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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 : 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.

A Window into Autodesk Fusion 360′s Near? Future

A Window into Autodesk Fusion 360's Near Future

Just a quick one today. I recently came across these videos showing off potential implementations of simulation and design accelerators in Autodesk Fusion 360. There’s some pretty cool stuff in them, so I thought I would share them with our readers and offer some comments on each one. I’ll get the ball rolling with simulation.

Optimization

Now that is a pretty sweet pre-design, proof of concept tool! However, the downside is the potential precedent they could set for unconscious incompetence. These kinds of early stage “monkey see, monkey do” analysis tools are pretty compelling, especially if they are used during the bidding stages to win jobs or at least allowing you to write off poor design ideas and zero in on the better of the bunch. But they certainly are not suitable replacements for grown up simulation and real world product testing. Is this something you would use?

Too Hot To Drop

I’m no simulation expert, but drop tests from what I understand are safe enough to make ‘fool-proof’ in this way. For the most part there is no need to over-complicate the issue with high-end simulation tools. In this case here though, I would imagine the limitations would come in when your model becomes too complex for it. But again, this should probably only be used during the early stages of the design process.

Gearing Up

Seeing these types of tools appearing in Fusion 360 is giving me the willies. As a faithful Inventor user that is. It’s nice they are being put into the product, but it does increasingly make me wonder when the cross over between the two products becomes great, what will happen? Fusion 360 is just such great value for money. The Gear Feature shown at the end is badass! It means you can focus on your design in a simplified cylindrical and/or conical way, then scoot around adding Gear Feature’s when you’re hot to trot. Lovely! It’s that kind of stuff that makes Fusion 360 scary for Inventor… but then again. Just look at T-Splines. The Inventor development team now have some excellent internal competition to keep them on their toes, but also a great reference to step back, admire, pole around in and learn from.

Driving Me Nuts

I’ve recently been mucking about a bit with SolidWorks as a result of supporting HSMWorks during my day job. One of the things those two products together do very, very well, is holes. The SolidWorks Hole Wizard combined with the HSMWorks Drill Wizard is a sight to behold. It demos bloody well, but frankly it impresses because it’s a huge productivity tool and it WORKS! Well from the testing I have done it works, I have no doubt people can break it. This bolted connection tool in Fusion 360, looks to deal with some of the shortcomings found in Inventor’s hole tool, the most obvious of them is the ability for this tool to place a hole on a curved surface. I hope to see this turn into a really powerful hole & bolted connection tool, if it does, as I stated previously it should drive long overdue improvement of the Inventor Design Accelerator tools as well. Incidentally, if a SolidWorkesque Hole Wizard is something you would like to see in Inventor, I’ve created an Inventor Hole Wizard idea on the Ideastation you can vote for.

What’s New in Autodesk Simulation Products for 2015

 

Autodesk Simulation Products for 2015Autodesk has been working on their Simulation products both in the cloud and on desktop platforms.

This year’s lineup will include:

  • Autodesk Simulation Mechanical
  • Autodesk Simulation CFD
  • Autodesk Simulation Moldflow
  • Autodesk Simulation Composite Design
  • Autodesk Simulation Composite Analysis
  • Autodesk Robot and Structural Analysis
  • Autodesk Simulation 360

The changes to the products vary, and the following is simply a highlight of the big ticket items. We’ll go into more usability and performance enhancements in detail as product specific information becomes available in the weeks to come.

Autodesk Simulation Portfolio for 2015

Autodesk Simulation Mechanical

  • Decoupled design scenarios
  • Asynchronous workflows with Solver Manager
  • Non-Linear contact manager
  • Usability Enhancements in Linear Dynamics
  • Free Surface Models

Autodesk Simulation CFD

  • Advanced turbulence models
  • Simplified heat sink models
  • Refrigerant phase change

Autodesk Simulation Moldflow

  • Microchip encapsulation
  • Enhanced Speed and accuracy with Linux Support
  • Gate freeze accuracy improvements
  • Warpage and overmolding capabilities
  • Conformal Cooling Channel analysis with Simulation CFD

Autodesk Simulation 360

  • Thermal Stress derived from CFD results

Autodesk Simulation Composite

The announcement  of Autodesk’s purchase of Firehole Composites isn’t really news, but this is the first release cycle that the products have been featured in, so we are listing them here.

The Helius: Composite Pro product is featured as Autodesk Simulation Composite Design and gives users the ability to design simple structures and receive basic structural feedback without having to perform laborious hand calculations and approximate material constants.

Their Helius: MCT now becomes Autodesk Simulation Composite Analysis and offers a more complete and comprehensive analysis tool that includes my favorite addition: delamination prediction.

Don’t forget to check out Scott’s Product and Factory Design Suite changes for 2015.

Images shown hereon were furnished by Autodesk, Inc.

FORE! CFD just went mainstream

A couple of weeks ago John & I got to Interview Autodesk Product Marketing Manager, SimulationLuke Mihelcic. Some of you will have read about Autodesk’s launch of Autodesk Flow Design. Some of you may have even seen it feature as part of the Super Bowl. I don’t know about you lot, but we were pretty impressed that Autodesk managed to feature so prominently as part of the jewel in the crown of America’s greatest past time (some might say). Luke did an incredible job of fielding alternating questions from New Zealand and Florida simultaneously, while we all had fun doing so. Anyway, let’s crack on with the goods shall we?

Note: This interview wasn’t recorded unfortunately, so Luke’s responses have been paraphrased throughout.

Autodesk Inventor Flow Design FORD Pickup

D&M: Why didn’t Autodesk Flow Design get a standard Autodesk Simulation name?

Luke: With Autodesk Flow design we are targeting the designer market, rather than the traditional simulation audience. Flow Design is very similar to Autodesk Simulation DFM (Design For Manufacturability) in the sense they are both purpose built with a narrow focus. It does one thing and does it very well. Not only do we have the standalone version, but both Inventor and Revit have Add-Ins. This introduces a familiar ease of use and level of feedback appropriate for an associate degree level individual and maybe an engineer. Additionally it’s very geometry tolerant, unlike full blown simulation tools. With this in mind it’s quite likely Flow Design will mostly be used for mechanical or architectural products. That’s why simulation isn’t in the name, it’s more about helping to guide the design & make sure the basic design specifications are being met at an early stage. I know one of the things we want to do is build purpose built tools for specific applications, so don’t be surprised if you see more purpose built tools.

D&M: Is there a cost benefit?

Luke: Cost benefit is tough to measure, but there definitely is one. For example, you currently do wind tunnel testing.  Every time you do a different configuration, you are charged for that configuration.  With Flow Design, however, you can reduce the number of physical wind tunnel tests by optimizing your design and possible configuration before you go to the testing facility.

In addition, you’re not doing any wind tunnel testing or conceptual design simulation. A problem with design later in the development process causes you to have to re-work it when it’s more expensive. Had you used Flow Design early in the process, however, you could have optimized the design and reduced the amount of design re-work.

D&M: Is Autodesk changing tack slightly with this? In the sense that this tool seems more appropriate for pre-design, whereas the full blown simulation tools are more appropriate for post design validation?

Luke: We’re not changing, but adding a new tactic instead. We’re trying to create a new audience since no one is creating these designer level tools.

D&M: How are you making it easier to understand the results?

Luke: Flow design basically just gives you lift & drag results. As long as you know what they are, you can look at what those mean & look at changing the design to alter those figures. One of the most powerful aspects to Flow Design is the CAD application integration. This translates to the ability to adjust the design and receive immediate feedback. Ideally designers don’t want to wait for a simulation to run, so that feedback needs to be fast and Flow Design doesn’t disappoint. As you play around with the design and see the result of those changes, it builds your understanding of the results, it teaches you to recognise better results. So in that respect, the visuals give you the lion’s share of the feedback for those who don’t understand that as much. For example, you might want to try to limit recirculation & streamline flow etc… It’s really about the visuals, just like DFM.

D&M: This brings up the next question nicely… Is the solver desktop based?

Luke: Autodesk Flow Design is not a cloud solving tool, it runs extremely fast locally. The development team have done a lot of creative things under the hood to achieve this. In most cases the product videos on our website & around the web are showing the tool running on a standard mobile workstation!

ANSYS Fluent & Autodesk Flow Design comparison

D&M: Have you done any benchmarking of this solver against wind tunnel results?

In terms of validation documents, you can access those materials here.  In addition, Luke wanted to pass along an even more detailed PDF with links to relevant information.

D&M: The validation document makes for interesting reading. It really is impressive how close Autodesk Flow Design is relative to highly respected & much more costly CFD software.

D&M: Is there any reason why this didn’t go straight onto the 360 platform?

Luke: Project Falcon was developed as an Autodesk LABS tool almost a full year before we had any cloud simulation tools. That said, we wanted to create tools that work where designers are using them now, and that is currently on the desktop. As designers and our target audience migrate to the cloud, however, we will re-evaluate how we want to deliver Flow Design.

D&M: What enhancements have been made since Project Falcon and prior to full release?

Luke: Most of the enhancements were within the User Interface. This started out as a very successful Labs project, but when people are being charged money they have difference expectations, so we added some polish to fulfil those. Performance has also been greatly improved, it’s pretty amazing seeing it running inside Autodesk Inventor. With regards to functionality, there aren’t any new tools, it’s still all about wind speed & direction.

D&M: Does it handle multi fluids? Such as water & air flow analysis for marine applications?

Luke: There have been a few requests for multi fluids. But it’s air only at the moment. The challenge with water, is most people want it to be free surface, which is a whole ‘nuther ball of wax, it really is full blown CFD. Plus it doesn’t really fit the target audience. The person wanting to do free surface simulation is probably a full blown engineer or analyst. So we probably won’t see that coming. In addition it’s purely external airflow, so it’s no good for pumps etc.

D&M: Which area do you see this specific focused approach to simulation being used next?

Luke: Designers already have crazy ‘early on’ tools already, such as the Force Effect group of applications. We really want to make sure we have the right tool, for the right person, at the right time in the design process. We have done a really good job hitting people with mid-range tools & then full on high end SIM tools with CFD & Mold Flow. We will probably start to see ‘point tools’ to address the gap between Pre-Design and Post-Design, along the lines of tools seen in Inventor Professional, DFM & Flow Design are recent examples. This is how I see the really high level general road map.

Autodesk Simulation DFM

D&M: How have users reacted to the Inventor Add-in vs the standalone application?

Luke: The functionality is identical between the two. The add-in allows real-time modification, whereas the standalone application extends Flow Design out to Non Inventor and Revit users. The feedback has been hugely positive, especially in relation to how geometry tolerant it is. You just don’t have to clean up geometry, there’s no mesh for the user to deal with, and you just run your simulation.

D&M: What kind of adoption have you seen?

Luke: Well that’s to be determined. We will see more clearly once the Labs project expires.

D&M: Which industries are most prevalent?

Luke: With Autodesk Revit having an Add-In, the AEC industry can study any adverse effects of their designs. Of course there’s a lot of opportunity within the automotive industry, such as people making components and after-market parts. A lot of start companies would likely find this useful. The Morgan Motor Company is a great example of a company that could benefit in the early stages of their designs.

Autodesk Revit Flow Design City high rise simulation

D&M: So what does it cost?

Luke: $35 USD per month, or $210 per annum. We’re only offering term licenses which can only be purchased on our e-store. At this stage it’s only available in English. Unfortunately there’s a technical issue preventing us from selling it in Brazil at this stage. Our team is working on resolving it ASAP.

D&M: What support is available for Flow Design?

Luke: Basic support is included which will primarily be executed via email and the Autodesk support forums.

D&M: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us Luke, as always it was a pleasure!

Design and Motion have been given access to Flow Design, so we will setup it up and take it for a spin. Keep an eye out for a post in the next couple of weeks.

To cap off this interview, take a look at Flow Design in action at Super Bowl XLVIII in the videos below:

What does everyone think about this Designer tailored approach to simulation? Let us know in the comments below.

Special thanks to the Autodesk PR team for choreographing the supporting information for this interview.

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Simulation Mechanical | Contact Layer Tip

Autodesk Simulation Mechanical Layer ControlDid you want to see exactly how Autodesk Simulation Mechanical is interpreting your contact pairs? This is how!

Layer Control

Head over to the Draw tab on the Ribbon. In the Design Panel you should see Layer Control. Picking this will start a small dialog that controls the visibility of the layers in the current model.

Autodesk Simulation Mechanical Layer 15 contact surface

Uncheck all but Layer 15. This contains the contact pair mesh. In the image above a large surface from each mating component was selected to define the contact. The result on Layer 15 shows how Simulation Mechanical interpreted that contact.

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