MSC Aims to Take CAE from Frustrating to Efficient1 Oct, 2014 By: Nancy Spurling Johnson
New MSC Apex will enable a paradigm shift that accelerates design validation and enables rapid trade studies earlier in product development, according to the company.
“Simulation today is a QA tool, a checking tool,” said MSC Software CEO and President Dominic Gallello during a phone interview with Cadalyst last week. Following the CAD stage of the design workflow, he explained, users typically approach computer-aided engineering (CAE) with an attitude of, “‘Oh, by the way, let’s evaluate [design] behavior,’” he said. “In the end, simulation is just a bottleneck for companies. ... What people would like to do is move simulation to a much earlier stage of design. Knowing design behavior early, he said, "is fantastic in terms of overall productivity.”
That is the reality that MSC Software aims to address with MSC Apex, announced this week. Described as the next-generation CAE platform and the world’s first computational parts–based CAE system, MSC Apex will serve as the platform for a broad range of physics and other applications that MSC Software will introduce over time, according to the company, and will transform the way engineers perform simulation by reducing critical CAE modeling and process time from days to hours and enabling predictive product development in the earlier stages of design when it is critical to saving time and money.
Design Simulation Realities
Why did MSC Software develop Apex? Gallello explained that CAE workflows today are grounded in the CAE software tools that have been developing since the 1960s. “We really think it’s time to change the workflow,” he said.
“The patterns that were developed 30-plus years ago for simulation have simply not evolved to keep pace with the tremendous challenges that industry faces today,” Gallello explained. “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 modeling, solving, and postprocessing relate to each other, moving away from a serial process to an interactively connected process based on a new parts and assembly paradigm.”
He further explained that a majority of simulation users tell MSC Software that:
- simulation tools are too difficult to learn and use;
- the workflow between designers, engineers, and analysts is inefficient;
- cleaning geometry and meshing takes too much time;
- simulation results are not received in a timely manner, which makes trade studies nearly impossible;
- most engineers would like to perform simulation much earlier in the design process; and
- simulation models hardly move through the supply chain.
So the company set out to develop a new solution from the ground up to address these age-old issues. The result is MSC Apex.
Unique Features of MSC Apex
MSC Apex is based on a computational parts approach — an industry first, according to the company. It also provides full associativity between geometric and analysis data and is open and extensible for users and application partners.
Rather than the traditional, iterative pre-solve-post workflow for validating a finite-element model, MSC Apex supports pre, solve, and post in an interconnected framework. The generative behavior of MSC the new software is leveraged to incrementally validate the evolving model and remove the many time-consuming iterations inherent in the old pre-solve-post paradigm, according to MSC.
MSC Apex is enabled with integrated solver methods that allow the user to interactively validate parts and sub-subsystem models, yielding up to 10X productivity gains in model preparation. A CAE-specific direct-modeling and meshing engine accelerates the CAD-to-mesh process by a factor of up to 50X.
And MSC Apex is easy to learn and use, incorporating hundreds of embedded videos, seven tutorials, context-sensitive help, and four hours of introductory instruction. Workflow Instructions appear at top right corner to help users navigate a given process or tool. In fact, the company reports, it is possible for non-CAE experts to learn the software in a single day. Gallello said, “Many firms have experts that use traditional [CAE] tools, but we found that companies can be more productive using less-skilled users.”
MSC Apex is complementary to MSC’s Patran finite-element modeling and pre/postprocessing software as well as MSC Nastran structural and multidiscipline solver. It supports industry-standard .BDF file import and export, facilitating easy data migration.
MSC Apex products will be released in stages, the company reports. MSC Apex Modeler, available today, is a CAE-specific, direct-modeling and meshing solution. It offers CAD import, sketching, geometry clean-up, defeaturing, midsurfacing, material and section property attribution, meshing and feature-based meshing, element quality checks, and geometry and bulk data files export.