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Autodesk Acquires Blue Ridge Numerics

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.





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