Autodesk Inventor Promotes Open Design with AnyCAD

Many organizations have a very mature 3D design process. It often involves a complex process dealing with vendors around the world, all using various design systems, PLM systems etc. In the heart of the war of 3D CAD, we have all tried various ways of working together, often via neutral file formats in an effort to come up with some sort of common standard. We have tried IGES, STEP and even Parasolid/ACIS at the kernel level. All have there pluses and minuses. The obvious minus is that they all lack intelligence. We as designers lose the design intent, the meta data that is embedded in the model as well as the ability to track change.

Many third parties have developed translators in an effort to keep the design process pure. But, the fundamental nature of a translator is that you risk losing the intelligence that you are trying so hard to capture. What happens if a change happens in the original model? Does that change propogate? How does the team know a change was made? What is needed is the ability to capture the intelligence and maintain a connection.This requires a rethink of how we view design systems. The idea that we should be open to appreciate that multiple systems exist, they will always exist. We as vendors need to consider how to work seamlessly with other systems whether they are direct competitors or not.

Enter Autodesk Inventor AnyCAD, launched this Spring in Inventor 2016. AnyCAD is integrated file interoperability technology that provides direct associative capabilities without the need for file translation. Imagine you are an Inventor house that works with a supplier that uses SolidWorks. You are designing a pedal assembly and one of the components that you use is being redesigned by your supplier. What version should you use? How can you both design in an open environment. In the video above, we see both systems displayed for clarity sake. The Inventor user inserts the SolidWorks component into their assembly. Along the way, changes are made to the SolidWorks model and are automatically updated in Inventor with FULL associativity. Not only are features changed on the model, but as intelligence is added to the SolidWorks model, it appears automatically in Inventor. This allows a seamless real-time design workflow that is open and transparent. The Inventor user can leverage the native SolidWorks model inside Inventor and can even perform a simulation using Nastran In-CAD to ensure it meets the specification of the overall design.

The takeaway here is that design is evolving. The tools are evolving and we as vendors are evolving. It’s an exciting time to be in the design and manufacturing industry. The fun continues. What’s next?

Join Autodesk at the International CAE Simulation Conference 2014

The Autodesk Simulation team will be attending and presenting at the International CAE Simulation Conference in Verona, Italy next week. The team will be there available to have open discussions about where we are going and how we can help. We are looking forward to connecting with our Italian friends and learning more about the challenges that you are facing.

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Specifically, we will be presenting on The Role of Advanced Materials in Lightweighting on Tuesday the 29th at 11a. We will discuss the trends we are seeing both near term and those that are in the experimental phase. In addition, we will discuss simulation tools that we have at Autodesk that help customers build confidence into the design and manufacturing process. Come see us and let’s have a chat.

Autodesk Nastran In-CAD: Powerful, Trusted, Embedded FEA

CAE Simulation tools have evolved significantly over the last 15 years. There have been a variety of advancements in the technology both from a software and a hardware perspective. In the early days, we were fortunate enough to take a few part assembly and solve a simulation in an hour plus. Often times the plus was a big plus. Nowadays, we are solving “system” level models in the matter of minutes. With the advancements in technology, comes an increase in expectation from the user community.

Engineers are under a tremendous amount of pressure to design great products, deliver on time and ensure the highest quality. We need tools that just simply work. We want what we want, when we want it. Some of us are full time simulation analysts and prefer a robust standalone tool that is flexible enough to allow us to get our job done, no matter what. Others prefer the simulation tools “embedded” in the design tools. Just because the tools are embedded, the expectations are still high. In fact, many that run the embedded tools use the technology on a regular basis. The expectation of this user persona is sometimes even higher than that of a standalone simulation user.

In the beginning, the concept of embedded simulation was revolutionary. Companies like Rasna and SRAC broke all of the rules and took fast, automated CAE and exposed it to the engineering world. Most users were thrilled that it even worked. Basic modal, linear static with some thermal was sufficient. Things have evolved over the years. Computing power is advancing, graphics have become more stunning and the overall capabilities are increasing. Some codes have stayed the course and simply evolved and improved on existing tech. Others have increased capabilities.

Nastran capabilities

But, in listening to users, the appetite for more is there. The increase of material exploration, reducing cost, increased pressure for aesthetically complex designs- the need for more power is on the rise. The power to do more. The power to stay true to the nature of embedded simulation, but offer some more advanced capabilities. These advanced capabilities need to be trusted and validated. Companies under pressure to deliver reliable products, require technology that they can trust.

Enter, Autodesk Nastran In-CAD. We at Autodesk are making some bold moves. Decisions driven by where we see the market going. Our focus is to deliver robust, high end capabilities in the way that our customers want to use out tools. We have a history of delivering both standalone simulation solutions, as well as “In-CAD” simulation capabilities. We are evolving these solutions to include the introduction of a trusted and validated version of an Autodesk Nastran solver. The main difference is that the In-CAD version offers a significant amount of simulation capabilities than your typical embedded FEA solution. Not only is it powered by the same trusted technology of our standalone tools, but its been designed to optimize the workflows of the design process. The capabilities above and beyond the typical embedded FEA tools include nonlinear materials and contact, transient simulations, composites simulations as well as fatigue. So far the feedback has been great. But, as we evolve, we are very interested in your candid feedback. Feel free to post here or the Autodesk Nastran In-CAD Forums or provide some Ideas of where we should be driving the product.

The Cloud Opens the Doors to Design Exploration for Manufacturers

There have been some interesting conversations in the CAE community around the benefits and drawbacks of the cloud. One of the points I find most interesting is around the idea of “Infinite Computing”. This is a phrase that we use here at Autodesk. Some people understand the context right away, some balk at the idea and many others are likely somewhere in the middle. What’s Infinite Computing really mean to us as users? Let’s take a look.

I’ve had the opportunity to be out ahead of the market and was involved in the early days of launching a cloud connected CAE product line – Simulation 360. I’ll spare you the sales pitch and focus on some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way.

Let’s first take a look at a short list of some of the problems we are trying to solve.

  • Computation demands are on the rise
  • Limited collaboration and communciation tools
  • Limited time and resources

Computation demands are on the rise

Model sizes are increasing. The desire to account for Multiphysics is increasing. But, more importantly the pressure to optimize is a common conversation. When I probe more on why users are not leveraging simulation more to optimize their design. Often, the most common response revolves around time. Not enough time in the day to fine tune and explore more design choices. Status quo has been that good enough will have to due for now. In some markets, maybe that is ok. But, more commonly we hear that competition is fierce and pressure to deliver faster, more innovative products has never been higher. What if you could do significantly more tomorrow than you did yesterday? What if you could exponentially increase your through put? I believe that is where infinite computing comes into play. In reality, we all appreciate that even with the cloud, computing is finite. But, the idea of elastic near-infiite computing is significantly better than where we are today.

Limited collaboration and communication tools

Even the best-in-class simulation users report that they struggle to communicate or collaborate efficiently. Each company has a variety of ways they document or share the results of their simulations. Some have a formal templated system that they meticulously document their findings and formally report their findings. Others simply create quick power points that are shared via email and others simply email. The cloud does provide an opportunity for change. We are already seeing the impact of tools like dropbox and Box. Ability to access data whenever and wherever. Imagine if you were able to access simulation data in real-time. Imagine even further that you were able to share images, data with your colleagues. Now imagine that all of this information was searchable and accessible. That is what the cloud brings to the table.

Limited time and resources

All of the above are great advancements in simulation. But at the end of the day, what we are trying to achieve significantly more than what we are able to do today. We are embarking on a cultural shift where computational resources are becoming accessible. Ability to access information is available on mobile devices. The ability to compete is real. Getting back to one of the major hurdles around simulation adoption is time. If we are able to explore our designs and run these simulations in parallel. What does that do for the design cycle? What does that do for time to market? What does that do to building confidence in our designs?

We are in early days when it comes to the cloud. Many of the speculations here are educated observations and predictions. Many are being proved as we speak, many require time and validation by the user community.

Surface Wrapping for CFD on Autodesk Labs

CFD engineers around the world deal with geometry from multiple sources. From various CAD systems, to various surfacing systems and more recently scanned data. Some of this geometry is “clean”, but most of it is not quite ready for meshing. In fact, most is nowhere near ready for meshing. Recent surveys, we found that CFD users were spending ~70% of their simulation time cleaning up geometry for meshing. 70%. That’s alot of time.

There are various manual methods and even a few automated utilities to make the process easier. But, the fact is, its the number one hurdle many of us face in getting result in any CFD application. The team at Autodesk is looking at a variety of methods to help make this process easier. The goal near term is to make it easier. The goal long term is to make it go away altogether.

One of these initiatives is Project Ventus. Ventis is greek for wind. We thought it appropriate as we are focusing on external aerodynamic simulations to start. These consist of the standard flow over planes, trains and automobiles. But in the Autodesk world, it also means flow over buildings, bridges and city landscapes. Each are unique in their own right, but all have similar geometric challenges. There are overlapping surfaces, gaps in the models, surface imperfections etc.

Project Ventus offers surface wrapping technology that allows users to take geometry from anywhere, as-is. It then automatically detects the imperfections and creates an external wrapped surface as an external skin of the model. This new wrapped model can then be brought directly into Autodesk Simulation CFD.

Surface wrapping technology has existed for a number of years, but usually requires a fair amount of expertise to dial in the controls properly. The goal of Project Ventus is to eliminate that need for expertise and work to automate the process. We are very interested in your feedback. Click here or the above link to sign up to test Ventus and let us know what you think. Project Ventus requires an active Autodesk Simulation CFD license.

Autodesk Simulation Flex: An Evolution of the Cloud

It’s no secret, Autodesk believes in the cloud. We’ve spoken about the benefits- computation, collaboration, storage, access etc. No other team has embraced the paradigm shift as much as the Simulation Group. We have been releasing, learning, tweaking our products to leverage the cloud over the past three years. We’ve witnessed first hand the birth of a new way of thinking about computing. As with anything new there have been some ups and downs. Let’s take a look at some of the things we learned along the way.

First, we started with what is now Inventor Optimization. We wanted to tackle a problem that plagued the design community. We wanted to create a solution that was super easy, almost automatic and allowed us to test the power of computation that the cloud brought to the table. What we delivered was a purpose built plugin that sits directly inside Inventor that allows non-experts to quickly setup a parametric optimization and leverage the power of infinite computing to identify the optimum design.

Next came along Project Cumulus. We wanted to up the stakes a bit and take what we learned from the design community and extend it to the Moldflow analyst community. We picked something a bit bigger and a bit heavier in computational requirements. The team connected our Design of Experiments (DOE) technology and the power of parallel solves via the cloud to provide a unique offering that has been bottle necked historically by computation time.

Two experimental projects that served two very different communities but they both had one thing in common, the need for computation. Taking what we learned, we wanted to broaden the circle and see if we could apply it in a more general purpose form.

Enter the launch of Simulation 360. This was a first of its kind. We took the family of Simulation desktop products that we had (Moldflow, Mechanical, CFD and RSA) and connected them to the Autodesk 360 cloud. Above is a fun video we put together to show you the offering in action (“I just saw a helicopter”). The service was offered on an annual term basis with “cloud credits” that you burned whenever you used the cloud for computing. Similar to a mobile phone plan.This provided a unique business model that customers didn’t have to heavily invest in numerous licenses for Multiphysics simulations and the additional expensive hardware required to run them. You could simply subscribe and pay for what you used. This model has been widely adopted by the community and we have had well over 200,000 simulation jobs run on the Autodesk 360 servers. Although we were pleased with the results, we also learned some things along the way.

One of the biggest takeaways was that the needs of the Community varied substantially. Some were heavy users, some used it occasionally and some used the cloud for burst computing. It became clear that we were in the early stages of a paradigm shift in computing, but in order to satisfy the needs of our customers, we needed to be flexible. We spent a better part of two years traveling around the world visiting customers, observing how they used the tools. The result, we tweaked the offering and changed the name to Autodesk Simulation Flex. It has all of the similar features as before but adds the ability to solve local. We found that small quick experimental jobs, quick tests of boundary conditions were better suited for local solving and the larger, heavier lifting was better left to the cloud. This hybrid service gives you the best of both worlds, allowing you to leverage the cloud when you need it but also not restricting you from getting your job done when you are traveling or away from an internet connection.

I believe the market as well as the technology will evolve over time. Right now, we are working and living in a hybrid world. This will likely be the case for the time being. But, it seems inevitable that we will all evolve as the tech evolves.

Curious what you think?



The Power of Visualization in CAE Simulation

The end result in any CAE Simulation revolves around conveying our results graphically. Whether it be a 2D graph or a high fidelity 3D visual image. Historically, in Simulation, we tend to be on the conservative side as we are focused on accuracy and the integrity of the results. But, wondering – should we push for higher fidelity realism in our visualization tools. Is there a place for it?

Check out the below video using Autodesk Simulation CFD and VRED.

The interesting thing is when I show this sort of thing to customers they seem to love it. But, to be honest, the results presentations I have sat through over the years are far from inspiring.

So, the question on this fun #SimulationFriday heading into summer. How important is it to have realistic visualization for simulation at your finger tips? Would it help you broaden the acceptance and “stickiness” of simulation within your organization? Are we content with the days of simple 2D plots and graphs? How about mobile, are we using phones and tablets to present results? Curious to hear what people think?

Autodesk Nastran added to a Simulation Mechanical Update

Autodesk has recently acquired certain assets of NEi Software. This is a big move toward a broader strategy that will unfold in the coming months. However, we decided to not make a formal announcement until we are ready to unveil specific parts of the overall plan.

Step one in the plan is to provide our Autodesk Simulation Mechanical customers with the best of both worlds. So, we posted a product enhancement to subscription customers that includes the industry proven Autodesk Nastran solver.

What’s new in the enhanced Simulation Mechanical:

  • Integrated Autodesk Nastran solver
  • Autodesk Nastran Editor for expanded workflows and results viewing
  • New meshing and selection options
  • Surface force distribution enhancement

There are four native Nastran analysis types supported in this release. They include:

  • Static Stress with Linear Material Models
  • Modal Analysis
  • Linear Buckling
  • Steady-state Heat Transfer
Here is a quick demo showing the entire workflow done in the Simulation Mechanical Interface and running the Autodesk Nastran solver.

The above analysis types support the full workflow in the Simulation Mechanical interface. However, users have access to the entire Nastran solver. For any advanced analyses not supported in the Sim Mechanical interface, they can use the Autodesk Nastran Editor or any other 3rd party tools.

There are many more things to come in this space. I am interested to hear what people think and where they would like us to take this technology.

CONNECT! 2014 European Moldflow User Meeting

Every year at this time, the best and the brightest in the Moldflow community gather in a handful of locations across Europe. The event is called CONNECT! and as the name implies the goal is to share openly about experiences, successes and struggles within the Plastics and Advanced Materials industries. I attended the event in Frankfurt which was a packed house of over 170 attendees. It’s hosted by MF Software, a Gold Partner for Autodesk and reseller of Autodesk Moldflow.


This years event had a number of presentations from customers as well as a very well known researcher in the area of fiber orientation, Professor Charles Tucker. The topics ranged from conformal cooling, to light weighting to advances in research and development. One thing that sets the plastic injection simulation world apart is that many of these companies are on the bleeding edge of manufacturing. They are constantly pushing themselves to develop higher quality products with faster and cheaper methods. Many are exploring new methods and working with Autodesk simultaneously to develop the method and the simulation methodologies. This poses unique challenges for us as a vendor, but also for out customers. The need to have a tight knit community is essential for all of us to keep the pace that is required.

Moldflow CONNECT

In addition to the customers and researchers, as expected, Autodesk was there in force. In many cases it was to sit and listen and learn what the challenges are and in other cases, we were able to share where we are going and validate our plans so that we can deliver as much value as possible. We had a variety of breakout sessions, including a town hall style meeting which was broken into smaller groups. I’ve been doing this along time, but have to say the town hall meetings were the most valuable. The community came prepared and had some really interesting challenges that they are trying to tackle. We had members of Product Management as well as the head of R&D present to have open, candid conversations.

We also did something unique this year. We had folks from our User Experience (UX) team attend and they were booked solid with 1:1 interviews showing prototypes of things we are working on as well as gathering feedback on what’s working and what’s not. This is fairly rare in the high end simulation space to take the time to do formal interviews on workflows and general UX. Autodesk kicked started this aggressive approach at Autodesk University last year where we had a team of UX professionals interviewing customers for the four days we were there. The feedback was amazing and helped define alot of where we are headed this year.

The team is headed to Paris for tomorrow’s event. I am looking forward to hearing the feedback. I was proud to be a part of the event. Our customers are doing amazing things and our team is working very hard to deliver on our promise of Customer First.