There’s been tons of focus lately on the trend of making advanced simulation capabilities more accessible to mainstream users. Over the last year or so, CAD vendors, along with dedicated CAE players, have been steadily adding what previously might have been classified as specialist-type analysis capabilities to the core CAD platform or in an alternative approach, made simulation functionality accessible from the familiarity of the core CAD environment.
This week, the action appears to be on the other end: Advancing the capabilities of high-end CAE programs that are really targeted at the analysis professional or PhD in engineering organizations-not the CAD jockey. Two leaders in this space, Dassault Systemes’ SIMULIA division and COMSOL have released pretty major upgrades to their analysis offerings. Both upgrades build on the vendors’ capabilities around multiphysics analysis, or the idea of performing different types of CAE analysis within a single platform instead of having separate tools for the different disciplines.
For its part, SIMULIA packed more than 100 customer-requested enhancements into Abaqus 6.11 , its unified FEA product suite, including nonlinear structural optimization, coupled multiphysics and support for high-performance computing technology. One completely new area for the tool is the new Abaqus Topology Optimization Module (ATOM), an add-on product that lets Abaqus users perform topology and shape optimization for single parts and assemblies while taking into account large deformation, material nonlinearity and contact. In keeping with the promise of expanded mutliphysics support, there is also a new electromagnetics solution that aids in problems requiring time-harmonic eddy current analysis–for example, the hardening of a bearing surface due to induction.
On the high-performance computing front, Abaqus 6.11 now supports graphics processing units (GPUs) to aid in improved performance. GPU support, like that for NVIDIA’s CUDA-based GPUs, can provide a 2x performance boost for a range of models and industries, allowing engineers to run more design candidates and also helping to reduce engineering cycles.
COMSOL moved forward with advancing the capabilities of its core COMSOL Multiphysics Version 4 platform, which was intended to set the stage for the firm to reach out to a broader audience. Highlights of the latest 4.2 release include three new application modules: Microfluidics, for the study of microfluidic devices and rarefied gas flows for such applications as lab-on-a-chip devices and vacuum systems; Geomechanics, for simulating geotechnical applications like tunnels and excavations; and Electrodeposition, for studying parameters around cell geometry, electrolyte composition, operating voltages and currents and more.
COMSOL Version 4.2 also has new features for improving multiphysics simulation performance, including new virtual geometry tools for speeding up meshing processes by allowing for the modification of CAD models without changing the underlying surface curvatures. The COMSOL direct solvers have also been rearchitected to support parallel processing, thus enabling faster and more memory-efficient computations. COMSOL officials are claiming pretty healthy gains of up to 425% for a laminar flow static mixer and 164% increase for a microfluidic lab-on-a-chip simulation.
Beyond the expanded multiphysics capabilities and performance boosts, the other hallmark of the Version 4.2 upgrade is improved CAD interoperability, including LiveLink modules for SolidWorks and SpaceClaim.