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Jeff Rowe
Jeff Rowe
Jeffrey Rowe has almost 40 years of experience in all aspects of industrial design, mechanical engineering, and manufacturing. On the publishing side, he has written well over 1,000 articles for CAD, CAM, CAE, and other technical publications, as well as consulting in many capacities in the design … More »

Transforming CAE With MSC Apex Cheetah Release: Modeler and Structures

July 16th, 2015 by Jeff Rowe

MSC Software Corp. recently announced a new release of MSC Apex, the company’s newest CAE platform. The MSC Apex Cheetah release introduces:

  • The third release of MSC Apex Modeler – A CAE Specific direct modeling and meshing solution that streamlines CAD clean-up, simplification, and meshing workflow.
  • The first release of MSC Apex Structures – An add-on to MSC Apex Modeler which now expands MSC Apex to a fully integrated and generative structural analysis solution.

Both MSC Apex products, Modeler and Structures are complementary to Patran and MSC Nastran, if you feel the need to go a step further in CAE. If you need this additional capability, the Apex products do not expose you intellectual property (IP) to those who have no business being exposed to it.

According to the company, the new release enhances workflow and daily productivity with several modeling and analysis capabilities, and gives you the ability to perform design analysis more comprehensively and easily.

To get a better feel for these claims, we spoke with said Hugues Jeancolas, MSC Apex Product Manager who said, “Cheetah is a milestone release for MSC Apex, now delivering its first solver integrated solution for interactive and incremental structural analysis. Modeling, validating, solving, and exploring designs has never been this efficient and easy. MSC Apex helps users to crush the amount of time that it normally takes to build and validate models, a task that does not add any value to the design process. This frees our users to focus on delivering not just acceptable designs but ones that are optimal – in an environment that is fun to use.”

CAE, fun to use? That may be a bit of a stretch, but the demos we have seen make the claim a bit easier to swallow.

MSC Apex Cheetah Release Overview

MSC Apex Modeler

MSC Apex Modeler is a CAE-specific direct modeling and meshing tool that streamlines CAD clean-up, simplification, and meshing workflow. The tool features capable and interactive tools that are relatively easy to learn and use.

  • Direct Modeling – Direct modeling lets users create and edit geometry interactively by selecting entities of interest, such as a face, edge or vertex, and pushing, pulling, or dragging to implement any modifications. Direct Modeling is also complemented with built in meshing technology.
  • Direct Modeling and Meshing – For models that have already been meshed and require further geometry modification, you can use any of the Direct Modeling or Geometry Clean-up/Repair tools and the mesh will be immediately regenerated.

Some of the major improved functions in the Apex Cheetah release of Modeler include an improved sketcher, geometry and mesh quality checks; auto extend with general bodies; stitching; defeaturing; global topology control; create/delete geometry nodes; multiple meshes on a single geometry body; and hierarchical model browser.

MSC Apex Modeler’s direct modeling and meshing workflow has the following basic six-step approach (although keep in mind that all steps may not be necessary all of the time):

  1. Remove unnecessary features by specify the feature type, such as fillets, chamfers, holes, cylinders, etc., define feature dimension ranges, and automatically remove these targeted features from the model. This simplified model can really speed up things down the road in the process.
  2. Automatically or manually perform midsurface extraction options include auto offset, constant thickness, distance offset, and tapered midsurface.
  3. Repair surfaces with direct modeling by selecting an edge or vertex and interactively dragging it to a desired location. Guidelines give you a preview of the action being performed which is very handy.
  4. Mesh models and review mesh quality based on mesh size, element type, mesh seed, and features.
  5. Use direct modeling to further repair geometry that may already be meshed. Slivers or cracks can be resolved and the mesh can be quickly regenerated automatically.
  6. Use Auto Thickness and Offset to create numerous property definitions for shell elements, and export to the .bdf file format for using model with Patran or Nastran.

MSC Apex Structures

MSC Apex Structures is a new add-on product that expands MSC Apex Modeler functionality with capabilities for linear structural analysis. Some of the characteristics of linear structural analysis include the structure returns to its original form; there are small changes in shape stiffness; there are no changes in loading direction or magnitude; material properties do not change; and there is only small deformation and strain.

MSC Apex Structures packages a user interface for scenario definition and results post-processing, as well as integrated solver methods. This tool is somewhat unique in that it combines computational parts and assemblies technology with a generative framework, enabling interactive and incremental analysis.

The integration of the UI with solver methods gives the user a unique ability to interactively and incrementally validate that FEM models are solver ready. At the user’s demand, a series of solver checks can be run against individual parts and assemblies and the model diagnostics are reported in the Analysis Readiness panel. This Incremental Validation is a radical departure from the very time consuming traditional approach where pre/post processor and solver are separate.

In addition, with Computational Parts and Assemblies, MSC Apex Structures is a true parts-based tool, where each part behavioral representation (Stiffness, mass, and damping) can be pre-computed and stored independently. This approach is especially efficient when combined with the MSC Apex generative framework, as the solver execution will only re-compute behavioral representations for parts that have changed since the last solver execution. We call this Incremental Solving. This new solver architecture is especially efficient in the context of trade studies.

Some of the major functions in the Apex Cheetah release of Structures include loads and constraints; assembly representation; computational parts and generative behavior; a comprehensive study manager; and several post functions.

MSC Apex Structures’ structural analysis workflow also has a basic six-step approach as follows:

  1. Set the model and analysis context by defining the analysis type and a subset of parts and assemblies to be the context of evaluation.
  2. Validate models prior to analysis by using the integrated analysis readiness tool to validate the context has valid model representations for the chosen analysis type.
  3. Join dissimilar meshes and reduce the need to align nodes across mesh parts using mesh independent glue technology to connect two or more regions of a finite element mesh.
  4. Make generative changes and track the status and manage the update of downstream updates whose parent has been modified.
  5. Generate and visualize results by defining a linear static or normal modes scenario and execute the integrated solver methods to generate results interactively.
  6. Evaluate different design variants and modify parts interactively and incrementally generate results to explore a design space.

Again, your exact steps for getting the job done may vary.

According to MSC Software, the key productivity accelerators in the Apex Cheetah release include:

Geometry clean-up and Meshing
55% of engineers spend more than 40% of their time on geometry clean up and meshing, according to a recent survey conducted with leading manufacturing companies. MSC Apex Modeler continues to deliver breakthrough capabilities to speed the CAD to mesh process and improve productivity with a new Geometry Checks tool, robustness enhancements to Geometry Cleanup Stitching and Surface Auto extend capabilities, a new user interface for De-featuring, and a new Automated Mesh Improve capability and user defined mesh quality criteria. While the previous release, Black Marlin, delivered on ease-of-use, with these enhancements, MSC Apex Cheetah brings productivity and speed, in particular for mid-surface geometry creation, clean-up and meshing.

Solver Validated Modeling
67% of engineers need 2 to 4 solver runs to obtain a converged solution. MSC Apex Cheetah enhances the simulation workflow by delivering an innovative Analysis Readiness tool that allows the user to validate models before submitting the analysis. The Analysis Readiness tool leverages integrated solver methods to check on element quality, proper material and section attribution, part connectivity, and proper loads and constraints definitions. The tool is integrated with the MSC Apex generative framework and automatically updates as the user builds the model. This ensures all models created within the application are always solver compliant and run-ready.

Assembly Representations
MSC Apex Cheetah also enhances the simulation workflow to support large assemblies with the introduction of assembly representations, and glue connections. The concept of assembly representations allows the user to manage multiple configured assemblies of parts, and enables a divide and conquer approach to incrementally define, validate, and analyze large, complex assemblies. With Cheetah, users will also now be able to manage, attribute, assemble, and analyze orphan meshes with the support for MSC Nastran bulk data files (BDF) import.

Generative Linear Structural Analysis
With MSC Apex Cheetah, users can now define scenarios, loads, and boundary conditions, analyze, and post process results for Linear Static and Normal Modes. MSC Apex Structures combines Computational Parts and Assemblies’ technology with a generative framework, which enables interactive and incremental analysis. With Computational Parts and Assemblies, MSC Apex is a parts-based tool, where each part behavioral representation (stiffness, mass, and damping) can be pre-computed and stored independently.

This approach is especially efficient when combined with the MSC Apex generative framework, as the solver execution will only re-compute behavioral representations for parts that have changed since the last solver execution. This new solver architecture is especially efficient in the context of trade studies.

The release cycle for the MSC Apex products is quite aggressive (as the names of the releases imply), coming at a rate of about two per year. That said, the next release, Apex Diamond Python, has been announced and is available.

From the beginning, Apex has been a modular approach to simulation with specific apps that perform specific functions, as well as provide complementary functions with each other and other products in the MSC Software stable, such as Nastran and Patran.

Although MSC Software’s intent is to “revolutionize” simulation, I don’t know if I’d go that far. However, I would agree that the Apex products are definitely transforming some things in an area that has been calling for some wake up and shake up.

For more information about MSC Apex Cheetah, go to at Or, request a free trial of MSC Apex at

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