When the simulation-driven design movement first started, there was only one way to enable it: putting hybrid CAD-CAE solutions in the hands of engineers. But in the past decade or so, the approaches have grown. Today, there are four main approaches to enabling simulation-driven design.
- Analyst-Led, Manual Approach
- Engineer-Led, Hybrid CAD-CAE Approach
- Engineer-Led, Automated Application-Specific Approach
- Analyst-Led, Simulation Automation Approach
Manual, Expert Tools for Simulation Analysts
The first approach is an analyst-led, manual approach. The idea here is that an engineer will work with an analyst to figure out what designs to asses. The analyst is responsible for setting up and running the analysis.
- Altair Hyperworks is one of the most widely used pre and post-processing solutions used by analysts today. You can learn more by looking at our in-depth review. However, get up to speed on their vision for the future of Hyperworks with our coverage of Altair 365. Last but not least, Altair is the only company I know that is applying artificial intelligence and machine learning to the simulation space.
- Ansys Workbench is another established analyst toolset that is widely used. They recently have been moving in the direction of a platform, like many software solutions today.
- Dassault Systèmes’ SIMULIA and the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform represent a very different type of analyst toolset. The simulation capabilities in the 3DX platform are seamlessly integrated with Dassault’s other’s tools, including automated simulation data management. This functionality stands as a significant differentiator until other simulation tools move to the cloud.
- MSC Software offers a solution called MSCOne that integrates many simulation domains and data management.
- Siemens Digital Simcenter has one of the broadest sets of simulation capabilities available, covering many physics domains. Furthermore, it is tightly integrated with Siemens’ other solutions. But what sets it apart is the intriguing bridge to physical testing. Siemens has made many acquisitions in the recent past that enable more hybrid digital-physical approaches. If the lines between simulation and test are starting to blur in your company, this could be a firm fit.
- VCollab provides visualization tools for engineers to review results from analysts. It is a very elegant, simple solution for a complex collaboration problem. If you’re looking to enable a practical approach to analyst-engineer collaboration, this is a good fit.
Hybrid CAD-CAE Tools for Engineers
The second option is to provide hybrid CAD-CAE, computer-aided engineering simulation tools to engineers. The idea here is the engineer working independently of the analyst. They’re running their simulations amid the different design options and concepts that they’re considering.
- Altair Inspire and SimSolid is the low-key hybrid CAD-CAE solution on this list. These tools have a ton of capability and don’t seem to be getting commensurate attention. They came out with powerful, easy-to-use modeling capabilities a little while ago. They recently integrated SimSolid deep in Inspire more recently.
- Ansys rattled some cages in the industry when they launched Discovery, and rightly so. We’ve never really seen a near real-time solve of an analysis delivered in such an easy-to-use package. We have a new review of Discovery that looks at the latest release. Check back in or follow us to catch that when it launches.
- Autodesk Fusion‘s simulation capabilities fall squarely in the engineer-led approach. It is integrated tightly with the rest of Fusion’s capabilities. It clearly is meant for engineers. Furthermore, Autodesk is investing heavily in generative design functionality. That is part of their long-term vision.
- Dassault Systèmes CATIA, SIMULIA, and the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform pack a pretty broad and powerful combo for engineers to design and simulate models. Dassault has been deconstructing these tools and reassembling them into something called roles that provide the right mix of functionality for an activity. So, for engineer-led simulation-driven design, that is a mix of modeling, analysis, and data management. That is the benefit of moving to the 3DX platform vision.
- Dassault Systèmes SOLIDWORKS and SIMULIAWorks is the engineer-led simulation-driven design solution for smaller companies. A new slate of 3DX platform offerings was launched this year. But the vision falls in line with the broader 3DX vision: do your work in the cloud so you can collaborate with everything. That applies equally to analysis.
- MSC Software’s Apex was one of the first offerings that truly mixed modeling and simulation together as an engineer’s tool. It has seen enhancements to its capabilities since then.
- nTopology is an attractive solution that includes mathematical modeling in its palette of capabilities alongside more traditional modeling, simulation, and generative design functionality. Keep in mind that this tool is not a production CAD application meant for documentation and the rest of an engineer’s responsibilities. However, it can provide some heft to innovation.
- Paramatters is another non-production CAD application that won’t make you drawings. However, it does provide some advanced modeling and generative design capabilities.
- PTC has long provided some nominal analysis capabilities in Creo. Last year, however, they entered into a partnership with Ansys to integrate Discovery into their CAD offering. Of all the new hybrid CAD-CAE offerings in this space, this one is compelling. With this combo, you get a production CAD environment with near real-time simulation functionality. These tools genuinely address each other’s weaknesses.
- Siemens Digital NX and Simcenter form an excellent combination for engineers wanting to explore designs and perform analyses. As noted earlier, Simcenter provides a wide array of simulation capabilities. However, their long-term vision is to provide tools to develop a complete digital twin of the product. Beyond that, they are investing in new functionality, like driving generative design based on fluid flow.
- Siemens Digital Solid Edge and FEMAP are the engineer-led, simulation-driven design tools for smaller companies. The approach here differs dramatically from other companies’. FEMAP is a separate application with advanced analysis functionality. This tool doesn’t just cater to engineers, it caters to hybrid engineer-analysts in smaller companies. In these organizations, you have people who both design and run high-end, complex analyses like analysts.
Simulation Automation Solutions
The third option is the engineer automated simulation. In the fourth option, we’re looking at an analyst using the same type of technology, but being involved earlier on. Both rely on simulation automation technologies.
- Ansys’ Aim is built on top of Workbench, extending its functionality to simulation automation. The simulation automation capabilities of AIM can be leveraged for both engineers and analysts. Both uses apply for this tool.
- Aras acquired Comet Solutions to expand its offers to simulation automation. Aras seems to be integrating the simulation data management tools into its Innovator platform. There are some intriguing possibilities of running automated simulation cycles in the cloud or an on-premise version of Innovator. But we aren’t there yet. You can get more insight into the vision behind the acquisition from our review here.
- Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE Platform includes simulation automation capabilities, part of the acquisition of iSight long ago. These automation capabilities have been expanded as part of the 3DX platform. They can still be used for simulation purposes, however.
- Onscale is an innovative new offering that provides simulation-as-a-service. For those looking to leverage something with more automation, this could be a very good fit.
- Phoenix Integration’s ModelCenter is one of the few independent simulation automation toolsets available today. They offer an integration into the MBSE cycle that is unusual but valuable. If your company runs simulations to validate systems’ performance, then this deserves a look.
Note that there may be a few tools missing from this list. We’re only including those who have engaged in a briefing and posted a review on the solution. If another provider and their solution should be included, leave a comment, or request a briefing here.