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.
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’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.
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.
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.
“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”.
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.