Inspire Embraces Simulation-Driven Design
Michael Alba posted on October 08, 2018 |
Topology optimization on a robot gripper claw with Altair Inspire. (Image courtesy of Altair.)
Topology optimization on a robot gripper claw with Altair Inspire. (Image courtesy of Altair.)

Altair recently released the latest version of Altair Inspire, 2019. Inspire is part of the company’s solidThinking suite of software for simulation-driven design, which focuses on generative design and topology optimization. While Inspire 2019 may only be a point release, according to Altair’s Ravi Kunju, it represents a big shift for Altair.

“This release is a very, very important step forward for us as a company,” said Kunju, senior VP of Simulation Driven Design.

Simulation-Driven Design

Simulation-driven design within Inspire 2019. (Image courtesy of Altair.)
Simulation-driven design within Inspire 2019. (Image courtesy of Altair.)

To understand the importance of this latest Inspire release, Kunju goes all the way back to Inspire’s inception. It began in the 1990s as a philosophy: namely, simulation-driven design. This philosophy says that simulation should not just be limited to verifying a design after the fact, but can actually help in the early stages of the design process. The first software that embodied this philosophy was Altair OptiStruct, a topology optimization program introduced in 1994. OptiStruct, which won IndustryWeek’s 1994 “Technology of the Year” award, continues to be a part of Altair’s software offerings to this day.

But while OptiStruct was useful to CAE analysts, it was not being embraced by product designers. Continuing to pursue its philosophy of simulation-driven design, Altair introduced a new application to bring its technology to earlier stages of the design cycle.

“We brought in the DNA of OptiStruct to a completely different environment so that we can influence the product design up front and hand it over to the designers,” Kunju said.

That new environment was called Inspire, and it allowed designers to take advantage of topology optimization. According to Kunju, Inspire has been extremely successful over the years as a tool for topology optimization. But it hasn’t achieved the goal of Altair’s philosophy of simulation-driven design—that is, until now.

“In this release, we are starting to elevate Inspire from a product which did topology optimization to a platform for simulation-driven design,” Kunju said.

Bridging the Gap Between Design and Manufacturing

Stamping simulation tool in Inspire 2019. (Image courtesy of Altair.)
Stamping simulation tool in Inspire 2019. (Image courtesy of Altair.)

One issue that Altair noted over its years of developing engineering software is a disconnect between the design and manufacturing stages of development.

“We realized that the product design community and the manufacturing community were drifting apart, not only within organizations but also in the extended supply chain across the world,” Kunju said. “We saw that we need to bring these groups together, so that we have the manufacturing process capability and give the designers the knowledge of manufacturability right at the beginning.”

Now, with Inspire 2019, Altair has begun to realize this goal. The company has consolidated many of its manufacturing tools directly into the Inspire interface, including Click2Cast (now Inspire Cast), Click2Form (now Inspire Form), Click2Extrude Metal (now Inspire Extrude Metal), and Click2Extrude Polymer (now Inspire Extrude Polymer).

“All our manufacturing process tools are now built on the Inspire platform, so that designers or process engineers have one environment to communicate with each other, create designs, and go as far as they can with respect to evaluating the manufacturability as well,” Kunju said.

According to Kunju, Altair will also announce new products to be built on the Inspire platform in coming releases. “That’s why this release is very significant for us in the direction we are building Inspire, not just as a product but as a whole platform for simulation-driven design,” Kunju said.

The Inspire Platform

Here’s a brief look at the newly added tools in the Inspire platform:

Inspire Cast: Designed for both experts and novices, Inspire Cast provides users with the ability to simulate the casting process and visualize defects like shrinkage porosity, air entrapment, cold shuts and mold degradation. Inspire Cast provides templates for simulating gravity casting, investment casting, tilt pouring, and high- and low-pressure casting.

Chiller placement in Altair Inspire Cast. (Image courtesy of Altair.)
Chiller placement in Altair Inspire Cast. (Image courtesy of Altair.)

Inspire Form: This tool provides users with a stamping simulation environment that is accessible to designers and process engineers alike. Inspire Form offers several modules: the feasibility module allows designers to predict formability early in the development cycle; the tryout module provides an incremental solver so that users can simulate multistage forming, trimming, and springback; and the automated nest blanking module generates an efficient layout of the flattened blank on the sheet coil.

The incremental solver in Inspire Form. (Image courtesy of Altair.)
The incremental solver in Inspire Form. (Image courtesy of Altair.)

Inspire Extrude Metal: This tool is meant for use in the early design phase to simulate the metal extrusion process. Extrude Metal can detect defects like profile distortion, uneven wall thickness, and streak lines, and offers analysis tools, including displacement, factor of safety, percent of yield, tension/compression, von Mises stress, and major principal stress in linear static and normal modes. It also offers a material library with aluminum, steel, magnesium and titanium alloys, with the ability to add custom materials.

Post-processing in Inspire Extrude Metal. (Image courtesy of Altair.)
Post-processing in Inspire Extrude Metal. (Image courtesy of Altair.)

Inspire Extrude Polymer: An environment for polymer extrusion simulation, Extrude Polymer allows users to visualize the material flow, temperature, displacement, pressure and velocity from their analysis results. The tool can identify defects, including profile distortion, die swell and coextrusion interference.

Extrude Polymer provides an environment for simulating polymer extrusion. (Image courtesy of Altair.)
Extrude Polymer provides an environment for simulating polymer extrusion. (Image courtesy of Altair.)

The Inspiration to Go Deeper

Kunju points out that, while Inspire is meant for designers and analysts alike, those wishing to go even deeper into their simulations can always use OptiStruct, Altair’s original topology optimization software. OptiStruct is part of Altair’s HyperWorks simulation platform directed at CAE analysts.

“It’s a very tiered environment,” Kunju explained. “If you’re a designer and you have a clear idea of the loads and boundary conditions, and if you wanted that analysis done up front in an easy-to-use environment, you stick with Inspire. Underneath it uses the DNA of OptiStruct. But if you want to go really deep, in OptiStruct you can combine a lot of different types of objective functioning, create your own objective functions. OptiStruct is confined mostly to high-end CAE analysts.”

To learn more about the new capabilities of Altair Inspire, visit the solidThinking website.

Altair has sponsored this post. They have had no editorial input to this post. All opinions are mine. — Michael Alba

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