The subject of a three-year development program, Ansys Discovery combines drag and drop modelling tools with built-in simulation that solves in an instant.
The launch version looks to combine modelling technology from SpaceClaim (which Ansys acquired back in 2014) with Finite Element Analysis (FEA) of structures and harmonics as well as computational fluid dynamics (CFD) for both fluid flow (internal and external) and thermal simulation.
Major barriers to the wider adoption of current simulation technology are seen as them being difficult to use, lengthy computation times and complexity of workflow, despite promises from the industry as a whole for the last two decades.
What Ansys is hoping will set Discovery Live apart is how quickly the system can deliver the results. By combining the modelling tools with a new generation of simulation solver code, which takes advantage of the huge parallel processing power of graphics processing units, the system delivers the results instantaneously — and we mean instantaneously.
Load the CAD model, add the constraints and boom, there are your results, live. You can then use the built-in modelling tools (based on SpaceClaim) to make edits to your results, then have them recompute and redisplay instantly. No waiting, no complex computation cycles. Have a look at this video before we continue.
So how has Ansys managed to achieve this sort of breakthrough in compute speed and interactivity?
According to Mark Hindsbo, Ansys vice president and general manager: “Discovery Live features a new solver built from the ground on a GPU architecture.
“We have taken the very best from our heritage of engineering simulation in terms of tried and trusted numerical methods and adopted them natively to this new massively parallel architecture and in the process invented new methods that enable increases in speed from 100 to 1,000 times those of traditional CPU based methods.
“Modern graphics cards have thousands of cores and we inherently solve across all of those cores. For about $500 you can buy a new NVIDIA card that gives terra flops of computing power and real time simulation results with Discovery Live.”
”Given GPU’s are beating Moore’s law this is only going to get exponentially better.
“In addition, we have based the interactivity on the SpaceClaim application that allows for direct modelling and manipulation of geometry. This product was also born with extreme ease of use as its primary design parameter and coupled with GPU simulation is the unique combination allowing Discovery Live to come to life (no pun intended).”
In terms of hardware requirements, any system that makes use of GPU compute typically has a pretty hefty requirement in terms of graphics card. This isn’t the case with Discovery Live, and interestingly Ansys aren’t enforcing the use of the ‘professional’ graphics cards. In fact, you can run this on pretty much any Nvidia (Kepler onwards) GPU.
The official graphics specs quote: “a dedicated Nvidia GPU card based on the Kepler, Maxwell or Pascal architecture. Most dedicated Nvidia GPU cards produced in 2013 or later will be based on one of these architectures.”
In addition, Ansys suggest you’ll need at least 4GB of video RAM (8GB preferred) and the latest drivers.
So what do we think?
I’ll be honest, I’ve heard the “we’re going to revolutionise simulation” a billion times before and it rarely pans out. What’s interesting about Discovery Live is that Ansys has managed to take out one of the most painful parts of simulation.
Yes, it’s an initial release and the hardcore simulation experienced user will find that there aren’t quite all the tools there that they need just yet, but this will come with time. But let’s also be clear: the revolutionary aspects of this system are two-fold.
First, you have a combination of multiple physics types in a single system – and a system that also features geometry editing and experimentation tools from SpaceClaim.
Secondly, you’ve got breakthrough speed of computation. I’ve been testing the system on my ageing HP workstation fitted with a three or four year old K5000 card.
The system works perfectly and as advertised – it really is instant. If you threw in a higher-end gaming card or a more modern professional card, it’d fly.
So can it really change simulation adoption? My belief is that it could.
Consider this: Learning the correct use of simulation needs heavy use of the system. If you’re waiting for results for two hours, you spend two hours not learning anything.
With this, you can learn much quicker.
No, it doesn’t remove the language that’s often associated with simulation and could potentially hold folks back, but again, the speed of cycle lets you learn more quickly.
Then add in the geometry editing and you’ve got a system that lets you experiment with geometry and instantly see the effect on your design as soon as you’ve finished your edit.
There’s no waiting for a mesh, no waiting for a solve. Edit. View result. Edit again and fine tune.
We’ve thrown a lot at it in the last few hours – from simple structural analysis of single piece parts to a complete engineering model of a Le Mans car (and I mean, complete, down to nuts and bolts) put into a CFD environment for external fluid flow.
The system has worked and worked well. Yes, when you’re throwing 1,000s of parts into a single CFD study, things slow down a little (many CAD systems struggle to even load this CAD data, never mind do anything useful with it), but it still crunches away (and bear in mind, on a four-year-old GPU).
Are there challenges? Absolutely. This uses a new set of computation technology and as ever, those with the knowledge and experience of simulation tools are going to be pawing over the results to find fault. Ansys will have its work cut out to convince the simulation community that the results are robust and reliable, and that will come with time.
For those that are new to simulation or haven’t the time or opportunity to dig into it further, it’s an ideal system to start that process, because of its clean, lightweight and efficient. That will only allow you to learn it more efficiently.
Want to have a look for yourself and find out what the system is capable of? The good news is that between now and launch, Ansys Discovery is available for anyone to try for free.
ansys.com/discovery. If you don’t have the requisite hardware in place, then there’s also a cloud-based trial that uses Frame’s technology to stream it to your browser.
We’ll be taking a more in depth look at the system in the October issue of DEVELOP3D, so stay tuned for a more comprehensive set of content.
Additionally, Mark Hindsbo of Ansys will also be giving a keynote at this year’s DEVELOP3D LIve USA, in Boston on the 23 and 24 October.