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 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
- Prestress Static and Normal Modes
- Thermal Stress
- Assembly Modeling with Contact
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’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.”
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 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.
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.