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Tag Archives: Simulation

Autodesk Inventor 2016 R2 – Shape Generator

As per John’s recent post (“Inventor: October Update and Move Away from Annual Releases“), subscription customers are in for a treat with the availability of what I like to call the R2 Subscription Bonus Pack. This update provides new tools and features to Inventor’s already extensive “Professional Grade” toolkit.

By claiming Inventor is Professional Grade, Autodesk is aiming to have it be an “end-to-end product development environment.” Part of the reason they are able to accomplish this is by leveraging technology from other products in their ever-growing product portfolio. R2 contains three main “buckets” of enhancements:

  • ForceEffect integration for upfront concept engineering
  • Shape Generation to build structurally efficient parts
  • Improved IDF import

Shape Generation

The Shape Generator was a real “ah-ha” moment for me in that I realized that topology optimization wasn’t just for 3D printing and plastics. There is a potential here for any industry using Inventor. To read more about Autodesk’s path to introducing Shape Generation, take a look at my recent article “The more things change: Generative Design”

Inventor 2016 R2 - Welcome To Shape Generator

According to Autodesk, Inventor is the first product to offer Shape Generation inside the CAD application.

“This release is more than just an update. It’s the future of true ‘computer-aided’ design”

Shape Generation is a conceptual design tool that relies on finite element methods to optimize material for a defined set of criteria. You specify the boundary conditions, the loads, and the target and it figures out how to remove or deform the material to hit the target. The result is a 3D mesh, which you can reference back into your model to refine your design.

Shape Generation in Action

The process of Shape Generation follows the typical FEA process…

  1. Start the Environment
  2. Assign / adjust materials
  3. Apply constraints
  4. Apply loads
  5. Preserve Regions
  6. Adjust the Settings
  7. Generate the shape

To start the process, with the desired part model open, select Shape Generator from the 3D Model ribbon tab. Alternatively, Shape Generator is now an option from the New Study dialog within the Stress Analysis environment… same toolset, just two ways of getting there.

Inventor 2016 R2 - Shape Generation Ribbon Location

The material will default to the material assigned from the modeling environment. To adjust this select Assign from the Material panel and make adjustments as required.

Inventor 2016 R2 - SG Materials

Three options are available for constraints: Fixed, Pin, and Frictionless. These are exactly the same as you would find within the Stress Analysis environment. Use Fixed to remove all degrees of freedom from the selected edge / face / vertex. Pin is used to represent a hole on a cylindrical support.  Frictionless prevents a surface from moving (deforming) in the normal direction… aka, it stays flat (parallel)

Inventor 2016 R2 - SG Fix Constraint

Loads contain many options, that can be applied to vertexes, edges, and faces. The point is to load the model as it will be in the real-world, using whichever combination of loads required.

Inventor 2016 R2 - SG Force

Preserve Region is a tool specific to the Shape Generation Study environment. With this, you specify features that you do not wish to change during the shape generation process. The selected regions are specified as boxes or cylinders.

Inventor 2016 R2 - SG Preserve Shape

Within the Shape Generator Settings specific the target mass reduction and the mesh density. Remember that the greater the density of the mesh, the longer the process will take to run. [Cloud processing is not included in this release, hopefully in the future]

Inventor 2016 R2 - SG Settings

With everything set it times to click the Generate Shape button and wait for the magic to happen. Depending on the density of the mesh and the complexity of the model, this may be a get-up and go-and-get-coffee opportunity.With the analysis complete, you can promote the shape either as an exported STL file (for 3D Printing) or into the active model to compare against the existing model.

If you are interested in more about the theory of Shape Generation the Inventor help includes a section (“Validation Problems”) for reference.

Inventor 2016 R2 - SG Help

Feature Image: Wire mesh” by haru__q

Inventor: October Update and Move Away from Annual Releases

The April 2015 release of Autodesk Inventor was packed with some really nice features. Some of these included AnyCAD to coincide with the previous addition of Inventor’s integrated CAM software, Inventor HSM.

In alignment with the changes to the company’s licensing policies, large annual releases are being moved away from in lieu of smaller release cycles, like quarterly updates.

That said, Autodesk has announced that the first of such large updates is coming at the end of October. This update will be available to Inventor subscribers, as will all updates in the future. Subscription customers already have access to great computing services on the cloud, such as cloud solving, and the company intends on continuing that into the future as well.

3 New Enhancements

Shape Generator

Shape Generator is Autodesk’s Topological Optimization tool. Autodesk has been working with Topological Optimization for about a year now. Topological Optimization is a process by which a finite element model is refined into a shape that has been optimized for mass or strength to perform a specific task. I am quite pleased to see it appear in Inventor.

Inventor 2016 R2 - SG Meshed Part

See Mike’s Inventor Shape Generator overview here (Autodesk Inventor 2016 R2 – Shape Generator)

Force effect

Force Effect, Autodesk’s easy to use 2D statics calculation tool, has been available on mobile devices for some time. It was the second thing I installed on my iPhone, just after my Japanese language references. After much customer requests to have Force Effect in Inventor, it’s finally here.

Inventor 2016 R2 - ForceEffect01

Force Effect will be tied to A360, Autodesk’s cloud collaboration service. Mobile and web users can upload their Force Effect static calculations to A360, and then tie those calculations within an Inventor 2D sketch. Those features can then be constrained to Inventor sketch profiles; any Force Effect changes saved to A360 will update the sketch (and ultimately the Inventor model) when the model is opened. This is awesome! Users are prompted to update or not as they choose.

Electromechanical design

Autodesk continues to push their mechatronics design by including additional functionality within Inventor, a move I think is quite necessary.

Inventor 2016 R2 - IDF Import Options

Inventor’s library database files (.ldf extension) have been updated with additional filtering and options. For example, electronics boards can be imported into inventor, but without components of specified size thresholds (you can filter out all the tiny capacitors, etc.). When asked, the company noted that the Inventor specific harness functionalities were not fully integrated into the library at this time, however they are considering options like this in the future.

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.


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

Design & Motion interview Luke Mihelcic to find out some of the nitty gritty surrounding Autodesk’s latest simulation tool, Autodesk Flow Design. Both John & Scott conducted this one simultaneously, which Luke took in his stride but the result was a lot of fun, we hope you enjoy. Continue Reading

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