On December 17, 2008, Autodesk, Inc. announced that it had signed a definitive agreement to acquire ALGOR, Inc., a leading provider of analysis and simulation software, for approximately $34 million.
Headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, ALGOR's computer aided engineering software is used for product design and development in the automotive, aerospace, medical, consumer products, defense, energy and utilities industries. The acquisition will strengthen the Autodesk solution for Digital Prototyping with new advanced simulation functionality, including multiphysics, mechanical event simulation and fluid flow.
"Autodesk strives to offer manufacturers the most comprehensive and easy-to-use Digital Prototyping solution on the market," said Robert "Buzz" Kross, senior vice president of Autodesk Manufacturing Solutions. "The acquisition of ALGOR will add significant new capabilities to virtually test and predict the impact of simultaneous real world conditions like heat and pressure on product designs."
"Since 1976, ALGOR's accurate, easy-to-use analysis and simulation tools have helped mechanical engineers make better, safer products at a lower cost," said Michael Bussler, president and founder of ALGOR. "We have enjoyed a long-standing partnership with Autodesk, and the combination of our proven technologies will be an exciting new chapter for our customers worldwide."
ALGOR's software and services enable complex simulations on products ranging from mobile phones and printer cartridges to oil pipelines. Following the acquisition, Autodesk customers will have the opportunity to perform even more sophisticated analysis based on real-world structural and thermal conditions, allowing mechanical engineers to make informed product development decisions.
Upon completion of the acquisition, Autodesk's current intent is to integrate ALGOR into its Manufacturing Solutions business unit and to continue developing and selling ALGOR's core product line. Autodesk plans to continue developing the ALGOR products with an open approach, allowing direct data exchange between ALGOR products and multiple computer aided design software offerings.
The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, and is expected to close in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2009.
ALGOR software's wide range of simulation capabilities includes: static stress with linear and nonlinear material models; Mechanical Event Simulation (MES) for nonlinear, multi-body dynamics with large-scale motion, large deformation and large strain with body-to-body contact; linear dynamics; fatigue; CFD including steady-state and transient heat transfer, steady and unsteady fluid flow and mass transfer; electrostatics; full multiphysics; and piping. All analysis capabilities are available within FEMPRO, ALGOR's easy-to-use single user interface. For more information about ALGOR software, visit www.ALGOR.com.
Commentary By Jeffrey Rowe, Editor
It wasn’t all that long ago that analysis (CAE) capabilities integrated into MCAD products were a novelty and few and far between. Sure, there were add-ons and standalone engineering analysis products available for a long time, but integrating them into a design product and process was quite a step forward. That’s changed pretty dramatically, however, in the past few years to the point where virtually all mainstream MCAD products have at least rudimentary analysis features integrated into them.
Incorporating CAE, such as FEA (finite element analysis) into the product design process can help speed production trimming development cycles. Specifically, FEA helps minimize the physical prototyping phase of development.
FEA requires you to establish boundary conditions - the part materials and a definition of how the part operates - and then the software simulates the behavior of a component in its physical environment, taking into account how forces will affect the part and in what way the part is supported.
Although it has come from many sources, the stress analysis functionality in Autodesk Inventor software helps you understand how parts perform under load, so you can determine whether designs have sufficient strength to perform without failure. The stress analysis tools are integrated with the dynamic simulation tools, so you can perform stress analysis with accurate load conditions that are calculated directly from the dynamic behavior of the design.
Several years ago I was certain that Autodesk would get on the bandwagon and acquire CAE technology, just as many of its competitors had. I speculated that ANSYS would be the likely target, however. ANSYS was highly profitable and probably too expensive to acquire then, even for Autodesk.
Way back when before any acquisitions were made, Autodesk Inventor did have some FEA capability, though it was limited to part analysis and licensed from ANSYS. Now, with the ALGOR acquisition, Inventor can build on the PlassoTech capability (from a previous CAE acquiition) including structural, thermal, and dynamic analyses.
Of course, ALGOR is not the first analysis acquisition made by Autodesk. In August 2007, Autodesk acquired a little-known company, PlassoTech, a supplier of analysis and simulation software for the mechanical design market. The acquisition of PlassoTech was intended to let Autodesk enhance the simulation and optimization capabilities found in Inventor software making it easier for customers to simulate, optimize, and validate a complete digital prototype.
With the acquisition, Autodesk integrated PlassoTech technology into the Inventor product family, augmenting existing FEA tools. The technology brought some interesting capabilities to the Inventor product line, including:
Specifically, PlassoTech technology provided FEA calculations in categories such as linear static stress, steady state thermal, thermal stress, modal and frequency analysis, optimization and buckling. It also includes advanced functionalities to test dynamic stress, transient thermal, and large deformation analysis of solid and shell models with various contact conditions.
At the time of the acquisition PlassoTech had less than 10 employees. So why PlassoTech? Easy . . . Autodesk liked PlassoTech's ease of use and its solver was fast.
As Autodesk incorporated PlassoTech technology into its Inventor products, it discontinued selling standalone products or add-ons as separate items. Before the acquisition, PlassoTech was selling some of its products to several of Inventor's rivals, including Solid Edge, Pro/ENGINEER, and SolidWorks.
Up to the time of the latest acquisition, ALGOR was integrating its base static stress FEA "Designcheck" package with several CAD products, including Rhino, KeyCreator, SolidWorks and Autodesk Mechanical Desktop. It appears that several of ALGOR's strategic business partners were caught unaware the Autodesk takeover. Will ALGOR still service competing MCAD products? It appears so for the time being, according to the announcement, but this could change at any time.
I found one of the most interesting quotes in the announcement to be, "continue developing the ALGOR products with an open approach." Exactly what this means is anybody’s guess, especially knowing Autodesk’s stand and position on companies or individuals who develop products that read and write to its DWG drawing format. We’ll just have to wait and see just what “open” means in this context.
So I guess it comes down to how much FEA code through acquisition is enough? That question remains to be answered, but it appears that Autodesk is going to continue on its acquisition march – FEA and beyond.
Editor’s Note: Upcoming Software Review – Siemens PLM Software NX 6
For the January 26 edition of MCAD Weekly, the top story will be a software review of NX 6, the newest version of one of the flagship products from Siemens PLM Software. This is a very significant release because it incorporates the company's unique Synchronous Technology for synchronous modeling while promoting Design Freedom.
So, stay tuned for a review of this significant release that was one of the major highlights for MCAD software in 2008 in the January 26, 2009 edition of MCAD Weekly.
The Week’s Top 5
At MCADCafé we track many things, including the stories that have attracted the most interest from our subscribers. Below are the five news items that were the most viewed during last week.
DP Technology releases ESPRIT Mold Version 10 CAM software
DP Technology is now shipping ESPRIT Mold Version 10 (v10), the latest generation of its mold software. Twenty-two new 5-axis machining strategies have been added to the existing 5-axis functionalities within ESPRIT Mold, an upgrade that translates to even greater machining flexibility and improved cycle times. The new FreeForm 5-axis composite machining cycle allows users to independently define machining patterns and tool orientation strategies to be used for creating simultaneous 5-axis toolpaths, and includes 20 different machining strategies (cycles) in one. An existing ESPRIT Mold file can now be used as a machining template for a new job, which allows for a dramatic reduction in programming time. Users can now drag and drop existing ESPRIT Mold files into the active workspace of ESPRIT Mold. The machining process of the imported file will be added into the new file, thus providing users with the ability to regenerate existing machining cycles onto new part geometry —realizing monumental time savings. Users can now also view simulation at any point on the toolpath, which allows for inspection of the toolpath at any location. This gives the user the ability to make a quick inspection, negating the need to simulate preceding areas.