Taking a cue from users' heightened demand for more
integrated computer-aided simulation capabilities, Autodesk pumped up its offerings in this
area with its announcement this week that it was acquiring Blue Ridge Numerics, a provider of
computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software.
With the $39 million cash acquisition, Autodesk gains entrée
to Blue Ridge Numeric's CFdesign CFD software suite and its customers, which
include Parker Hannifin, Philips Medical, Top-Flite and Wolf Appliance Inc.,
among others. Autodesk has been steadily building out its simulation product
portfolio both organically and through acquisitions over the last few years-it's
most notable move being the December
2008 purchase of Algor and Moldflow.
While the Algor acquisition provided a start into delivering
CFD functionality, the Blue Ridge Numerics technology rounds out Autodesk's
digital prototyping suite with a spectrum of CFD capabilities to help automate
flow and thermal simulation decision making, thus helping to reduce costly
physical prototyping cycles, according to Scott Reese, Autodesk's senior
director of digital simulation, in the manufacturing group.
"Simulation is a key growth area for us
and a key element of our digital prototyping strategy," Reese says. "Simulation
is a key part of being able to determine how a digital prototype performs in
the real world," Reese explains, in that it helps provide answers to such
questions as what happens when you drop the product, does the fluid flow
through the design properly, is it manufacturable? Using simulation to answer
questions like that has become critical for manufacturing customers to remain
competitive, he says.
Blue Ridge Numerics' CFdesign software helps
engineers address such questions and make informed, up-front decisions about
air flow, fluid flow or electronics cooling to help design and manufacture
safer, quality products or construct more energy efficient buildings. Where
Blue Ridge Numerics CFD technology stands out, Reese says, is that it has
successfully broken down the technological barriers that previously prevented
CFD from being integrated within the mainstream product development process.
The company's general-purpose analytical engine produces accurate simulations
set up within a range of CAD systems with little human time or simulation
experience required, he explains.
Autodesk's intent is to integrate Blue
Ridge Numerics into its Manufacturing Industry Group and to continue developing
and selling Blue Ridge Numerics CFdesign products while supporting existing
customers and integrating them into the Autodesk Manufacturing Community.
Autodesk also plans to develop the Blue Ridge Numerics products with a multi-CAD
approach, allowing direct data exchange between CFdesign products and multiple
computer-aided design software offerings. Long-term, the idea is to unify the experience
between all Autodesk simulation applications, helping customers concentrate on
fleshing out the issues with their design rather than focusing on what kind of
simulation they want to run, Reese says. Another key trend will be to leverage
cloud computing technology to enhance simulation capabilities as seen by
Autodesk's already announced Project Cumulus, an effort which
leverages the cloud for additional computational horsepower for Moldflow
plastics design simulations.
Autodesk's timing is good in terms of targeting simulation capabilities as a
core part of its digital prototyping suite. Industry analyst firm CIMdata forecasts that the simulation and analysis software market as a whole
will exceed $3.1 billion in 2014.
The Blue Ridge Numerics transaction is
expected to close in Autodesk's first quarter of fiscal 2012, which ends on
April 30, 2011.
The series now can interface with a wider array of EtherNet/IP-compliant hardware across many industrial sectors, including factory automation systems, plastic injection molding apparatus, and materials-handling equipment.
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