Link Almost Any CAE and Design Software Tool into an App With EASA
Shawn Wasserman posted on November 28, 2017 |
You can simplify your complete CAE workflow using a model-agnostic simulation app from EASA.
Plate structural simulation app. (Image courtesy of EASA.)

Plate structural simulation app. (Image courtesy of EASA.)

Imagine a sales engineer sizing equipment on the fly while a customer is on the line.

Imagine a manufacturing operator preventing a major shutdown after plugging in values they have never seen coming from their equipment before.

Users of traditional computer-aided engineering (CAE) might see these concepts as nothing more than a pipe dream. But this is the problem with treating simulation as an ivory tower. The information simulation apps provide can be invaluable to almost any role in your organization, but it can bog down the users in an organization as they attempt to get information to everyone who needs it.

This is where the concept of simulation apps come into play. These tools democratize simulation so that novice users can function with them safely. One such appification tool is EASA, which boasts that its apps are completely model agnostic. This means that EASA can link almost any engineering tool to another with its app service.

“Before CFX was sold to ANSYS, we came to the observation that one of our customers had around 20,000 engineers but only 70 people could use CAE software—of those 70, only six knew CFX,” lamented Seb Dewhurst, director of Business Development and former CFX employee. “For simulation to grow, it must be fall-off-a-log easy! CFX, therefore, decided to fund the tool that would become EASA.”

How EASA Apps Improve CAE Workflows

(image courtesy of EASA.)

EASA can link various models into one app to democratize simulation for the average user. (Image courtesy of EASA.)

EASA is best used on models, templates, workbooks or workflows that are frequently used. In these cases, it’s best to ensure that more people can use these tools instead of eating up the time of a specialist.

EASA can link and appify various third-party tools like Excel, Salesforce, Visual Basic, MATLAB, ANSYS, Python and other finite element analysis (FEA) or computational fluid dynamics (CFD)software. Even text-based legacy code can be brought into EASA. The appification is designed to be completely model agnostic.

The finished product is a web application at a URL that only authorized users can access. These apps are then stored in the Amazon Web Service (AWS) cloud or on premises.

Since the tool is wizard based, it also helps to shield intellectual property (IP) from app users. These users will not be able to see the underlying logic behind the user interface (UI).

So, a seasoned CAE specialist might now be thinking, “you expect me to code a whole app just for my team? Where will I find the time.” That’s a good point.

Thankfully, Dewhurst explains that EASA is a low-code development platform for what he calls “citizen developers. The point of low-code tools it not for coders to program but for subject matter experts to. When we see IT guys getting involved with EASA, it’s because they have seen that if it’s efficient for the citizen developers, then it’s efficient for them.

“Sometimes, the use case of appifying tools doesn’t warrant the cost of coding, but if the cost of coding is brought down, then the use case is doable,” Dewhurst added.

So, let’s say you have some legacy code that is nearly 30 years old. This code certainly isn’t usable by most new staff or modern desktops. There are no error traps and there is no UI. However, no one wants to toss out good code that has been functional and proven for so long. EASA takes this code and wraps a UI around it.

This makes the tool functional for new users, ensures that those new users don’t break the workbook or text-based code, and adds some error traps to ensure that no one inputs any garbage into the tool. Now this model has a second life that could potentially last for decades.

Now what about that esoteric Excel workbook that everyone is begging to get access to. Afraid they will break it? EASA can help here, too, by ensuring that people can have access without being able to break anything or learn from your IP.

EASA has a special Excel Server that communicates with the program in real-time just as you would see in the real Excel program.

Other benefits to an EASA app include:

  • Access management
  • Version control
  • Auditability and compliance
  • IP protection
  • Reliable functionality that is immune to third-party software updates
  • Tool integration
  • Workflow automation

How to Make Model-Agnostic CAE Apps With EASA

At this point, you might be thinking that EASA is just another API tool. Dewhurst explains that this couldn’t be further from the truth.

EASA is based on command lines, so that it more closely resembles a batch running tool. In short, EASA’s UI creates software-specific input files based on a user’s data contributions. The tool then returns the output file and displays it to the user.

Excel is an exception to this batch process in that it can be run either as a batch file or live using the aforementioned Excel Server.Another way that EASA communicates with third-party tools is with Java Database Connectivity (JDBC).

For steps on how to make a EASA app using Excel, watch this tutorial:

As you can see, an app’s author will be responsible for creating the error checking. Subject matter experts are able to add control logic for both the inputs and the results to help ensure safe use of their models.

“EASA was first used to run CFD, and we were obligated to enable subject matter experts to make sure the use wasn’t doing something silly,” joked Dewhurst. “You can also set the app up to review the results to see if there is something funny there. The user would then be given a warning. So, you can prevent the user from going somewhere they shouldn’t.”

EASA App Streamlines GE Wind Energy Bidding Process

GE Wind Energy’s app reduced its bid creation time from six to eight weeks down to two to three days. (Image courtesy of EASA.)

GE Wind Energy’s app reduced its bid creation time from six to eight weeks down to two to three days. (Image courtesy of EASA.)

Some of you still might not be convinced that democratization is the way to go for your CAE workflows.

Fear of garbage in, garbage out and novices using engineering tools can certainly be a cause for concern among some of engineering’s vanguard.

Perhaps knowing that GE Wind Energy (GE) uses an EASA will ease some of those concerns.

GE’s bidding process was a long and arduous task. It involved everything from engineering calculations, to logistics and even HR staff assignments. Each of these proposals would take six to eight weeks, which made it nearly impossible to keep up with the design modifications and change requests that inevitably would occur with a bid.

“They decided to build a tool with Java, but then found EASA and thought it was a great prototyping tool,” said Dewhurst. “Then the EASA app worked so well they just kept it and dropped the idea of using Java.”

With the new app, teams could build a bid in about two to three days. Last year, all of GE’s bids were made using this new app. Additionally, multiple bids can be saved under different instances run by different users. This creates a concept of version control and user-specific results.

“The further you get from R&D to selling to customers, the more likely the analysis will be repetitive,” said Dewhurst. “This repetitive analysis can be delegated to people that are not analysis experts. These will not be analyses that push the frontier of the product; they will be similar with dimensions and materials already seen by the analysts. These users will be tweaking the product based on the customer’s requirements and the rule set up by the analysts.”

GE’s tool wasn’t simple, either; it linked together various tools, including:

  • Oracle
  • SAS
  • Microsoft Office
  • Adobe Acrobat
  • A series of in-house code
If you wish to learn more about engineering apps, read the E-Book: Engineering Apps For Simulation.

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