Las Vegas - "Our goal is to give every design engineer the
ability to do more simulation," says Autodesk Director Grant Rochelle. "But in
order to do that, we have to make simulation easy to do."
Rochelle, who heads up the
nearly formed Mechanical Simulation Group at Autodesk, says that most design
engineers have the desire to do more. But while many companies understand the
benefits, he said in an interview with Design
News at Autodesk
University, that they
don't view most simulation tools as within the reach the average CAD user, nor
do they view them as scalable.
"Many of these tools are
expensive and used by only a few specialists in a company. Engineers do
simulations on fewer designs," Rochelle said. "And as a result, there's a lot
of over-design out there. Engineers can't have failures, so they build in these
huge safety factors."
How is Autodesk going to
make things easier for design engineers? They are working it from the top down
with a suite of specialized simulation and analysis tools Autodesk has acquired
over the past four years - Solid Dynamics kinematics/dynamics software,
Plassotech analysis and simulation software for mechanical design, Moldflow injection molding simulation
software and Algor
mechanical simulation software earlier this year. And they're working it from
the desktop up, with AutoCAD Inventor Simulation Suite, which allows engineers
to perform integrated motion simulation and stress analysis on their desktops.
"We'll keep evolving these
tools to make them simpler to use, yet without sacrificing the robustness of
the analysis," said Rochelle. He noted, for example, that Autodesk has been
working on some new guidance tools to help new and occasional users of the
Inventor Simulation Suite get a jump start. No annoying Clippy-type tool here,
though. Rochelle said that the goal was to "put Charlie Bliss in the box." Bliss,
who used to work for Applied Materials, is a real person. He's a fervent,
expert user of Inventor Simulator and one of the most respected, knowledgeable
users around. Just the kind of guy you really would like to have guiding you
through a simulation.
Autodesk has tested the new
guidance tools with 12 design engineers, none with any previous experience, who
were able to successfully complete a structural frame analysis experiment,
thanks in large part to "Charlie."
But while Rochelle says there
is something to a more intuitive UI, one of the most important things engineers
need is real-time feedback, which would allow them to optimize their designs
across multiple attributes like cost and weight. "It isn't efficient to sit
back and wait for the simulation results to come back," said Rochelle. "But for
real-time feedback to work, engineers aren't going to be doing the simulation
on their computers, too much computing power is required. They will do it in
While Autodesk is pretty
early in the development stages of working out what bits will be done on the
desktop and what bits will be done in the cloud, Rochelle says that in the "very
near term" it will have some experiments ready and will be engaging with users
for feedback. To start, Autodesk will be focusing on basic materials
optimization and linear static stress, as suggested by Autodesk customers
themselves. Once designers get comfortable with those things, it plans to move
into thermal and fluids.
Autodesk is encouraging
design engineers to experience and give feedback on Autodesk Algor Simulation
software that allows users to perform a first pass of design validation and
optimization before manufacturing. Download the free Algor
Autodesk Labs is also
offering a Piping
Design Technology Preview, a free software download that allows users to
design, simulate, and optimize piping systems by performing structural
simulation to determine static and dynamic stresses.