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CAD Tech News (#131)

6 Aug, 2020 By: Cadalyst Staff


Viewpoint: How Can Engineering Simulation Software Reach Smaller Businesses and Less-Experienced Users?

In the quest to the fill this gap in the software market, open-source simulation tools are underrated as potential democratization drivers.

By Mihails Scepanskis

Increasing competition pushes engineering companies to advance the efficiency of their design and engineering work by means of digital transformation. Over the past few decades, we have been observing the winning march of CAD programs, which have become the market standard even for small workshops. Now, it's time for software that covers the next step of the engineering design workflow: computer-aided engineering (CAE) software (also known as simulation/modeling software).

Traditionally, enterprise-grade simulation software applications — such as Ansys products, Dassault Systčmes SIMULIA, and Altair HyperWorks — are used by a relatively small group of highly experienced engineers in corporate research and development centers. A couple of decades ago, that group made up almost the entire addressable market. However, the demand in the small and medium-sized business (SMB) sector has been gradually growing — a change that was not addressed by the big developers.

In addition to overall advancement of design process efficiency, simulation is frequently considered as an enabler for the adoption of additive manufacturing and digital twin technologies, which ensured the recent jump of the demand for simulation. Today, many production engineers at plants and SMB suppliers say they want to use simulation but cannot (see C.Veiga et al., "Cloud SME – Sustainable computer aided engineering for SME's").

In the keynote at the 2019 Heat Treat conference in Detroit, IMS International Chairman Jack Harris gave an example that illustrated this software gap: Boeing tried to push down SIMULIA software adoption in its supply chain. In return, it harmed the suppliers and entire supply chain, since the software was an expensive investment for many SMBs and they were not even able to use the software properly due to lack of trained staff.

Let's take a look at what the demand for simulation democratization looks like, and what the CAE software market offers to address that demand.

Demand for Simulation Democratization

In 2011, computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software developer Symscape conducted a survey titled, "What is the biggest barrier to CFD adoption?" The results highlighted software price as a major factor that holds back adoption of simulation software at SMBs — 49% of respondents indicated it was the biggest barrier. (Software complexity came in second at 17%.)

In 2019, a survey by European startup CENOS (the company that I cofounded) showed the dominance of the same two answers, but with the priority swapped: 28% of respondents highlighted the price point, and 40% selected software complexity (along with similar factors, such as long learning period and lack of simulation engineers). The difference between these surveys probably indicates the progress in democratization over the past decade, and the shift of focus from price point to the accessibility of the engineering tool, such that it can be utilized without special education in production plants and by engineers at SMB suppliers. Read more »

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Mihails Scepanskis is the CEO and cofounder of CENOS.

Autodesk Responds to Revit Customers' Concerns

The developer of the building information modeling (BIM) software addresses criticisms leveled by architects who are frustrated by rising costs, licensing changes, and other issues.

By Cadalyst Staff

Autodesk responded today to the complaints of a group of 25 architectural design firms that took the software company to task in an open letter to Autodesk President and CEO Andrew Anagnost. Spearheaded by Iain Godwin of Godwin Consulting, the letter was based on a June survey of IT directors and digital design leaders in firms that use Autodesk Revit, including Zaha Hadid Architects and Richard Rogers, Stirk, Harbour + Partners. The firms reportedly use more than 5,000 seats of Revit in total, to the tune of $22 million over the past five years.

According to Godwin's press release, the letter "comes as a reaction to years of successive Autodesk development and business decisions which have frustrated its most advanced customers. These firms are at the leading edge of BIM adoption, pushing the use of 3D in design through to fabrication and now feel hampered by lack of development, all while the cost of ownership increases."

Primary concerns cited in the letter include:

Stagnating development. The complainants are concerned by the lack of a progressive overall development plan, and a paucity of productivity improvements. "Most practices think that the platform is not meeting current industry requirements," the letter reported. "Every day digital design leaders around the world wrestle with software which at its core is twenty years old and incapable of the potential of multicore computing and graphics power designed to process within today's real and virtual workstations. Project productivity in architectural and engineering practices is hit daily because of the lack of scalability and product performance, which then requires sophisticated and practice-specific 'work arounds.'"

Rising costs and shifting licensing strategy. Firms have reportedly experienced cost increases of as much as 70% over the past five years of using Revit. Complaints included the rapid evolution of Autodesk licensing models in recent years, causing companies to juggle individual product licenses, suites, collections, and named-user licenses. Also cited were "aggressive sales tactics in enterprise licensing."

Collaboration and interoperability problems. "Project design outcomes thrive on ever?increasing collaboration between different design disciplines requiring many forms of data interoperability between software platforms as well as compliance to international data standards," the letter stated. "It is essential to effect better interoperability between Autodesk products as well as with the rest of the industry." Read more »

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About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

Cadalyst Staff

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