SimEnterprise R2 (Cadalyst Labs Review)30 Sep, 2007 By: IDSA ,Mike Hudspeth
Virtual simulator lets users improve simulation throughput and manage IT resources.
One of the really uncomfortable realities of life is that things change. Just when you get used to something, it's different. That's truer now than it has ever been throughout the history of man. Get ready to redefine some long-held beliefs.
It has always been the case that if you wanted to explore virtual simulation and testing, you had to have some experts. You had to depend on people who did whatever kind of analysis you wanted all day, every day. It needed to be that way mainly because the concepts and the software were so complex that you had to specialize to get accurate results. Sure, nowadays you can get some preliminary results from scaled-down analysis packages that come with your modeling software. But how much do you trust those results? The SimEnterprise product line from MSC Software gives you an alternative.
The first thing you need to know is that SimEnterprise is aimed at eventually eliminating physical prototypes. I know you're saying to yourself that you have to have prototypes, and I agree. I learned long ago that it's next to impossible for management to say something won't work when there is a working physical model of a design sitting on a table in front of them. There'll always be a place for prototypes — just maybe not for testing, which is what MSC intends.
All of this is a tall order, to be sure. SimEnterprise is less a program and more a platform. It contains SimDesigner, SimXpert, and SimManager. SimManager helps you manage your resources. SimXpert is a user environment that creates templates. SimDesigner integrates different engineering programs. Let's take a look at each.
Under the Hood
SimManager has an Internet-based user interface (figure 1). That means you won't spend an outrageous amount of time looking for things. Because it has a more-or-less open interface, you can use non-MSC programs that you already have and know. Talk about compatibility! Sim-Manager captures what you've done — that is, it documents the context in which you work.
Figure 1. With a familiar Internet-based interface, SimManager is easy to use and offers a lot of search muscle.
I think one of the neatest things SimManager can do is look for resources on your network to maximize computer power. Huh? If you need to run a simulation of something and other computers on your network aren't doing anything, SimManager can access them and spread the work onto their processors.
Figure 2. SimXpert allows you to map out whatever process you're working on graphically.
SimXpert is a pre- and postprocessor for experts (you know, those are programs that attempt to capture the experience of the original data creator). SimXpert templates allow you to capture operations, so you can change variables and ensure repeatability (figure 2, p. 34). That makes it easy to search for things such as who, when, and what. You can build a flowchart of whatever process you need to do to help you optimize what you do. The panel to the left of the graphics window is a text version of your graphic workflow (figure 3). Support for multiple CAD programs ensures sure that no matter what program you use for geometry creation, you can import your data and use it in SimEnterprise.
Figure 3. SimXpert has a very nice graphical approach to charting your processes. Just sketch in what you want.
Of course, as the saying goes, some software is more native than others. MSC has entered into agreements with PTC and Dassault Systèmes to provide bidirectional capability with Pro/ENGINEER and CATIA. The bidirectional capability means those file formats are sort of extended native files that allow you to keep models and analyses fully associative. That's good for changes. If you make a change, it's reflected in both analysis and CAD. By being more-or-less CAD neutral, you can use one model for multiple tasks: motion, thermal, and structural (both linear and nonlinear) analyses. You even can set everything to explore automated what-if scenarios.
SimDesigner works very much like the Master Model Concept. It uses a SimXpert library of templates to perform tasks. SimXpert creates a template and publishes it to the SimManager database. SimDesigner calls up the template and uses it to accomplish the required task on the model desired. Then it publishes results back to the SimManager database to be read by others (figure 4). Managers can query the knowledge base to see what's been done and what the results were. It can act as an automatic audit. It allows you to manage, measure, and improve your workflows. Because the programs share a common simulation user interface, you are immediately familiar with your onscreen surroundings. You can use SimDesigner to capture your company's best practices and ensure everyone does things the same way.
Figure 4. SimDesigner reads from the database, runs simulations, and files the results back to the database where they can be viewed by whomever is authorized.
MSC states that its customers achieve a 75% or more improvement in their simulation throughput. But SimEnterprise does not come cheap. Starting in the ballpark of $15,000 and going to more than $100,000 (depending on the options), it may be somewhat beyond the budgets of some small- to mid-sized companies.
The Whole Package
SimEnterprise is a good way to capture and make use of all that corporate knowledge that most companies have lying around. Making design analyses available to designers is a good way to get early design validation. For more specific information about SimEnterprise or other MSC Software products, visit www.mscsoftware.com.