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Autodesk Nastran In-CAD: Results

During our test drive with Autodesk Nastran In-CAD, we prepared a simple linear static analysis, the setup of which went smoothly. The biggest benefit was at the very least learning how Autodesk expects Inventor users to behave around a more robust simulation model and Inventor acting as a pre-processor for Nastran. In this article I will take a look at those results using Inventor now as the post-processor, how they were configured, and then some closing comments regarding the entire experience.

Results

The results were consistent with what you’d expect.  Each results plot can be configured with the typical smoothed and contoured visualization. A well simplified configuration dialog allows users to configure the results plots with a basic set of options. I know that the company is looking at how users feel about this particular part of the UI; I feel that it is pretty easy to pick up on and use.

Autodesk Nastran In-CAD Stress Results Plot

Tip: You can turn off your mesh view for specific components using the Mesh Table

Each 3D results plot is stored in the overall template, and can then be employed in any of the case studies as desired. The standard array of plot types are available including displacement, Von Mises stress, principle stress, and more. Cross sectioning is configurable within the plot setting, permitting the particular plot to always section the model. Additionally, models can be sectioned through the Inventor interface, and then view the results.

Autodesk Nastran In-CAD Display Options

Tip: Configuring cross section in the saved results plot template permits additional information such as the element results along the cross section to be reviewed graphically. This is not the case when simply reviewing plots with Inventor’s section views enabled.

 Nodal information per plot style can be reviewed by turning on the nodal display, and passing the cursor over the nodes.

Autodesk Nastran In-CAD Results Plot

 Tip: Nodal label displays can be turned on by right clicking the Mesh categories Node header, and picking Query Display.

XY plots can be made by nodal results (such as displacement) and by element (stress, etc.). These need to be added by picking the respective node(s) or element(s), by a defined group of these, or by picking a model entity, such as an edge.

Autodesk Nastran In-CAD Simple XY PLOT

The user interaction in this process was a bit awkward, and definitely not on par with the foregoing UI experience. Moreover, the configuration of the plots was limited, and once a plot was created, there seemed to be no manner in which to change it. If you wanted something different, you have to discard the unwanted plot, and start over with a new one (multiple plots can be saved).

Note: It occurred to me that it might be possible to establish the plot by group, and then alter the group, thereby altering the plot criteria. I have not confirmed this possibility.

Reporting was similar to other reports I have experienced with Autodesk analysis software. The basic model information is provided, along with basic narratives that contain maximum type results data. These narratives can be configured during the report generation, which is then saved to the hard drive in an HTML format, with associated 3D colored plot images.

Autodesk Nastran In-CAD Report clip

The plots images are cut from the current model state, which may or may not be sufficient to deliver a respectable report. This is also typical of most Autodesk analysis software. I have never developed reports from a stock report plot (from any post-processor), but instead use them as a starting point to create a final report. I believe that most analysts do this, as it is impossible to predict exactly what aspect is important in any particular study, and that Autodesk understands this. As such we often see little enhancement of the results engines. This could be enhanced by an option to designate pre-formatted plots for reporting (see my mote in the comments below).

I do like that the report system previews each narrative in an editable window before it is finalized, which can allow users to develop a more substantiate report to start from. While some reporting options are configurable (in the overall options of the In-CAD software), this is limited.

Tip: Remember to create a new Analysis subset! (Like a new Inventor ‘Scenario’) Subsequent runs of the same analysis will overwrite the previous results. If you (like I just experienced) get a failure and overwrite your previous good results, you will feel quite foolish.

Closing Thoughts

Nastran is a fabulous analysis solution, no doubt. Having the ability to reach out to Nastran directly from Inventor is also a welcomed reality now. In-CAD is easy to learn and you can be up and running in less than an hour.

You will need some hardware to run In-CAD. Meshing can rapidly become quite complex without having to beg for it. While you may be used to running Inventor comfortably on a machine, In-CAD will suck up resources quickly, depending on how carefully you limit your model DOF and mesh complexity. Without trying it, I feel safe in predicting that you won’t be doing anything substantiation on a standard CAD station while solving studies with plasticity in non-linear analyses. (Cloud solving anyone?)

In-CAD model setups will increase your assembly and model file size. This is something that should be considered and a reasonable strategy imposed from the start. It stores the results separately, but the Inventor files still take on a large amount of data compared to the original file size, but not outrageous.

I did find some areas that I either expect to see adjusted soon, or desire to have available. These include (but not limited to):

  • Nodal results labels color can’t be read through results color plots, nor can it be altered; contrasting colors should be more dynamic
  • Need tools to pick all nodes from component, entity, or element selection, including a concext menu option
  • Need component groups
  • Need Results Properties Sets – Users should be able to create a ‘results property set’ that is characterized by a result plot style, which will act as a container for components. You simply identify your desired components in the set. Results only show up for those components. Very handy for studies that involve numerous components, but where the results are focused on select areas
  • Make it easier to exclude specific components from the results; meshes can be turned off, but the results continue to consider those bodies
  • More comprehensive and editable XY plot results
  • Ability to save 3D results plots in state (e.g. components, view angle, cross sectioned, criteria, etc.) and designate these as well as XY plots for reporting, thereby automating the process a bit more.

While this UI is not tuned for diehard analysts, I think In-CAD is a good tool to allow Inventor users (that don’t want to leave Inventor and learn a very complex interface) to have access to the power that Nastran offers, as well as analysts that need a CAD platform for their studies. There are limitations using In-CAD, in that some features in the Autodesk Nastran solver are not accessible without another pre-processor.  In-CAD will not easily replace a full-featured pre-post-processor that analysts may be relying on currently.

Companies purchasing Nastran should consider the type of pre and post processor that they require. As I understand it, the Inventor In-CAD Nastran deck is compatible with any Nastran pre-processor. In areas where both CAD users and analysts will be using Nastran, a strategic purchase of both Nastran and Nastran In-CAD licenses would be a wise choice. While the cost is the same, companies would still need a processor for the Nastran only license.

Note: The Autodesk Nastran Editor is not available for the Nastran In-CAD license.

I feel it is important to mention here that Autodesk included the Nastran solver as an option to their subscribers of Autodesk Simulation Mechanical, their full featured Pre-Post processor and solving package. The last information I was given indicated that the company was doing so free of charge. If users need Nastran and more pre-post capabilities, they might be wise to consider Simulation Mechanical as a viable alternative.

Autodesk Nastran In-CAD: Test Drive

Recently I reviewed the features that Autodesk Nastran In-CAD offered to inventor users that wanted a lot more simulation power. While I have had some experience with Siemens FEMAP interface for Nastran, I have had very little experience with Autodesk’s new In-CAD UI. I thought that this article would be a good time to get in and try it from the perspective of a new user. (I should mention that I crashed an In-CAD seminar at Autodesk University for about an hour, so I did have an hour jump-start)

It should be noted here that Autodesk is selling In-CAD directly with Autodesk Inventor, as if to say “Here is our Nastran solver with an Inventor front end”. I am however writing this for everyone’s benefit, including existing Inventor users that are considering a Nastran solver.

Setup

The setup workflow is the same as one would expect:

  • Establish materials, boundary conditions, and loads.
  • Double-check everything
  • Run the solution which fails [beat head on desk]
  • Adjust the model and rectify and oversights
  • Run the solution – success
  • Review the results
  • … a laundry list of review and comparison to ensure that you are confident in the analysis model and results

Material Properties

Nastran In-CAD sorts components into material categories that are easily defined. It will pull in the material properties from the CAD model with the push of a button. In addition it can import material properties from any of the Inventor or Autodesk material libraries, or allow users to create their own.

Tip: Non-linear material types are supported, but will need to be created as these definitions are not in the existing Inventor Library (as far as I know).

Setup

Constraints, Contacts, and Loads all use similar dialogs that permit faces and bodies to be selected and deselected as desired.  Once selected, the particular conditions can be configured and applied as required.

Autodesk Nastran In-CAD Setup Panels

The Constraints dialog also contains buttons that identify limiting concepts (i.e. no rotation, free, symmetry, etc.) that directly relate to the 6 degrees-of-freedom check boxes that most analysts relate to.

Autodesk Nastran In-CAD Constraints Setup

Discerning between various surfaces is handled through the Inventor alternate surface explorer popup.

5 Contact types are available: General, Slide, Welded, Rough, and Offset Weld.

Autodesk Nastran In-CAD Contact Setup

Various limitations to contact proximity, penetration, etc. are available to configure.

Tips: Autodesk suggested using Welded for ‘Bonded’  types, and General for most other applications.

Load applications are equally simple. Load direction is applied by:

  • Individual component coordinate systems (X,Y,Z axes)
  • Normal to face
  • Geometric entity (by edge of selected geometry)

Tip: boundary conditions such as constraints and the like can be applied to different subsets

Meshing

I have always loved Nastran’s adaptive meshing. It does it well and effortlessly. I typically (not always but often) get mesh concentrations how I needed them without a lot of manipulation.

Meshing is carried out with both global refinement settings and individual component settings. One feature I like is the mesh properties table, where all the component mesh settings are managed in one setting, and are easily editable.

 Autodesk Nastran In-CAD Mesh Table

I liked this a lot. Nastran In-CAD also offers an element check, where In-CAD will inspect the model meshes for inconsistencies, such as Skew, Aspect, and Jacobian limits. The results of these can be highlighted in the model, making detection and adjustments much easier.

Autodesk Nastran In-CAD failed elements

Tip: In-CAD will allow you to return to Inventor to work as normal. Be very aware that once component geometries that are connected with an In-CAD study are altered, anything applied to meshes, including constraints and contacts will be fouled and subsequent runs will require the boundary conditions to be meticulously corrected unless very broad automatic detection settings are imposed (which can be costly in run time)

Solving

I chose to setup a simple linear static analysis for this article, so that it would solve quickly and I could get a feel for basic activities. Additionally, we were using a Lenovo P500 Thinkstation CAD platform provided by Lenovo for these “CAD user” type evaluations in order to frame this in a “CAD user” perspective for solve times. While most companies purchasing a Nastran license will be mating that to a serious workstation, I wanted to understand how the solving would fare on their existing workstations, should they want to hold off on an upgrade until later.

My first run was shoddy, and I was getting Jacobian warnings and an unexpectedly long run-time. I found one surface contact that was left to the system to determine, as well as some poorly defined mesh areas. I increased the density slightly, defined the last contact manually (which I prefer to do in Nastran), and added another constraint. The subsequent runs were cleaner with a speed that was on par with an upscale 16 GB CAD platform.

Autodesk Nastran In-CAD Output in Browser

Tip: Watch the convergence in the Output panel. This is a clear indication how Nastran is handling your model setup. If the convergences won’t get close to 100% and the iterations keep rising (within a reasonable amount of time) you may want to cut your losses and stop the analysis (and possibly reduce the model DOF).

Results to Come

Setup was quite easy to pick up on. The UI has been simplified in such a manner that it takes little review in order to setup what you want. Experienced users will get it immediately, and new users should find these methods quite easy to learn.

After the review I realized that I really need to spend a couple hours setting up a simple transient analysis with some alternate elements in order to get a better feel for the setup procedure, accessibility, and capabilities. We’ll do that in the future.

In the mean-time, I will return with the post-processing and results of this review, as well as an overall perspective for adopting this software.

Autodesk Nastran In-CAD: Interface and Features

Last year Autodesk purchased NEI Nastran. This was a good purchase because Nastran is a respected Name in analysis; it’s powerful and used in numerous industries. Furthermore, Nei developed a CAD embedded UI in Solidworks for the Nei Nastran solver, called Nastran In-Cad

Autodesk adapted In-CAD for Inventor, which now gives their Inventor users the ability to perform a large array of studies, including transient and non-linear analyses, right from the comfort of Inventor. Inventor acts as the pre and post processor for the Nastran solver.

We decided to take a look at In-CAD, and see how the UI and processor’s behaved. This article will focus on the basic features, and discussions on using the software, helpful tips, and results will be forthcoming.

User Interface

The UI is divided between a Nastran In-CAD tab, and the Browser.

Autodesk Nastran In-CAD UI

Image courtesy of Autodesk

Nastran In-CAD Ribbon tab

This displays a new set of Ribbon panels dedicated to the analysis model. These panels include settings, meshing tools, boundary condition applications, results plotting, etc.

Browser

The Browser is populated not only the Model and Assembly component sets, but three additional Nastran panels.

Nasrtan Model Tree

Nastran Model Tree is divided into the assembly and model groups. The Model group accounts for all boundary conditions and templates defined in the model. The analysis group assign these to individual analyses and subsets as the user dictates to accomplish different studies.

Nastran File

This gives users a look into the Nastran file data rather than trying to interpret everything through the CAD interface.

Nastran Output (Log)

The output window shows the progress of the Nastran run, including real-time convergence data. This browser window is displayed by default during the run process. Once solved, this output log can be reviewed as needed and the contents thereof are saved along-side the other Nastran model and results files.

Autodesk Nastran In-CAD Output

From this window the analysis can be stopped, paused, and resumed.

Autodesk Nastran solver

The Autodesk Nastran (formerly Nei Nastran) solver’s accuracy is routinely tested against the NAFEMS standards at every release. Mitch Muncy, Product Manager for Autodesk’s Nastran product came along with the Nei purchase, and has stated that the company had spent countless hours verifying every detail of the solver, to ensure that it met the advanced requirements of its customers in industries such as aviation and automotive.

Linear, static stress, thermal, and modal analyses

Prestress static – response of complex loading

Static fatigue – repeated loading cycles

Heat transfer – conduction and convection heat in examination of temperature distribution

Linear buckling – compression induced loss of stiffness

Linear statics – stress, strain, and deformation from applied static loads and constraints

Normal modes – component natural frequencies

Advanced analyses

Pre-stress normal modes- capture true stiffness when complex loading is present

Frequency response – structural harmonic response based on frequency-dependent loads

Random vibration fatigue – long-term structural robustness where operation must be characterized by power spectral density (PSD) inputs

Transient response – response through a period of time under the influence of constant or time-dependent loads

Random response – behavior due to imposed of random dynamic loads, such as road vibration, wave cycles, engine vibration, and wind loads

Nonlinear static and transient response – time-varying events including dynamic loading that result in resonant vibration or stress amplification

Superior surface contact, impact analysis, and automated drop tests – includes nonlinearities of large deformations, sliding contact, and nonlinear materials

Advanced material models – complex nonlinear phenomena, including plasticity, hyper-elasticity, and shape-memory effects

Composites – straightforward complex ply data, and progressive ply failure, including Puck and LaRC02 algorithms

Element Types and Modeling

1D, 2D, and 3D element types open a whole new world of modeling capabilities. Beam elements for example offer high performance connectivity in the model at a tiny fraction of the memory and processing power required to study a 3D meshed solid in the same situations. This offers flexibility that linear static analyses never offered.

Automatic bolt connector modeling with preload – simplified setup

Associative intelligent meshing

Autodesk Nastran In-CAD Inventor Meshed Model

Thoughts

We wanted to give a feel for this software to both Inventor users wanting more analysis power, as well as Nastran users that were considering a CAD based environment. The In-CAD interface brings Nastran to Inventor users, and puts a lot more power at their disposal. In our next edition I’ll take Autodesk Nastran In-CAD for a spin with a simple setup and analysis run, in order to try and give all parties a feel for what they might expect.

Autodesk Nastran In-CAD: Test Drive

Engineering: Java Airfoil Tools

I found this little gem while working on my engineering homework and our turbofan calculations. MH-Aerotools has developed a java based airfoil design tool that allows engineers to plug in existing airfoil geometries, or create completely new ones. Various standards are available, including NACA 65 series, such as the NACA 65010 I was working with. It’s free, and works pretty well.

Airfoil Creation Java Tools

Once the airfoil shape is established, various analysis tools can be brought up to study how the shape will behave with different incidences, angles of attack, Mach, etc.

Airfoil Analysis Java Tools

 

I wish it pulled out the a/c height to chord ratio that I needed for compressor calculations, but I may figure a good way to determine that here without having to take additional steps.

Links and images sourced from: 

http://www.mh-aerotools.de/airfoils/javafoil.htm

 

So I Have Fusion 360, Now What?

In the wake of the new subscription promotion, and a noticeable trend of Fusion 360 and A360 marketing as we head towards Autodesk University, I was inclined to know more about what is really going on in the Autodesk Fusion camp. The product and business team have taken a few sudden turns in the past, and few of us really have a grip on what’s going on.

The Promotion

Autodesk put out a promotion for Fusion 360 recently: Buy the annual subscription now at regular price of $300 USD / year, and receive a license upgrade to Fusion 360 Ultimate for as long as you maintain your subscription. That subscription is currently $1200 USD. Wow! That promotion is a fantastic deal, provided that the product will continue to be developed.

No Passing Sign

Solid Potential

The company has taken the product for a few turns along the course of its life. Initially, as Inventor Fusion, it was being developed as a test bed for new ways of approaching design problems, which rapidly formed into one hell of a disfeaturing platform and companion to Simulation software. As the product continued to grow and be proven, various CAD functionalities were handed off to Autodesk Inventor.

Inventor Fusion became Fusion 360 as it jumped to the cloud. Fusion 360 offered a host of benefits surrounding cloud technologies. One of my favorite benefits was the cohesive model platform, where upon the really slick SIM 360 product could sit right along-side the incoming CAM 360 platform, which I wrote about in 2012. Fusion was continuing to be enhanced with support for parametric and history based modelling, as the product team got a feel for what was needed in the market that it was being designed for. There was a lot of momentum, and a lot of possibilities to benefit the small to medium design business In the future.

Then something happened…

A360 seemed to stall; PLM 360 began to list with no real direction towards the seemingly obvious needs of the SMB market. The Simulation team decided that their efforts needed to support the robust needs of analysts, and SIM 360 was removed from the 360 platform and … well stopped being SIM 360 (While I wholeheartedly agree with the enhancement that analysts need, is there not room for that in the SIM 360 product?). The entire Simulation product line reverted to desktop with the cloud solve option appearing under the name of “Simulation FLEX”.

After a sudden surge of really nice, real-need design and engineering enhancements last year, the Fusion product team continued to state that Fusion 360 was not being developed to fulfill the larger scope of mechanical engineering needs. What in the hell is going on?

The only thing that seemed to be consistent was CAM. Whether it was obvious to the key players or not, this all left the SMB design market not knowing if any portion of the 360 platform would meet their realistic needs in the future. Some other vendor’s cohesive product plans started to look more attractive with a more obvious (and slightly less aggressive) plan into the future, and more obvious attention to design and engineering requirements in the SMB design space.

Carl Bass, Cohesiveness, and a New Data Platform

The product teams’ goals and agendas had begun to separate, and as a result, pulled the cloud platform into fragments (or at least it appeared to). Carl Bass, Autodesk’s CEO recognized the need for communication and a unified direction across the products and began redirecting the company’s SMB cloud platform mission.

Carl told the 360 team players that he did not want people to have to purchase a list of licenses and have multiple disconnected tools: One application, one model, period.

Significant evidence of this appeared earlier this year with A360’s projected timeline. The company was suddenly more open about its plans, which included integrations for other products (including PLM 360) as the company crossed into 2015. Sure enough. PLM 360 emerged with numerous features that the SMB cloud space has been demanding, as well as a new core data platform, one that is shared with the 360 product line.

Fusion 360’s Future

Along with A360, PLM 360, and CAM 360, the Fusion team has become far more open about its direction as well (notice I didn’t say anything about SIM 360). Kevin Schneider, Director of Fusion 360, has released a post showing the immediate and future plans for Fusion 360.

  • Simulation is being added back in, including multi-body linear static analysis.
  • Continued development into 3D Printing
  • Sheet Metal
  • Exposed API
  • External References
  • Drawing capabilities
  • Reverse Engineering
  • Much more…

Autodesk Fusion 360 2015 Timeline

Courtesy of Fusion 360 team at Autodesk

Garin Gardiner, Sr. Business Development Manager for Fusion 360 noted, that Fusion 360 is built around the needs of many users that have been found dissatisfied with their current design tools. Industry segments such as consumer products and packaging, industrial design services, and contract manufacturers for example, are often over served by software vendors. “We are talking to a lot of customers in these industries and find that many struggle with the current tools, and are very excited with Fusion 360.”

Customer’s needs vary, and while we don’t necessarily agree on some points, the re-emergence of Fusion 360 as a cohesive, more capable part of a potentially unified 360 platform makes it the only product of its kind; one that has the potential of meeting the greater need of the SMB design business. Kevin Schneider’s list, and recent conversations indicate a strong inclination in that direction. Let’s hope they continue. I suspect we will hear about common core direction from Carl Bass at Autodesk University next month.

Santa Schneider’s Ultimate Promotion Extended

Autodesk has been running a ‘get in early’ package deal. If you buy a subscription license to Fusion 360 ($300 USD), you receive the Ultimate license ($1200 USD) at no extra charge, as long as you maintain that subscription. That’s a good deal. If that product matures to handle what I think it should be capable of, that’s an incredible deal.

If Carl Bass’ ‘one application, one model’ concept holds true, then all innovations for the 360 platform will funnel into Fusion 360 Ultimate: That’s parametric modeling on a proven CAD platform that can open almost any file format; one that de-features models like no other; with multi-body non-linear static analysis and animation; add to that 5 axis CAM with full toolpath simulation … did I forget anything ?

Ah, yes – for $300 USD per year. That Mr. Schneider, is insane.

Did Design & Motion subscribe to such a good deal? We jumped on that faster than a knife fight in a phone booth.

One of our primary focuses has been to bend technologies to the needs of SMB design and manufacturing. We decided to put Fusion 360 Ultimate to the test by porting the Design & Motion afterburning turbofan engine design to the Fusion 360 platform. While much of the supporting analysis for this will be done on Simulation CFD and Simulation Mechanical with Nastran, the engineering and base linear analysis will be completed in Fusion 360 Ultimate. Fusion team, don’t stop now.

Kevin Schneider’s Fusion team has brought Christmas early this year. Autodesk has extended the promotion for another month, which will now run until December 12th, 2014. If you wanted to get involved with what could be the best deal of the year, your business should consider purchasing the Fusion 360 subscription now. Christmas Sale Gift wrapped

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.

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