Fresh off the March acquisition of Blue Ridge Numerics, Autodesk has rolled out the first new release of its Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) tool, taking steps toward tighter integration and suite-level consistency for its expanding portfolio of multiphysics simulation products.
The Blue Ridge deal capped the latest in a string of Autodesk acquisitions to build out its base Simulation portfolio, the most prominent transaction being the 2009 purchase of Algor. At that point, Autodesk had built up a fairly complete simulation story, including multiphysics capabilities from Algor and plastic injection simulation functionality from its prior purchase of Moldflow. Yet while the company had basic CFD capabilities as part of its tool suite, it wanted a more robust offering in this category, hence the drive for snapping up Blue Ridge Numerics, Luke Mihelcic, product manager for Autodesk CFD, told me in a recent interview.
"There was a gap that existed in our portfolio that we needed to fill to make sure we had class-leading simulation tools, and that gap was inside the fluid flow and thermal simulation area," Mihelcic said. Algor and Autodesk's own multiphysics products have basic fluid flow and thermal functionality, but they are intended for someone doing CFD as part of a mechanical and structural simulation, not as a dedicated CFD tool, he said.
Blue Ridge Numerics and Autodesk had collaborated around Inventor for years, already working together to develop tight integration between the tools and ensuring that geometry could be easily passed back and forth between the programs. The newest release of the Blue Ridge Product, now called Autodesk Simulation CFD, is essentially a rebranded version of CFD 2011 launched nine months ago prior to the acquisition, with a couple of important extras.
The most compelling addition, in my opinion, is the inclusion of Fusion, Autodesk's direct modeling module, to Autodesk Simulation CFD. What this does is give CFD users, who could very well be analysts not skilled in CAD software, an easier way to prepare models for simulation. Just as rival CAD vendor SpaceClaim is positioned as a complementary tool to ANSYS for the very same reason, CFD users can tap Fusion to more easily make changes, manipulate geometry, and de-feature models for simulation.
"With traditional modelers, there are a lot of dependencies, and it's a more challenging operation to prepare models (for simulation)," Mihelcic said. "With Fusion, they can remove fillets they don't need for simulation, in a couple of clicks in a couple of seconds." The addition of Fusion also opens up Autodesk Simulation CFD to work with virtually any CAD model.
The second big change with the new CFD tool is the adoption of Autodesk's licensing manager, which provides far more flexibility in how users can deploy the program. A High Performance Computing (HPC) license is built into the base agreement so users that work with CFD on a HPC platform won't incur additional costs, and there is more flexibility in purchasing things separately. On the latter point, one license could cover someone using the interface to set up a simulation and reviewing results, while another was tapping the solver to run an actual simulation.
Moving forward, tighter integration and even more consistency will be on the docket for the next chapter of Autodesk Simulation CFD in the 2013 release. And Autodesk is backing up its efforts to be a robust simulation tool provider with a special Website, SIM Squad, which offers up an array resources and more than 60 internal experts versed in all things simulation.
Why devote time and people to play up its simulation story? "Now that we have all these great simulation tools, we want to make sure folks in the industry know we also have the people to back them up," said Mihelcic, adding that 100 percent of the Blue Ridge Numerics development team came over with the acquisition and are still working on developing the CFD code.