CAE

Autodesk Prepares to Buy ALGOR

18 Dec, 2008 By: Kenneth Wong

Autodesk Inventor may finally get the FEA it deserves.


Autodesk's Christmas gift for Inventor users is the promise of integrated finite element analysis (FEA) features, to be delivered through the acquisition of ALGOR.

It's a gift that'll cost Autodesk $34 million. The price tag is far less than the $297 million the company paid in May 2008 to buy Moldflow, an analysis and simulation package for mold makers. Whereas Moldflow is an analysis package specifically designed for mold making, ALGOR is a general FEA package for design validation and simulation.

In 2007, when Autodesk went shopping for an FEA program, it paid an undisclosed amount to bring home PlassoTech, an analysis technology supplier in California. PlassoTech is a relatively small company compared with ALGOR, a recognized name in the analysis market.

When the latest acquisition closes, ALGOR is expected to bring Autodesk a competitive advantage that surpasses what Moldflow and PlassoTech have delivered. "ALGOR offers many technologies beyond PlassoTech's portfolio," explained Amy Bunzel, Autodesk's director of the Inventor product line, "including mechanical event simulation, computational fluid dynamics (steady/unsteady fluid flow with/without turbulence), coupled fluid flow and thermal analysis, piping analysis, and elecrostatic analysis."

The transaction is listed among the notable mergers and acquisitions of December 17 at StreetInsider.com, a financial news web site.

The Autodesk FEA Buildup
After purchasing PlassoTech in August 2007, Buzz Kross, senior vice-president of Autodesk manufacturing solutions, said, "The acquisition of PlassoTech will provide our customers with integrated simulation tools and sophisticated analysis functionality that complements their digital prototyping workflows."

A little more than a year later, PlassoTech's features have yet to show up in Autodesk Inventor. "The most recent sighting of the PlassoTech products is on Autodesk Labs with a technology preview," Bunzel said. "Readers will have to stay tuned for details on how we have productized [PlassoTech's] capability."

This week, announcing the pending purchase of ALGOR, Kross said, "The acquisition will strengthen the Autodesk solution for digital prototyping with new advanced simulation functionality, including multiphysics, mechanical event simulation, and fluid flow."

Shortly before the acquisition, Autodesk certified ALGOR software as a 32- and 64-bit Certified Application for Autodesk Inventor 2009. ALGOR currently gives Inventor users a way to perform analyses via FEMPRO, an interface that offers full associativity with Inventor.

Bunzel predicted, "Over time, some of [ALGOR's] features will find their way into Inventor." She verified that Andrew Anagnost, Autodesk's vice-president of CAD/CAE, manufacturing solutions division, plans to direct the ALGOR product development after the acquisition. The ALGOR team in Pittsburgh is expected to remain at its current location, according to Bunzel. She believes Autodesk's global outreach can help promote ALGOR, currently confined to the North American market, to international customers.

The Buying Frenzy
In 1995, PTC, makers of Pro/ENGINEER, merged with RASNA, makers of the MECHANICA analysis package. The outcome is Pro/ENGINEER Mechanica (previous called Pro/MECHANICA).

When Siemens acquired UGS, the company also inherited FEMAP, a product acquired by UGS in 2004. Though FEMAP is tightly integrated with Siemens' NX product, it also remains an independent product capable of reading and analyzing design files created in CAD programs from Siemens' competitors.

In 2002, through Dassault Systemes' acquisition of the Los Angeles–based Structural Research and Analysis Corp, SolidWorks, a Dassault-owned product, became integrated with SRAC's flagship analysis program COSMOSWorks.

"In many ways, [Autodesk's acquisition of ALGOR] further validates the decision we made seven years ago to integrate simulation into the design process," said Fielder Hiss, director of product management at Dassault Systemes, SolidWorks Corp. "Analysis isn't just for specialists anymore, and our customers have enthusiastically embraced the integrated simulation capabilities in SolidWorks. For us, it hasn't been about selling software; it's been about supporting our customers' vision of simulation as a natural part of the design process. As far as we've come in this regard, we'll be going a whole lot further."

Besides being an Autodesk partner, ALGOR also provides FEA products for SolidWorks users. Currently, ALGOR offers ALGOR InCAD, an FEA plug-in for SolidWorks. Bunzel said, "It's our intention to keep a CAD-neutral product line from ALGOR."

Autodesk also maintains a partnership with ANSYS, which offers integration with inventor through Geometry Interface for Inventor. Bunzel said, "ANSYS will remain a valuable partner for us. ANSYS offers solutions that are above what's currently available in Autodesk Inventor Professional, what's available from the ALGOR suite. So we anticipate we'll maintain interoperability between our products and ANSYS products."


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