MSC Software has been uncharacteristically quiet of late.
While other vendors have made announcements, acquisitions and all manner of noise in the simulation world, MSC has remainded tight lipped. Those involved in the user community were aware that it had big plans brewing, but few knew the details and, if they did, they were under the restrictions of an NDA.
Now the cat is out of the bag and the company has released details of its Apex initiative.
Apex is the next generation of MSC’s product range. It has been in development for the last couple of years as the company set out to solve some of the issues that have been barriers to more efficient use of simulation tools and to improve the collaborative nature of the use of these types of tools.
“The patterns that were developed 30 years ago for simulation have simply not evolved to keep pace with the tremendous challenges that industry faces today,” said Dominic Gallello, president & CEO of MSC Software.
“We rethought the process, and have found many opportunities to deliver dramatic productivity improvements to engineers and analysts. Our team rearranged the way in which the components of geometry modelling, solving, and post processing relate to each other, moving away from a serial process to an interactively connected process based on a new parts and assembly paradigm.”
What does it mean?
There are two key concepts to understand about what MSC is trying to achieve with Apex.
The first, and that which is deliverable now to its customers, is to solve the complex and often iterative nature of building the simulation studies that are core. We’re talking geometry adaptation, meshing and definition of loads, boundaries and materials.
The second relates to validation against the solvers requirements to make sure they’ll run first time.
To accomplish this, Apex delivers an environment that combines direct construction and editing of geometry.
While this isn’t particularly unique, what’s interesting is the manner in which it has been tailored to the CAE (Computer Aided Engineering) process, rather than pure geometry modification.
Much of this is driven by tools to adapt the geometry to the specifics of simulation. Whether that’s mid-plane model creation and tidying, abstraction or defeating; you dive in, push, pull, rotate, cut/copy and paste your geometry into place.
This works as down to the vertex level, so those pain-in-the-backside process such as closing small gaps in surface models, snapping and extending mid-plane geometry, are all dealt with in short order.
But alongside this, you need to understand that it’s done in an environment where the all important mesh is generatively associated to that geometry.
Once you’ve got a base mesh over the geometry, you can work with both (mesh and geometry) and see both update in real time.
As you adapt the geometry, the mesh updates – near instantly.
Those used to the ‘build geometry, mesh, have mesh fail, adapt geometry or mesh settings and remesh’ workflow will see the benefits immediately.
Then you move into the other area that’s an initial focus – greater integration between the geometry, the mesh and the solver.
Again, this is traditionally an iterative cycle to get usable results. Apex looks to change this by connecting the three component parts dynamically, so you can have the system run checks that the data you’re creating will run at a core level, as you make the edits – rather than running a full solve.
That means that when you get to that point, your model’s components are validated already, so stand a much higher chance of running, if not first time (there’s always going to be an element of tweaking), it certainly won’t mean 10 runs around the loop to get to that point. It’s this environment, Apex Modeler, that’s available now. But what next?
Computational Parts and Structures
MSC has also discussed the future plans for this technology and there is more on the way.
The next product to be release will be Apex Structures. The core idea here is that you can define all of the characteristics of each component (at part or sub-system) level, attachment points (so they know where they attach to other components) and use the same pre validation tools to check they’ll run, then connect them up where needed.
In a single user environment, this doesn’t make too much sense, but in a supply chain environment, it does. Suppliers will be able to create highly intelligent, CAE driven models of their component, but will also have a set of tools that will allow them to protect their intellectual property where and when needed.
With Apex, MSC is looking to solve some of the challenges that face many of its customers – both at the detail end (in terms of study preparation) and at the collaborative end of the workflow.
It has set out its plans, delivered the first wave of product and it looks fascinating.
The modelling tools look first class (driven under the hood, by Parasolid) and the manner in which they interoperate with the mesh, with both dynamically updating as you make edits, is a joyous thing to watch.
Then you get into the forthcoming tools for building more intelligent models.
MSC are claiming this is a major breakthrough – I’m inclined to agree.