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Jeff Rowe
Jeff Rowe
Jeffrey Rowe has more than 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 … More »

ANSYS Discovery Live Accelerates Engineering Simulation For Concept Exploration

September 7th, 2017 by Jeff Rowe

Even though we’ve been told by a number of software vendors for several years now to use engineering simulation and analysis at the earliest stages of product development, relatively few companies have heeded the advice and actually done so. In many cases, it’s still design, break, repeat in a cycle that gets very expensive quickly trying to achieve optimized design goals. Even with all the insistence and chiding from the simulation folks, I’d estimate the percentage of design work that includes simulation early in the process as somewhere between 20-25%, although that may be a bit on the high side.

This week, ANSYS presented a technology preview of what it hopes will break and change that cycle with what it calls ANSYS Discovery Live .

With it, engineers can rapidly explore design options and receive accurate simulation results with technology using engineering simulation to make digital exploration available to all engineers so they can design better products faster and more economically.

That’s a pretty confident and heady statement, knowing that several other vendors have attempted the roughly same thing with widely varying degrees of success. However, ANSYS has an interesting and innovative approach for reaching its goal — exploiting GPUs because they can handle massively parallel operations.

ANSYS readily admits that while Discovery Live is a means of bringing simulation to the engineering masses earlier in the development process, it doesn’t pretend to do everything for everybody, and there will always be a place for engineering simulation specialists for deeper dives. Discovery Live is targeted to early design exploration and to users new to simulation. Because it is not a solution for every simulation problem, Discovery Live does not compete with other more advanced ANSYS products, such as AIM, but data from it can be exported for more further study.

Simulation has become one of the most critical engineering technologies, especially in the age of the Internet of Things, electrification, and additive manufacturing, but it is still the domain of specialists and used predominantly for the most complex engineering projects. Realizing this, ANSYS is expanding Pervasive Engineering Simulation™ – with the hope of empowering every engineer to take advantage of simulation tools upfront in the design process. Instead of taking days, months or weeks to set up, run and analyze digital prototypes with traditional engineering simulation solutions, Discovery Live allows for every engineer to immediately examine the impact of their design changes. Users can pose what-if questions upfront in the design process to rapidly explore thousands of design options and receive immediate feedback – enabling the user to digitally explore the impact of changes with results updating immediately.

“Discovery Live’s breakthrough technology places real-time simulation in the hands of every engineer.  Coupled with an equal step change in ease of use, it enables true digital experimentation,” said Mark Hindsbo, vice president and general manager, ANSYS. “This will fundamentally change product development, inverting the traditional process by bringing simulation upfront and enabling millions of engineers to benefit from the power of simulation.”

ANSYS Discovery Live Analysis of Lattice Structure

With Discovery Live, ANSYS has undertaken a major research and development effort to build a new simulation technology based on the massive parallel nature of graphics processing units (GPUs). the newest NVIDIA GPUs can deliver capabilities that approach supercomputing levels and, when combined with Discovery Live, results can now be calculated thousands of times faster than with conventional methods (think seconds instead of hours).  This has been combined with nearly 50 years of ANSYS experience and validation of simulation methods and best practices, making it available and usable for the non-simulation expert.

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Interactive Physics in ANSYS Discovery Live

“Designers, scientists and engineers around the world rely on ANSYS to accurately predict their final products and projects,” says Bob Pette, vice president, Professional Visualization, NVIDIA. “ANSYS Discovery Live unleashes the power of NVIDIA GPUs and CUDA (Compute Unified Device Architecture) parallel computing to make the first ever real-time design environment with simultaneous visualization and simulation possible. We have a long history of working with ANSYS and look forward to our continued collaboration to advance breakthroughs in the way new products are designed and created.”

To maximize Discovery Live performance, ANSYS strongly recommends a good graphics card, such as the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti. This is a reasonably priced video card, but will require a 600+W power supply in a desktop computer to run it. There is a cloud-based option for Discovery Live, but ANSYS recommends the desktop route for the best experience and performance.

Discovery Live supports fluids, structural and thermal simulation applications – enabling engineers to experiment with design ideas and see instant feedback. Users can run an analysis first approach as they design – enabling them to iterate with a 3-D model and interactively explore the impact of simple and complex changes. Discovery Live’s environment provides users with instant simulation results, tightly coupled with direct geometry modeling to enable interactive design exploration and rapid product innovation.

Hopefully, Discovery Live will bring simulation upfront where it really belongs, instead of being relegated as an afterthought. Discovery Live may finally fulfill the long held hope of simulation driving design.

ANSYS Says a stable beta of Discovery Live (the technology preview) is available now for free download. The first commercial release will be available Q1 2018. Pricing has not yet been announced, but ANSYS said it will be priced to promote wide adoption.  The technology preview of Discovery Live is available for download at


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