Aiming to put multiphysics simulation capabilities within reach of mainstream engineers and scientists, COMSOL completely revamped COMSOL Multiphysics with a new user interface that takes a page from CAD tools.
The centerpiece of the new COMSOL Multiphysics Version 4.0, due out by year end, is Model Builder, a set of graphical programming tools that guide users from model creation to simulation results, while providing full control and oversight of their simulation tasks. Via its dynamic model configuration approach, users can build a model in the new environment simply by right-clicking to perform such tasks as importing CAD geometries, meshing, specifying specific materials properties, solving and plotting results. Users can also set up the desktop's appearance easily to their preferences using the docked window placement capabilities.
Despite growing recognition of the importance of early simulation as part of the product design process, many engineers still don't have access to sophisticated multiphysics simulation capabilities, due primarily o the complexity of the offerings. "(With Version 4.0), if you know CAD, you know our tool," says John Dunec, COMSOL's vice president of sales. "With Model Builder, we're trying to move the program closer to what design engineers are comfortable with."
Philippe Masson, senior scientist with Advanced Magnet Lab and a long-time user of COMSOL Multiphysics, said Version 4.0's new usability features will undoubtedly make the tool more accessible to engineers, especially those not that familiar with physics. "People get scared when there's too much physics involved," says Masson, who uses COMSOL Multiphysics for electro-thermal simulations of one-of-a-kind magnets used in physics and medical applications, among other uses. "Previously, (with Version 3.5) you had to understand the equations before you solved them. Now, (with Version 4.0) you can set up the problem with a few clicks and you don't have to check the equation if you don't want to."
For Masson, a self-avowed advanced COMSOL user, the built-in database functionality of the new release is more appealing, as it lets him record and save the steps of any model and simulation scenario, enabling reuse for another simulation or if the model is redefined. "This capability saves me time," he says. "Everything you do is kept in the database ... so you have access to past work." For example, if Masson was doing a series of plots and wanted to do another, older versions of COMSOL Multiphysics would require that he'd discard past work and start from scratch. What's appealing about Version 4.0, he says, is that he has access to those previous plots to use as a starting point.
Along with the interface improvements, Version 4.0 supports expanded CAD interoperability with the new LiveLink for PTC Pro/ENGINEER, a tool that creates a seamless connection between the two environments. As a result, engineers can change a feature in a Pro/ENGINEER CAD model and have it automatically update the geometry in COMSOL Multiphysics, while retaining physics settings. There are versions of LiveLink already available for SolidWorks and Autodesk Inventor.
Finally, COMSOL Multiphysics Version 4.0 supports parallel processing on standard multi-core computers as well as distributed memory systems (clusters). The new release also supports Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003, Windows HPC Server 2008 and Linux.