ANSYS AIM Democratizes High-Quality Multiphysics
Shawn Wasserman posted on February 25, 2016 |

One User Interface Simplifies Multiphysics Simulations

Robotic arm stress simulation performed by AIM. (Image courtesy of ANSYS.)

Robotic arm stress simulation performed by AIM. (Image courtesy of ANSYS.)

As products become more complex, engineering teams will need to perform in-depth simulations to ensure that their designs operate optimally. As computers become better equipped to solve these complex problems, more and more simulation providers are offering their various simulation technologies in one shared multiphysics user interface (UI) to tackle this challenge.

“In the past, engineers just solved the equations that fit their specialty: Navier–Stokes, Maxwell, Hooke’s law,” said Christine Wolfe, lead product manager-multiphysics, at ANSYS. “Now, with the computing power available, one engineer can look at [both] computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and finite element analysis (FEA) [simultaneously]. By just knowing the fundamentals of engineering, you can set up the simulation.”

ANSYS AIM is one example of a shared multiphysics simulation environment. An evolution of the ANSYS Workbench platform (the company’s flagship multiphysics approach), this new environment offers fluid, structural, thermal and electrical simulation physics under one UI with one shared geometry.

“Other companies do multiphysics in one environment, but they don’t have the trusted simulation software offered by ANSYS,” said Wolfe. “We are highly ranked in all of the physics we offer, and now we are offering that technology in one environment.”

The Benefits of Multiphysics: Democratization of Simulation

Temperature and equivalent stress simulation of an automotive fuse. (Image courtesy of ANSYS.)

Temperature and equivalent stress simulation of an automotive fuse. (Image courtesy of ANSYS.)

There are a few benefits to bringing all of your simulation solvers under one roof. Perhaps the most evident is democratization.

“You only have to learn one workflow, one user interface and one set of controls. They are the same no matter which physics you are working with,” said Wolfe. “You will learn a single terminology in a single environment. It's easy to include multiple physics in a single simulation. AIM includes multiphysics templates which automatically manage the interactions between them."

Though AIM is designed to tackle more complex simulations with multiphysics, it is designed to do so with simulation democratization in mind.

For instance, engineers new to simulation might get overwhelmed by the variety in ANSYS’ portfolio. ANSYS AIM, on the other hand, simplifies potential portfolio confusions by offering multiphysics technology under one user interface. This is a proven strategy within the industry, as the engineer can be trained faster with far fewer interface details to slog through.

As an example, take a simulation for a structure under a fluid force. Traditionally, users would first solve the fluid flow in one interface, move the results to the structural interface, and then review the results in a third interface.

“Now it’s all in one environment for all physics,” said Wolfe. “You set up the mesh, set up the data between them, and everything is shared.”

To further democratize the process, simulation experts can customize AIM for their engineering teams using IronPython. Using templates and custom workflows, the analysts can ensure that engineers will follow company best practices in their simulation setups and result analysis.

The Functionality You Get with ANSYS AIM

Simulation Model Geometry

The geometry control in AIM is performed using SpaceClaim technology. This allows engineers to modify the 3D parts and fix the geometry for meshing.

Wolfe explained that AIM is compatible with imported geometry from all major CAD providers. However, if engineers are starting the design from scratch, they can opt to create their own geometry within AIM.

Many software options, including some ANSYS products, are allowing engineers to automate geometry optimizations based on simulated results. To do this, they might use design space explorations. Wolfe explained that AIM includes ANSYS’ full DesignXplorer technology, this including the ability to update geometry automatically.

ANSYS AIM’s Simulation Physics Abilities

Thermal mixer simulation. (Image courtesy of ANSYS.)

Thermal mixer simulation. (Image courtesy of ANSYS.)

AIM is designed for multiphysics. As a result, engineers will have access to various structural, electrical, thermal and fluid solvers.

Thermal-stress, electrical-thermal-stress and thermal fluid-thermal solid simulations can all be solved as highly coupled multiphysics simulations.

However, fluid-structure interactions (FSI) simulations cannot be solved in a highly coupled simulation. Currently, AIM solves FSI simulations in a sequential manner.

“Smart engineers will use the right tool with the right fidelity they need with the resources they have. For the vast majority of simulations, one way is sufficient,” said Wolfe.

Some simulation options featured in AIM include:

  • Fluid flow
  • Electric conduction
  • Stress, vibration and fatigue
  • Thermal
  • Multiphysics coupling

Other functionalities of AIM include:

  • Post-processing and visualization
  • Scalable high performance computing (cloud, multiple CPU and GPU)
  • Custom and integrated material libraries
  • Customization via custom templates and project wizards

ANSYS AIM’s User Interface Guides the Workflow

Users new to simulation will appreciate the amount of help AIM provides to those learning the workflow. For instance, hovering over any model input will display field level help for the input. Additionally, clicking on the help button will open up context-specific information for the task you are currently working on.

Additionally, workflows created by ANSYS and your organization’s simulation experts can be created through templates. To start the analysis, users first select a template based on the physics they wish to test and then load the geometry they wish to work with. This then invokes the standard AIM workspace.

For a more detailed tour of AIM, watch this video:

The bottom menu in the workspace, or view panel, is used to select the workflow task you are on, display results and display software messages to the user. The workflow tasks available are dependent on the template that was chosen. However, users can add tasks to add more physics into their simulation if they choose to do so.

The AIM UI democratizes the simulation portfolio. (Image courtesy of ANSYS.)
The AIM UI democratizes the simulation portfolio. (Image courtesy of ANSYS.)
Generally, this workflow will guide you through the pre-processing, meshing, solving and post-processing tasks. Once a workflow task is selected, a navigation bar on the top of the screen can be used to navigate the steps in each task.

For each task, information can be input by using the menu on the left called the data panel. The data panel contains different user prompts, depending on the workflow task that is selected.

For instance, if the physics task is selected, then the menu prompts will cover information such as boundary conditions and load definitions. However, if the user is currently on the meshing stage, then the data panel will prompt the user for information about element size and areas of refinement.

The data panel guides the user through this data input process using color codes. However, if you can’t find a specific input for the task you are on, you can click on the data panel filter button to gain more options.

Alternatively, much of this information can be input into the simulation on the model directly. To manipulate the model, use the small buttons in the graphics tool bar. This tool bar can be seen above the geometry display.

Simulation data can be input on the model itself, not just the data panel. (Image courtesy of ANSYS.)
Simulation data can be input on the model itself, not just the data panel. (Image courtesy of ANSYS.)
Using this UI, ANSYS can prompt the user to set up their model for various physics and multiphysics systems. As the tools used for each physics simulation look and feel similar, engineers will quickly learn how to work in this multiphysics domain.

In fact, to test out how intuitive the software was, ANSYS performed a trial on second-year engineering students from the University of Waterloo. The students were provided with one hour of formal training. After that, they were given an engineering project to assess with the software.

“A few weeks later, they were producing some very impressive engineering projects with the program,” said Wolfe. “If it is intuitive enough that one hour of training can do this, imagine what your team can do once they are fully trained.”

If you want to learn more about ANSYS AIM, you can watch this webinar or try it here.

ANSYS has sponsored this post. They have no editorial input to this post. All opinions are mine. —Shawn Wasserman

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