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Autodesk Simulation Nastran Launch: 2 New Nastran Products Emerge

After reviewing NEi Software and the factors that led Autodesk to purchase the company, it would be good to take a look at what they’ve done with their investment. Autodesk took no time at all getting their new toys out on the market and into the hands of their existing customers.

Autodesk Releases 2 Nastran Products

Autodesk has officially branded two new products by way of the acquired NEi IP, namely:

  • Autodesk Nastran 2015
  • Autodesk Nastran In-CAD 2015

Autodesk Simulation Nastran Launch Mitch Muncy

Autodesk Nastran 2015

The former NEi Nastran solver technology has been released to the public in order to continue its licensing through Autodesk. This means that analysts using the FEMAP/NEi Nastran combination for example, can continue to do so through the company. The only caveat is that Autodesk will not continue to sell Siemens PLM FEMAP as NEi had done. The perpetual license fee for the solver was stated to be below $10K USD.

Autodesk Nastran solver solutions include:

  • Linear Static and Steady-State Heat Transfer
  • Normal Modes, Buckling, and Prestress
  • Advanced Dynamics
  • Nonlinear Analysis
  • Nonlinear Transient Heat Transfer

The solver has already been updated and sent to the existing Simulation Mechanical customers through a product update not more than 30 days after the NEi purchase. Simulation Mechanical will continue to act as the main front end for Autodesk’s simulation customers, permitting the flexible use of its existing solvers as well as Nastran. The company stated that it intends to continue to provide the Nastran solver to subscribers of Simulation Mechanical without adjusting the subscription cost.

Not only did Simulation Mechanical receive the new solver, but additional meshing capabilities have been added as well.

Unfortunately, many advanced features, such as the MultiContinuum Theory (MCT) and other third-party integrations will not be present in the base Nastran solver package. Those integrations were NEi’s proprietary property, were part of additional licensing, and nothing has specifically been stated about the delivery of those solutions at this time.

Along with Nastran came NEi’s verifications and QA research, including over 100 NAFEMS benchmarked examples that ship with every release. Mitch Muncy, Simulation Product Manager for Autodesk (Formerly the Executive Vice-President of NEi Software) pointed out that NEi ran over 5000 test problems per software release.

While discussing product testing, Mitch said,

“…any time any issue came up, we were very dedicated to making sure that it [NEi Natran] was one of the most accurate packages on the planet”.

Autodesk Nastran In-CAD 2015

Priced similarly to the Nastran 2015 solver, In-CAD allows Inventor and Dassault Solidworks users to perform linear and non-linear analyses directly from their native CAD environments. In-CAD adds a Ribbon tab with all of the associated pre and post processor tools needed to start and review the Nastran solution.

Nastran In-CAD includes most of the core capabilities of the Autodesk Nastran solver, including linear and non-linear analyses, as well as some composite materials analyses. These are divided up similarly (perhaps identically) to the NEi Designer and Analyst packages, but re-branded as follows:

Nastran in-CAD Basic*

  • Linear Statics
  • Linear Steady State Heat Transfer
  • Normal Modes
  • Buckling
  • Prestress Static and Normal Modes
  • Thermal Stress
  • Assembly Modeling with Contact
  • Composites

Nastran in-CAD Expert*

Autodesk Nastran in-CAD Expert adds to the Basic set with the following capabilities:

  • Nonlinear Static and Nonlinear Transient Response
  • Linear and Nonlinear Transient Response
  • Frequency Response
  • Nonlinear Steady State Heat Transfer
  • Nonlinear Transient Heat Transfer
  • Automated Impact Analysis (AIA™) and Drop Test
  • Random Response
  • Advanced Nonlinear Material

Equally important are the inclusion of advanced element types, allowing far more complex and capable studies. Advanced modules and 3rd party integrations are still available as optional modules. This means the Inventor users can get the full power of Nastran finally in their environment. Now that I think about it, having the refined CAD capabilities of Inventor would make setting up complex analysis models so much easier.

The license for In-CAD is open and flexible, and can be checked out by both Inventor and/or SolidWorks users in the same organization.

Autodesk Inventor Nastran In-CAD Thermal Analysis Formula One Upright & Brake Assembly

Autodesk Inventor Nastran In-CAD Assemblies Differential Assemblies

Autodesk Inventor Nastran In-CAD Non-Linear Static Stress Hedge Trimmer

Autodesk’s Simulation Business Line Manager, Vic Vendantham concluded the topic with this:

“From a go-to-market perspective, we think about two specific strategies: there is the inherent need to work inside a design environment, where engineers want to work in an increasingly CAD embedded workflow, with seamless transmission between the CAD model and the simulation environment, and they want to add a level of explorative analysis. We also need to think about the high-end analyst who want to push the technology and perform simulations that have never been done before. I think that Nastran gives us the opportunity to deliver the right solutions to the right people.”

Nastran Editor

Autodesk will continue to include the Nastran Editor software that NEi Software developed with the solver, giving users the ability to quickly affect features and advanced options in the Nastran Input File from a convenient front end. This is available to all users of Autodesk Nastran and Autodesk Nastran In-CAD software.

Autodesk Nastran Editor

Product Support

Autodesk currently plans to continue support for the entire product line from NEi Software. That means that existing NEi customers will continue to get help and updates as expected. When pressed about the In-CAD software for SolidWorks, Autodesk managers insisted that there would be continued development for that product, noting that they continue to support HSMWorks for the SolidWorks users, after purchasing that company as well.

Nothing was stated about what the future holds for Nastran, its 3rd party integrations, or other NEi products. The only thing that the company would say is that it’s still early in the development process and nothing has been decided at this point.

Closing Thoughts

The NEi purchase represents a windfall of simulation IP. NEi Nastran is a well-established product in the aviation and automotive industries, and is slam-full of enhancements. Purchasing NEi allowed Autodesk to bypass the development and testing process for some of their own technology integrations, and potentially hand down the entire gambit of aeronautic analysis capabilities to everyone using Autodesk Nastran, including users of Autodesk Simulation Mechanical and to some extent, Autodesk Inventor.

However I think that there is a bigger picture that needs to be recognized. Autodesk has been working for some time to deliver software platforms that help unify simulation workflows and model data, and present the user with a far more fluid experience and work environment. Nastran fills a gap in a very capable inventory of simulation software, giving Autodesk a well-rounded engineering portfolio. The company is in a great position to ramp this effort up and bring that technology into a unified platform.

Vic eluded to this in his presentation when he said,

“What [Nastran] also does is it helps us build on interoperability… If you think about the foundational denominator for these products, you can imagine how the structural platform becomes the baseline from which we can begin to develop a cohesive intuitive environment of multiphysics. This [acquisition] presents an opportunity for us to unify everything and bring all of it together.”

If Autodesk wants to emerge on the other side of the heavy industry curtain, it will need to advance the development of their Nastran software. Not only will they need to continue to license the aviation specific analyses (like aeroelasticity), but must maintain the integrations as well as develop some of their own solutions … or buy them.

No matter what the company does in the next five years, one thing is certain: They just bought one hell of a powerful, well-placed non-linear multiphysics platform to build on and I want to play…

References and sources

* Information gathered from the NEi Nastran website

Images courtesy of Autodesk, Inc.

Autodesk Simulation Nastran Launch : Why NASTRAN? Why NEi?

After returning from the Autodesk Nastran Launch a couple of weeks ago, I discussed the company’s need to upgrade their simulation technologies. Large manufacturing industry segments lean towards software that can handle very complex studies; some specialized industries need tools that can perform studies that are quite complex in nature.

Unless Autodesk decides to invest heavily in developing innovative methods of computing large complex structure arrays as well as numerous solving algorithms, a quick stop at the local stock exchange to pick up some existing intellectual property might be a better way to go.

So Autodesk decided to go the purchase route, and pull in NEi’s Nastran solver variant which is a truly wonderful tool to have in house.

Why Nastran?

Nastran is universally recognized as the defacto Finite-Entity Analysis (FEA) standard, having been developed by NASA in the late 1960’s. The code was quickly released to the public, and as of the spring of 2014, three large companies develop their own enhanced brand of Nastran, namely MacNeal-Schwendler Corporation (MSC), Siemens PLM Software, and NEi Software. These companies have spent decades developing their Nastran variants.

The Nastran solver capabilities include:

  • Linear Static and Steady-State Heat Transfer
  • Normal Modes, Buckling, and Prestress
  • Advanced Dynamics
  • Nonlinear Analysis
  • Nonlinear Transient Heat Transfer

Autodesk’s Simulation Business Line Manager, Vic Vendantham, noted during the briefing that,

“…Nastran is already a standard, a brand, in fact it’s an eco-system that revolves around trusted, accurate, powerful, efficient and robust capabilities. The aerospace industry is already standardized on Nastran as a platform, and we have this unique opportunity … to take this and develop it and offer it to our customers.”

Autodesk Nastran Analysis capabilities

Autodesk’s purchase of a NEi Nastran fills numerous gaps in their simulation offerings, adding more complex and powerful non-linear capabilities, more efficiency, and gives the company a scalable platform from which to move ahead.

Why NEi?

That is probably a better question. The answer is almost as simple.

NEi Nastran is the youngest of the big-three variants, and as such was likely in a better position to be purchased. Better still, the NEi IP includes some nice solutions and integrations that reach beyond the standard analyses you’d expect from Nastran, including*:

  • Tension only cable and shell elements
  • Multi-layer isotropic and orthotropic composite analysis support
  • Progressive Ply Failure Analysis (PPFA™)
  • Automated Surface Contact Generation (ASCG™)
  • Automated Edge Contact Generation (AECG™)
  • Automated Impact Analysis (AIA™)
  • Numerous 3rd party aviation specific software integrations

…and much more.

Autodesk NEi Nastran Acquisition Launch Vic Vendantham

Vic emphasized some advantages NEi offered and noted,

“NEi Software has done an incredible job working to establish themselves as the industry standard for aerospace…Autodesk is in a unique position where we can take that and expand it to a variety of industry segments.”

Additionally, Firehole Composites (or the company formerly known as Firehole Composites), partnered with NEi Software around 2010 in order to deliver some of the Helius:MCT composite technology noted above to NEi Nastran users. That technology is currently owned by Autodesk in their Simulation Composite Analysis software, and many users of Autodesk products including myself, were looking forward to that technology being handed down to other CAD and simulation products. Autodesk now has a great opportunity to deliver these.

Mitch Muncy, Simulation Product Manager for Autodesk (Formerly the Executive Vice-President of NEi Software) stated that one of the important factors in this purchase was NEi having aligned themselves with Autodesk’s efforts in software development. This permitting the extremely fast Nastran rebranding and immediate integration into Autodesk’s existing software. During his discussion, Mitch pointed out:

“We wanted to be industry leaders in composites, so we were focused on putting in advanced technologies…Nastran has strong capabilities in a wide range of uses, but we also wanted to make it easy to use.”

Possibly the most compelling reason for purchasing NEi is their Nastran In-CAD product that was built for the SolidWorks CAD environment. Autodesk has successfully integrated other SolidWorks based purchases into their Flagship Inventor 3D CAD software in the past. This purchase gives Autodesk Inventor users the full power of Nastran including non-linear solutions, right inside their CAD environment. That product is already being marketed as Autodesk Nastran In-CAD 2015.

Vic added,

“One of the big assets that NEi Software brings to the table is the extensive industry expertise that they have put in place. They have already focused on advanced materials… so there is an opportunity for us to very quickly make an impact through advanced materials technology. NEi Software also has expertise in the aerospace industry, and we see this as an opportunity to continue to contribute in that space as well as push into other industries like automotive for example”.

Autodesk Nastran Launch Future Success

Thoughts

Nastran is wonderful. I have enjoyed working with Siemens PLM FEMAP / NX Nastran and am looking forward to seeing how NEi’s (now Autodesk’s) variant handles some problems I have encountered. The benefits from this purchase seem innumerable, and nearly impossible to choose my favorite; Scalability, Non-linear materials in Autodesk Inventor, specialized aeronautical studies integration? Autodesk has already let some of the solver technology loose, which we will look at in our next issue.

References and sources

* Information gathered from the NEi Nastran website

Images courtesy of Autodesk, Inc.

Autodesk Simulation Nastran Launch : Where They are Now

When Autodesk purchased NEi in early May, 2014, they said absolutely nothing. A hint got around quickly but still nothing official was stated until Derrek Cooper, Director of Simulation at Autodesk, released a teaser that seemed to keep the public demeanor at an even murmur. Still there were people all over the industry a bit uneasy about what this all meant, and just how much did Autodesk buy?

The company invited the media out to their Lake Oswego office to introduce some key people, initiatives, and to explain what was really happening with NEi Nastran, and why.

NEi Software Acquisition

Autodesk’s Simulation Business Line Manager, Vic Vendantham, discussed the details of the NEi purchase, how it was handled, and exactly how much NEi intellectual property (IP) was acquired, and most importantly, how it will affect Autodesk’s simulation portfolio.

Autodesk NEi Nastran Acquisition Launch Vic Vendantham

How Much of NEi was Purchased?

All of it. As stated in the press briefing,

…there will be no further branding of software by NEi.

Numerous former employees of NEi have joined Autodesk, including Executive Vice-President, Mitch Muncy.

Autodesk Purchases NEi Nastran

Why Buy More Simulation?

Autodesk needed an efficient and powerful non-linear solver; Period.

Autodesk has invested heavily in Simulation in the past decade. Most of their simulation products are based on purchased IP, including:

  • Inventor Professional Static Stress Analysis Environment – Plasso
  • Simulation Mechanical – Algor
  • Simulation MoldFlow – Moldflow Corporation
  • Simulation CFD – cfdesign
  • Simulation Composite Design – Firehole Composites
  • And now Nastran – NEi Software

Autodesk’s simulation power-users have been watching to see what the company would do to fill in the ‘non-linear’ gap. The company’s Simulation Mechanical software is a powerful analysis package, and already offers dynamic analysis and non-linear material types, as well as basic multi-physics handling such as thermal stress, etc. Autodesk’s Inventor CAD software lacks non-linear capabilities in its simulation environments, as well the company’s newly developed Sim 360 product. However where no one thought any advancement would be made in Inventor, Sim 360 was thought of as a possible candidate for such support.

There is a line however, that gets crossed even in Simulation Mechanical in terms of efficiency of not only the iterative solver, but also some multi-physics workflows and general software limits. Analysts that have tried a variety of simulation platforms can attest to the complex assembly handling and wide possibilities that Nastran offers.

Autodesk has quietly acknowledged these needs, but previous actions and statements made by the company have led many to believe that their focus would remain on the market that their products were more widely used in, i.e. the Small-Medium Business (SMB) manufacturing and design market. Companies in the heavily entrenched aviation and automotive industries rely on more complex solutions provided by other software vendors, including Nastran based solvers.

Why doesn’t Autodesk simply develop a more capable transient and non-linear solver? We will answer that very question in our upcoming article.

Autodesk Releases Official Statement about NEi Nastran Purchase

The morning of our Autodesk Nastran press briefing in Lake Oswego, Autodesk released this official announcement regarding the NEi Nastran purchase.

The company has officially purchased the NEi intellectual property including NEi Nastran engine, one of the industry’s relied upon non-linear analysis solvers. While this doesn’t really change a lot for Siemens FEMAP users licensing the NEi Nastran solver for example, it does put the solver direction and intelligence directly in Autodesk’s lap.

This has allowed them to add Autdesk Nastran 2015 to Simulation Mechanical already, and to offer a new product for Autodesk Inventor and D’assault SolidWorks users called Autodesk Nastran In-CAD.

Autodesk Nastran In-CAD - Inventor Overview

The press release offered the following statement from Ian Pendlebury, Senior Director of Simulation at Autodesk:

“Since 2005 Autodesk has been consistently adding new technology to its Simulation platform with the goal of building a comprehensive cloud-based portfolio that spans Finite Element Analysis, Computational Fluid Dynamics, plastics and composite solutions…Autodesk’s acquisition of NEi Software and the introduction of Autodesk Nastran and Autodesk Nastran In-CAD reinforce this long-term strategy to broaden our footprint in the mechanical simulation market as part of Autodesk’s Digital Prototyping toolset.”

After the press meeting this week, we were able to sit down with Autodesk and NEi’s executives and discuss the direction the company is taking and exactly how much of the NEi IP was purchased. Those details and more will follow this announcement.

YouTube imagery and video furnished courtesy of Autodesk, Inc.

Design Highlights for August

NASA Develops Multi-Alloy 3D Printing Process – RT.com

August 3rd, 2014. image Researchers at NASA’s Pasadena based Jet Propulsion Lab are actively working with a process that 3D prints an object composed of more than one metal alloy. The team has been working on the project since 2010, after being inspired by wanting to improve on methods of combining parts made from different materials. The team has developed a method of changing the metal powder at will, and using a customized laser sintering process that adds layers tangentially on a rotating shaft. The article noted gradient alloy objects have been developed in the past, but not with definitive separate parts in a single mass. Some possible uses were proposed such as an object with different melting temperatures, densities and even magnetic properties.

Edit:

A far more detailed review was found at Design Engineering.com, discussing the linear process that has been developed, some drawbacks with brittleness and their workarounds. Additionally, Design Engineering pointed to the full scientific report on the radial deposit process.

The Diverging State of PDM – Lifecycle Insights

By Chad Jackson on Friday, March 28th, 2014. image I enjoyed reading Chad Jackson’s take on the changes that are taking place in the data management space especially after we did our look to 2015. Chad noted how the Product Data Management (PDM) across the industry began to more towards the cloud in a similar path, but sometimes different methodologies. The thing that was significant to all is that everyone was moving together in a common direction. However since 2013 things have begun to fragment, and Chad discusses specific examples of how this is starting to occur, and what the strategies are behind these diverging methodologies. I liked Chad’s statement here:

“This stands as the antithesis of Autodesk’s and Dassault Systèmes approach, which is the automate the manage and tracking of changes as much as possible. GrabCAD’s approach is to give the market what they want. The approach for Autodesk’s and Dassault Systèmes is to be more visionary. [SIC]“

Siemens CAE & Test Symposium 2014 – Siemens

“Smarter Decisions, Better Products” image Siemens has announced their CAE & Test Symposium that is planned for October 22-23, 2014 on a boat of all things – Queen Mary in Long Beach, California. This is the former NX CAE Symposium. Siemens has rebranded the symposium to reflect their expanded capabilities especially after the purchase of LMS International NV in 2012. This should represent the entire lineup of testing and simulation software under their roof. LMS, by the way, was a strategic acquisition and gave Siemens some well-regarded capabilities. Here is a quote from the Siemens 2012 press release: “Siemens will become the first product lifecycle management (PLM) software company to provide a closed-loop systems-driven product development solution extending all the way to integrated test management.” I’d really like to attend this symposium to see how they intent on moving forward with all the luggage they are now carrying.

The One True Part Number System – GrabCAD

By Ed Lopategui on August 5th, 2014. imageEd did a great job on this somewhat humorous write-up, looking at the differences between people’s (often heated) arguments over structured vs. non-structured part numbers. There is significant truth in both arguments, but Ed called for a balance and flexibility that allowed for things to work together. Some items he suggested are:

  • A temporary pool of simple numbers in early-stage design
  • Easy re-identification
  • Gaps in numbering to permit grouping
  • Numbers evolve as the design matures
  • Include only the minimum information, and decide how much that will be.

What is interesting is that these might be considered what GrabCAD has in the works for their Workbench service, which is rapidly evolving as we speak, and has a lot of eyes on it (including my own).

Ansys Acquires SpaceClaim

ANSYS acquires SpaceClaimANSYS announced on April 30th, 2014 that it has purchased SpaceClaim for the sum of $85 million in cash. Now that is a very interesting turn of events. Why? Because it puts ANSYS in the position to offer a well established history-free CAD software to a world that is demanding similar performance, all the while paving the path to a simulation driven manufacturing market populated by their well regarded (and often major client demanded) analysis software.

SpaceClaim’s history-free modeling platform allows users to create and manipulate any 3D-CAD models, no matter what software created them. Having SpaceClaim’s clean UI and history free CAD option with ANSYS software should mark a significant point in the ANSYS “Simulation Driven Product Development” strategy.

The Press Release

The announcement made by ANSYS in this press release also noted:

“This transaction is consistent with our strategic vision and M&A criteria, and accelerates our technological product roadmap to enhance our customer offering and drive growth,” said Jim Cashman, president and CEO of ANSYS. “SpaceClaim is an exciting addition to our portfolio, as it addresses unmet 3D modeling needs in the conceptual modeling, manufacturing and 3D printing spaces, which represents an audience of 5 million users. In addition to driving innovation, the addition of SpaceClaim helps ANSYS accelerate the growth of the simulation market by broadening our user base from analysts and expert users to the millions of design and systems engineers in the industry. We welcome the SpaceClaim team to ANSYS.”

Market Review

Some other interesting points noted by Monica Schnitger’s analysis:

  • ANSYS and SpaceClaim have been partners since 2007
  • ANSYS expects SpaceClaim’s revenue to be around $14 million this year
  • SpaceClaim’s 50 or so employees have moved to ANSYS except CEO Chris Randles and CFO Gregory Stott.
  • SpaceClaim has sold ~50,000 seats since the first release of its software
  • ANSYS states that the purchase will not affect the neutrality of the ANSYS model

She goes on to look at the expectation that ANSYS will be able to use this to expand it’s user base to 5 million seats. That’s a far reach from the noted 145000 seats of ANSYS in use (as of 2011). She however points out the long haul strategy [ed. umm.. REALLY long haul] that considers the 25 million engineers in manufacturing’s needs for better simulation and analysis capabilities, and 1.1 million commercial CAD seats. While most don’t want to move to simulation, some do, and many more will require it in the future.

My thoughts

Will ANSYS integrate SpaceClaim’s technology into their own CAD systems? No one has stated on way or another, but they certainly have the talent pool now. My thoughts are beginning to turn to certain CAD vendors that offer new modeling technologies alongside well positioned simulation platforms, and what this might mean for them.

What is certain is that ANSYS has a great opportunity to continue to market and sell SpaceClaim’s great CAD platform to the industry’s greater demand for history free, easy-to-use CAD software, while paving the way for CAD users, both old and new, to adopt ANSYS simulation.

Image from ANSYS.com

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