Joining the ranks of design tool vendors beefing up their
simulation product portfolios, Autodesk Inc.
this week signed a definitive agreement to acquire Algor Inc., adding the well-regarded suite of
analysis tools to its Inventor
Digital Prototyping solution.
The deal, approximated at $34 million, arms the Inventor
platform with advanced multiphysics, fluid flow and mechanical event simulation
capabilities-advanced functions that were lacking in Autodesk's existing Inventor
Simulation Suite, which is integrated as part of the CAD tool. "We wanted
more Finite Element Analysis (FEA) capabilities and wanted to get into the
realm of multiphysics and Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD)," says Amy
Bunszel, Autodesk's director of CAD/CAE product management. "Simulation is such
an important part of digital prototyping-we were interested in having more
resources in this area so we can continue to help drive innovation ... and help
customers answer more questions about their design and digital prototypes."
Engineering and manufacturing customers are increasing their
demand for simulation and testing tools that can help reduce reliance on
building costly physical prototypes. The trend is prompting Autodesk-along with
its CAD tool competitors-to build out more robust simulation capabilities,
either as part of their primary offerings or as integrated, but standalone
product lines. With these new tools at
their ready, development teams are able to move
specialized simulation and analysis work further upfront in the design
process, in turn, improving their ability to test options as they go along and
identify problems earlier on in the process.
It's imperative for companies like Autodesk to respond to
this growing demand to keep their design tools competitive, analysts say.
Specifically, Autodesk needed to ramp up the simulation capabilities of
Inventor to realize the full promise of its digital prototyping story,
according to Ken Versprille, partner and PLM research director at Collaborative Product Development
Associates, LLC, a PLM research and consulting firm. "The full promise of
digital prototyping depends on the ability to go beyond just the 3D model shape
definition of a product," Versprille says. "All aspects of a product must be
represented in the virtual world. The ability to analyze and simulate a product
design under conditions such as heat, stress, etc. available using a tool such
as Algor is critical to making that happen."
The Algor acquisition will add significant new capabilities
for virtual testing, enabling engineers and designers to predict the impact of
simultaneous real world conditions like heat and pressure on product designs.
"Multiphysics has always been of interest in that it IS, in effect, reality,"
Versprille says. "In the real world, a product does not undergo pressure stress
separately from other environmental influences such as heat. However, analyzing
multiphysics and understanding relationships between physical influences is
Algor was the right fit for Autodesk because it's aligned
with the company's vision to make simulation tools accessible to a wide range
of problems, not just targeted at esoteric designs needs like crash tests,
which are usually run by specialists, Bunszel explains. Algor's direct sales
group was also leveraging technology such as Webcasts, TV studio training
seminars and demonstrations, which Autodesk views as an important channel
support model for promoting simulation to a broader base of users.
Autodesk plans to integrate the Algor products and employee
base (around 75 employees) into its Manufacturing Solutions business unit. It
will also continue to sell the Algor products as a separate offering, promoting
its open approach for working with other CAD tools. Over time, some of the
Algor functionality will find its way into future Inventor versions.
Says Bunszel: "We will remain CAD neutral and have a
standalone Algor business as well as bring the technology into deeply
integrated [Inventor] workflows as the applications, market and users
demonstrate that they have a need."