The benefits of digital simulation technology in product design have been well touted. They include faster time to market, reduced physical prototyping costs, and, ultimately, the delivery of higher quality products.
However, the technology comes with a high price tag and a rather steep learning curve, leaving some companies on the sidelines.
A German startup, SimScale
, is doing its part to even the playing field for smaller companies and startups by offering a way to run simulations on mechanical designs in a standard web browser.
The company, made up of a team of mechanical designers, computer scientists and mathematicians, has developed a browser-based, online platform that delivers modeling and simulation capabilities on a pay-as-you-go basis.
Users start by uploading their CAD models using a standard neutral file format, such as IGES or STEP. Once uploaded, they can interact with the model in 3D just as they would in a desktop application.
Then the user sets up their analysis (structural mechanics, fluid mechanics, or thermodynamics), chooses the type of machine on which to run it (smaller two- or four-core servers or mammoth eight-or 16-core machines), and then starts the simulation.
Once the results are available, users can send the results via a public link or direct email to other design participants.
More advanced online collaboration functionality is in the works. Users pay only for the computing time required for their model. The actual simulations are carried out in third-party computing centers, which can raise some red flags with companies concerned about IP security. However, the SimScale workflow is industry-standard encrypted so data is protected at all times.
David Heiny, a product manager at SimScale, says, “The core idea behind the SimScale platform is to take down the barriers in terms of upfront financial investment to start using simulation.” The company also seeks to remove some of the learning curve hurdles to using the technology by offering a project library that enables users to import publicly available analyses—similar to their own—to use as a starting point for their own simulations.
Platform architecture leverages open source solvers
SimScale utilizes open source code solvers, not commercial software. According to Heiny, designing the platform in an agnostic way enables them to more rapidly deploy new solvers and meshing algorithms for users. “We really focused on designing this as a platform and not as a web service or an application. It’s really meant to be a platform to bring solvers, users and code developers together.”
By delivering simulation capabilities as a software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering, SimScale can deliver a fully scalable solution that is flexible, fast and straightforward to use. The target customer is small to medium-sized companies that recognize the benefits of simulation but don’t have the internal resources to deploy it internally or just need it occasionally on a project basis.
Initially the platform was designed for users who are familiar with simulation software but currently don’t have access to it, however the company does have plans to develop specific functionality in the future that addresses the challenges of new users implementing simulation for the first time.
According to Heiny, the platform architecture enables them to make improvements based on the needs of their users. “We learn from our users; what they want, where they are struggling, and where they are dropping out because they are too frustrated to go on,” says Heiny. “As a development team, we really appreciate the fact that we are so close to the users and can roll out updates and new features to the platform much faster than a desktop application software provider can.”
How much does it cost?
SimScale has created a free Basic plan that enables companies to dip their toes in to determine if it is something that would create value for them. The Basic plan offers 10 simulations, 20 meshes and one core hour of processing free each month. It was designed for initial evaluation and for simulating smaller models.
Once users want to start simulating larger models, they transition to the Professional plan in which they pay for actual computing time. If assistance is needed, consulting is available for an additional fee. The uploading of models takes place in Germany, though the company will soon have infrastructure in the U.S.
Payment will be accepted via credit cards with the next release. Until then, SimScale accepts direct debit payments or can invoice your company.
SimScale has sponsored promotion of their simulation solutions on ENGINEERING.com. They have no editorial input to this post.