives you insight to reality (laughs).

Deelip: No. Suppose a CAD user is asked to design a simple flange. Suppose he runs a broad analysis on his model and get to a point that tells him that his design will probably work and then pass that on downstream, don’t you think that over time he will use that knowledge to come up with designs of higher quality. I recently joked on my blog that I would not board a plane that has been analyzed by some FEA for Dummies software. Obviously, the real analysis should and will be done by real engineers who know what they are doing. But the output from the CAD users becomes the input to the engineers. So if over time the output of the CAD users could be increased in quality wouldn’t that make the job of the engineers easier? Don’t you think there is some kind of value being offerred here at all?

Blake: So you are saying you go to the Director of Engineering and say, “Hey, why don’t you have your CAD guys play with this tool, waste some time and maybe they will learn something”. That’s ridiculous. I’d rather have a process that makes sense. I recently spoke to one of our customers. He had some simulation to do. He simply handed it over to his buddy who was a simulation expert rather than doign it himself becasue he was best at doing design.

Deelip: So then I guess your customer didn’t learn anything about simulation at all. I mean, he did not gain any knowledge that could help him design better parts in the future. Here I mean learn something about analysis to the extent that is possible, not everything. Just maybe the bare minimum to know that the part that you are desiging is not crap from the beginning.

Blake: I guess there is some validity to it. But I guess what I am saying is that if I am executive in an engineering firm and I have got a bunch of engineers and a bunch of people who are focussed on documenting that engineering in CAD, if I want to think about how I want to have a more efficient business, its probably a more prudent choice to give everyone the best tool for the job. That means having dedicated simulation users who have the best in class simulation tools and maybe something like SpaceClaim to have to deal with the geometry they have to deal with and have the CAD users focus on best practices and modeling intent.