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Autodesk Aims to Have Every Engineer Doing Simulation

Autodesk Aims to Have Every Engineer Doing Simulation

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 the cloud."
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 DesignCheck software here.
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.

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