August 20, 2007
MSC.Software Enters CFD Market
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Jeff Rowe - Managing Editor


by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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MSC.Software announced the acquisition of pioneerSOLUTIONS, Inc. Through this acquisition and the SimEnterprise open SOA, MSC.Software is able to deliver to its customers, an all-inclusive platform for multidiscipline simulation including fluids, structures, thermal, acoustics, motion and mechatronics. Through its Open CFD approach MSC.Software is now positioned to be the first company to deliver an all-in-one common user environment through the SimEnterprise simulation platform that covers fluids applications such as fluid flow, heat transfer, aerodynamics, climate control, chemical mixing, and fluid structures interaction (FSI).


"MSC.Software is pleased to announce this strategic acquisition as we enter the CFD marketplace with our Open CFD solution," said Bill Weyand, chief executive officer for MSC.Software. "Today there are over 40 CFD solver tools in the market, creating separate models for CFD. This is an outdated and costly approach. Customers want to be able to work with CFD in a single, multidiscipline environment, with a common and consistent work environment across all the disciplines, enabling them to drive innovative products to market faster."


"We are very excited to join the MSC.Software team and committed to bring pioneerSOLUTIONS' passion for simulation based design and abstract modeling to the SimEnterprise products," said Bruce Webster, founder and CEO of pioneerSOLUTIONS. "FluidConnection, our innovative OpenCFD product, fits perfectly into MSC.Software's SimEnterprise strategy complementing its simulation based design paradigm with abstract modeling for CFD. This combination will not only extend SimEnterprise to be CFD compliant, but will do so in ways that MSC.Software's customers will have unprecedented ease of use, reuse, flexibility and choice. This acquisition is a win/win for us, our customers and the CAE/PLM
community at large."


"The acquisition of pioneerSOLUTIONS by MSC.Software is great news," said Jose Nazario, Senior Technical Specialist, John Deere. "We have successfully used FluidConnection for years to automate our development process and CFD simulations. FluidConnection becoming integrated into the advanced SimEnterprise environment will open a variety of multi-disciplinary solutions important to reliably predict our products' performance for different environments. We look forward to the extended capabilities of FluidConnection and SimEnterprise."


"Realizing a revolutionary idea like our Magenn Air Rotor System (MARS) family of lighter-than-air wind turbines represents many challenges," explains Mac Brown, CEO of Magenn Power Inc. "Through the employment of FluidConnection for CFD analysis, one reusable Abstract Model allows us to very efficiently and economically investigate the performance of various design alternatives and turbine sizes. A combination of FluidConnection and SimEnterprise will enable advanced multidiscipline simulations for comprehensive virtual tests."


This best in class approach to CFD breaks the commonly used approach of disconnected one-off CFD analysis and leverages SimXpert and SimEnterprise investments of common data model, common user environment, knowledge capture and re-use, and multidiscipline enabled solutions. Pioneer's FluidConnection, already proven in major automotive, commercial and heavy machinery applications and recognized as a best practice by industry leaders, is deliverable now in SimEnterprise, and as a SimXpert workspace in early 2008.


"MSC.Software continues its leadership role in enterprise simulation by making strategic acquisitions, such as this one, and providing a CFD simulation environment that works with multiple industry-preferred commercial and custom CFD solvers through an open CFD approach," said Frank Kovacs, vice president, strategy & business development. "Combination of MSC and pioneerSOLUTIONS technology and talents will provide the market with a compelling integrated platform for true multidisciplinary simulation."


Commentary By Jeffrey Rowe, Editor


This acquisition of pioneerSOLUTIONS fairly quickly makes MSC.Software a player on a new frontier for them, computational fluid dynamics (CFD), a branch of fluid mechanics that uses numerical methods and algorithms to solve and analyze problems that involve fluid flows. Computers and specialized CFD software perform millions of calculations for simulating the interaction of fluids and gases with the complex surfaces, such as those found in aerospace. CFD, however, is often less than an exact science, because even with simplified equations and huge amounts of computing horsepower, solutions to complex problems (such as transonic or turbulent flows) can only be approximated. Even with the
great advances that have been made on the software side, validation is still often performed using an old-fashioned wind tunnel.


For several years prior to the acquisition, pioneerSOLUTIONS was involved with developing and implementing what it calls Simulation Based Design (SBD) principles. By enabling early and repeated virtual tests through an automated procedure, pioneerSOLUTIONS' products and made CFD-dependent development processes more efficient. The added benefit of automatically capturing available engineering know-how facilitates re-use of best practices, a valuable capability that addresses development schedules and decentralized corporate structures.


PioneerSOLUTIONS was founded by Dr. Bruce Webster as a spin-off from Simmetrix with the goal of focusing on end-user CFD software tools and services that accelerate the product development processes for manufacturing companies. Shortly after it's inception, the company started developing FluidConnection release 2 that was based on a new underlying architecture and improved ease-of-use compared to the previous version.


FluidConnection is actually a CFD pre-processor for PioneerSOLUTIONS’ simulation-based design philosophy and method. The company’s intent was to make FluidConnection, CFD-related SBD a practical option to improve the efficiency of product development processes. Keep in mind that it was designed to work with, not replace existing systems and supports a number of CAD and CFD applications. The abstract modeling concept of FluidConnection combined with automatic mesh generation reduces non-value-added activities to a minimum. Today, authoring and testing of abstract models is usually done by CFD experts (as it will be in the future, as well). However, the automatic process of
applying these models to a CAD model does not require a simulation expert to ensure quality results. For example, they can be performed by CAD designers whenever a change of the CAD model requires verification through a CFD simulation.


Similar to the problem definition in a traditional CFD pre-processor, abstract models define all aspects of a CFD case, but do this in an object-oriented way and without the need for a specific geometry (shape). This shape-independence is what makes them re-usable whenever the same type of analysis is performed. When a user initiates a simulation, parameters contained in abstract models, such as volume and boundary conditions, are automatically applied to the currently present CAD instance.


Mesh generation in FluidConnection is performed through the functionality of the CAD system that created the CAD model, meaning that no geometry conversion is necessary, ensuring reliable mesh generation without "manual" user interaction. Available meshing features include among other options the creation of boundary layers, enforcement of maximum cell size and deletion of "sliver faces" to avoid discontinuity in mesh size.


Release 2.0 of FluidConnection has a new client/server architecture and an improved graphical user interface to make authoring and testing of new abstract models more efficient. FluidConnection now enables many-to-one class (volume or boundary conditions) to component (geometry or shape entities) modeling. With many-to-one modeling, FluidConnection now allows behaviors to be applied to the highest common denominator, which makes problem set-ups defined in abstract models smaller and easier to create, test, and understand.


To somewhat coincide with the R2 release of FluidConnection, in June, MSC.Software released SimEnterprise R2 comprised of SimXpert, SimDesigner and SimManager applications that provide capabilities to capture and reuse expert knowledge across engineering disciplines and organizations.


SimXpert R2 enables simulation experts to create reusable templates that represent simulation best practices and to share them with other expert analysts, engineers, and even designers for improved productivity and reliability of results. SimXpert templates leverage MD Nastran to run multi-discipline simulations based on a model.


SimDesigner R2 scales the value of simulation by giving designers the ability to evaluate product performance in a native CAD environment. In addition to exposing core basic simulation functionality in CAD, SimDesigner R2 gives designers the ability to reuse expert knowledge through remotely executing templates from within CATIA V5 and Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire.


SimManager R2 enables secure collaboration between expert analysts, designers, suppliers, and others with its enterprise process and data management capabilities. SimManager manages simulation information in the context of the methods and processes used to create it, providing an audit trail for simulation and a searchable database containing models, results, reports, and other important data. SimManager integrates with SimXpert and SimDesigner, and has compute resource management for executing simulation templates and solvers.


So, will this acquisition continue a trend for getting historically hard-to-use CFD tools into the hands of more designers and engineers? Well, I don’t think right away as FluidConnection will be a modular tool much like the others in the SimEnterprise suite and relegated to so-called “specialists” or “experts.” In my mind, “CFD for the common man” really began and remains with COSMOS FloWorks, but this product combination of FluidConnection and SimEnterprise might also make a significant splash in this arena over time in the hands of the appropriate user. CFD has
always been and continues to be a complex problem to work and solve, but this acquisition is testimony that its use by non-specialists is a possibility and will likely continue as more potential users “go with the flow.”


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-- Jeff Rowe, MCADCafe.com Contributing Editor.


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