Discovery Live is a new software application from ANSYS promising real-time simulation. This post reviews its capabilities and their ability to produce.

If there is one commonality in most software product announcements today, it’s hyperbole.

Trend X will completely change the industry! Manufacturers that don’t adapt will be out of business in five years!

It is the kind of thing that, over time, slowly erodes our ability to get excited about almost anything. Make no mistake, there have been plenty of impressive advancements over the past five, ten or fifteen years. But it has been a long time since we’ve had something truly revolutionary or something groundbreaking.

Well, something radical has come along: ANSYS Discovery Live.

What Is It? What Is The Workflow?

ANSYS Discovery Live is a simulation tool. It is meant to be used by engineers making decisions in the design phase, specifically those that are non-users or infrequent users of analysis.

I know. This sound really familiar. But this is different. Trust me. Follow along.

Here’s how someone uses it.

  • You build a 3D model using a mix of Parametric and Direct Modeling capabilities. Alternatively, you can import a model.
  • You designate the physics working on the design. For fluids, that means designated inlet and outlets. For structures, that means selecting what geometry is bound and where loads are placed. For thermal scenarios, you apply heat sources and other properties.
  • With a minimum of input, Discovery Live will start showing you results second later. There is no need to push the solve button. There is no need to mesh the model. That happens for you.
  • While the simulation results are animating, you can make a design change. You can modify existing geometry. You can add new geometry. You can remove geometry. Furthermore, you could make a change to the simulation. Change that inlet to an outlet. Switch the direction of a load.
  • As you make the design change, the results of the simulation updates seconds later. Add a round and the stresses will change a second later. Add an obstruction, the flow lines will change. Essentially, this is live interaction with the simulation results.

I’ve tried to do it justice here, but words aren’t good enough. Go to youtube. Now. Seriously. You need to see it for context.

How Does It Work?

It is fairly obvious that this solution leverages the range of ANSYS solvers. It leverages Spaceclaim modeling capabilities.It seems to leverage some of the capabilities you see in AIM.Those are the base assumptions. However, there’s a lot more going on here. Of course, ANSYS isn’t going to be releasing their software specs for this application. But I think we can speculate fairly accurately about a couple of the advancements on display in this offering.

  1. Making Many Assumptions: A little while ago, I wrote about the AIM solution from ANSYS. I believe Discovery Live is built on that foundation, although we probably won’t know how much code from prior solutions has been reused here. Regardless, the advancement here is to automatically assume as many assumptions as possible about any kind of simulation so it can be run. That means that as soon as the user inputs the minimum of information, the simulation is ready to be solved. And in fact, it is obvious that as soon as this is provided, ANSYS is kicking off a solve, one that likely converges over time, immediately.
  2. Leveraging Graphics Computing: ANSYS has publicly stated that they are utilizing graphics processing to dramatically speed up the solve (and likely other) processes. This seems to be a step-function-like change in computing power. This is exactly the right place to be applying this kind of cutting edge technology.

In addition to these advancements, I suspect there are other things going on as well.

  1. Automated Behind-the-Scene Meshing and Solving: I suspect that the meshing and solving aspects of the simulations in Discovery Live doesn’t kick off when the user inputs the bare minimum. It likely starts before that. I think that as geometry is being built (or as soon as it is imported), meshing is happening behind the scenes. Furthermore, I expect that some pre-solve activities are going on as well.
  2. A Converging Solve: I also suspect that the first pass at the analysis that is shown within seconds is likely a low fidelity solve. As time passes, that solution is solved at higher and higher fidelity. In fact, there is a slider that the user can move from low to high fidelity. But I think it is likely that the very first results you see are at the lowest fidelity.

Can This Finally Empower the Engineer?

Earlier this year, I published the post Acknowledging the Failure and Hope of Simulation Driven Design. In that post and in general, I’ve come to the conclusion that dumbed-down CAD-embedded simulation solutions have failed us. The proof lies in a finding from one of our recent studies: Most Design Decision Makers Use Simulation Infrequently and Inconsistently. To date, few companies have realized that grand vision of Simulation Driven Design. To date, the solutions simply haven’t been there.

Can Discovery Live turn the tide?

My concern about Simulation Driven Design is that you need four areas of knowledge and skills: engineering physics, analysis method, CAD software and simulation software. Quite literally, Discovery Live relieves the burden of knowledge for analysis method and simulation software. Engineers only need to understand the engineering physics and how to use CAD software.

Can Discovery Live enable true simulation driven design?

Yes. It has the potential.

Finally… Payoff from the Spaceclaim Acquisition

I distinctly remember seeing the news of ANSYS acquiring Spaceclaim and wrinkling my brow. Wait… they’re getting into the CAD business? Really?

After some thought, however, I was able to conjure up some interesting developments in my mind. I wrote about them in the posts Three Key Questions as ANSYS Acquires Spaceclaim and The Surprise in ANSYS’ Acquisition of Spaceclaim? In each of those posts, I thought there was a lot of potential. But I’m very glad they exceeded my expectations.

Discovery Live is the type of groundbreaking thing you ultimately want to see from this kind of acquisition.

The Value is Self-Evident

Here’s my final takeaway.

When I saw Pro/ENGINEER some twenty years ago, its value was self-evident. You didn’t need context. You didn’t need to understand how it worked. You just changed a dimension, the model updated and the drawing updated. People were awe-struck. They were utterly dumbfounded. They literally asked for contracts to buy the software.

Quite literally, I see Discover Live falling into the same category. You just add loads and constraints and… presto… you start seeing results. The value here is self-evident.

Conclusion and Suggested Actions

Let’s pump the brakes for a moment.

So far, we’ve been talking about a product release announcement. So while all this will work in theory, this product needs to prove it can do the job. Fortunately, there’s going to be ample time for that. ANSYS is offering a free open beta test period for Discovery Live. You can download it and use it for four months.

So what do I suggest? Go test it to the limits. See where it works. See where it doesn’t.

When you have some takeaways, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Take care. Talk soon.