Autodesk to acquire Blue Ridge Numerics for CFD technology

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Big news today, and something I’ve been expecting for a while. Autodesk has announced that it intends to acquire Blue Ridge Numerics, developers of CFdesign and all round nice fellows, for a cool $39 million in cash. The transaction is “subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to close in Autodesk’s first quarter of fiscal 2012 (which ends on April 30, 2011).

Why had I been expecting it? To be honest, there’s a functionality gap in both PTC’s and Autodesk’s product offerings when it comes to fluid flow simulation and I couldn’t work out who would buy Blue Ridge Numerics first. They’ve been a hot property for a while. Solid technology, good user base, highly visible and privately owned (the last bit lowers the acquisition cost somewhat). Blue Ridge has been doing an outstanding job of exploring how it’s possible to develop a specialised tool that gives the fluid flow or heat transfer focussed users the tools they need, but combine it with pretty high level CAD integration. The last few releases have seen the company moves from demonstrating its tools alongside Pro/E or SolidWorks and onto Inventor – nice move. There’s also potential for the AEC space as Blue Ridge has also been exploring the potential to build a link between CFdesign and Autodesk’s Revit (Martyn explored this in D3D’s sister publication, AEC Magazine, a little while ago).

This leaves one question in my mind. SolidWorks licenses its fluid flow analysis tools from Mentor Graphics. The last year or two saw a pretty dramatic price hike in both the capital costs and the on-going maintenance of that module. That’s not going to help adoption of CFD technology amongst its user base. At the same time, DS’s Simulia division is beginning to develop its own flow flow solver as part of the Abaqus toolset to enable fluid/structure interaction completely within its own toolset, rather than linking up to Fluent and the like.

Fun times and I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen to CFdesign and the technology/capabilities it represents, as the Autodesk team work to integrate it in Inventor. Perhaps it’ll get there much quicker than the CFD related tools that it acquired with Algor just a few years ago. CFdesign has a huge advantage over some other CFD codes in that it uses a meshing process that’s much more akin to FEA and if you’re looking to create a system that combines both FEA/Structural simulation with Fluid Flow and Heat Transfer, then having a common mesh gets you a long way towards that goal. If you want to have gen up on CFdesign and what Autodesk has acquired, then there’s a review we put together earlier this year.

And in the mean time, congratulations to the team at Blue Ridge Numerics. Can’t think of a bunch of folks that deserve it more.


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