Meshing Gets a Makeover with Next-Generation HyperWorks
Michael Alba posted on December 16, 2019 |
Altair has modernized the HyperWorks interface with new tools and workflows.
Altair’s Next-Gen HyperMesh provides a modernized interface and new workflows. (Image courtesy of Altair.)
Altair’s next-gen HyperMesh provides a modernized interface and new workflows. (Image courtesy of Altair.)

HyperWorks, the simulation software platform from Altair, has gotten a facelift. A new look, a new feel, and a new name: next-gen HyperWorks, a.k.a HyperWorks X.

The HyperWorks portfolio is a collection of powerful simulation applications, each one specialized for different purposes. There’s OptiStruct, for structural analysis and optimization; HyperStudy, a tool for design exploration; SimSolid, for mesh free structural analysis; Inspire, for generative design and topology optimization; and many more.

The flagship of the HyperWorks fleet is Altair’s original offering, HyperMesh. Debuting in 1990, HyperMesh is a finite element pre-processor designed for serious analysts. Built for power users, it is loaded with icons and workflows unfamiliar to the common designer. But that’s all in the past. For HyperMesh and the rest of the HyperWorks fleet, next-gen HyperWorks is the future.

Next-Gen HyperWorks: An Interface for the 21st Century

The Next-Gen OptiStruct interface. (Image courtesy of Altair.)
The next-gen OptiStruct interface. (Image courtesy of Altair.)

Like HyperMesh, many of the HyperWorks applications suffered from old-school UI design and cumbersome workflows. While long-time users have acclimatized to these deficiencies—perhaps to the point of liking them, resembling some sort of software Stockholm syndrome—modern users have different expectations for their software.

Altair recognized the need to create a modern, intuitive interface that felt the same across all its HyperWorks products. Over the past years, Altair has been updating each of the products in the HyperWorks portfolio to bring them under the next generation interface. HyperMesh was the last holdout, but with its most recent update, the next-gen UI has now taken over HyperWorks.

“Rather than doing one of these big bang product launches where everything is suddenly different, we’ve taken a very gradual approach, so that our users could really explore the new stuff and transition at their own pace,” commented Chris Peterson, Altair’s director of Digital Product Design.

Next-Gen HyperMesh builds on the HyperMesh claim to be able to mesh large and complex models. (Image courtesy of Altair.)
Next-gen HyperMesh builds on the HyperMesh claim to be able to mesh large and complex models. (Image courtesy of Altair.)


The old HyperMesh interface. Note the size and spread of icons compared to Next-Gen HyperMesh in the previous picture. (Image courtesy of Altair.)
The old HyperMesh interface. Note the size and spread of icons compared to next-gen HyperMesh in the previous picture. (Image courtesy of Altair.)

The new UI immediately looks like it was designed with the user in mind. It has large, distinct icons contained in what is today’s standard: the ribbon format. The majority of the workspace is devoted to the 3D model, which is now, in Peterson’s words, “live to the touch”—users can simply click on any part of the model to interrogate it, rather than go through tools or keyboard shortcuts. Users can also right-click to bring up a context-sensitive menu, for example, to hide, show or isolate parts.

“Everything is just a bit more modern,” summarized James Dagg, one of Altair’s three chief technology officers.

Not Just Pretty Icons

For the hard-core HyperWorks users throwing up their hands in despair: relax. Users can revert to the old UI at any time. In HyperMesh, for example, the panels at the bottom of the screen—where users did most of the heavy lifting in previous versions—are hidden by default in next-gen HyperMesh. But those panels haven’t gone away. “If you really want to bail out, you can,” assured Peterson. “It’s all still there.”

Die-hard HyperWorks users might miss the panel interface, but will find that they can still turn them on in Next-Gen HyperWorks. (Image courtesy of Altair.)
Die-hard HyperWorks users might miss the panel interface, but will find that they can still turn them on in next-gen HyperWorks. (Image courtesy of Altair.)

But before you bail out, know that you’re missing out on a lot of improvements. Next-gen HyperWorks is more than just a shiny new interface.

“I think what will draw people to the new interface is the new tools that we have,” said Peterson. “It’s not just the pretty icons.”

Next-gen HyperWorks includes a host of new intuitive tools to improve user workflows. There’s a new defeaturing tool for quickly removing small details like pinholes and logos. There’s a new midsurfacing tool to easily extract midsurfaces, with many under-the-hood settings available to users. And a new set of direct modeling tools makes recreating geometry faster than repairing it.

Example of the new geometry generation tools in Next-Gen HyperWorks. All tools with their names in blue type in the top ribbon are new in Next-gen HyperWorks. (Image courtesy of Altair.)
Example of the new geometry generation tools in next-gen HyperWorks. All tools with their names in blue type in the top ribbon are new in next-gen HyperWorks. (Image courtesy of Altair.)

Again, all the old tools are still there. Next-gen HyperWorks simply adds quicker and more intuitive ways for users to accomplish common tasks.

“We didn’t just put icons around [HyperWorks]; we actually built a lot more workflow logic into the product,” Dagg explained. “It does a lot more work for them. A lot of workflows that may have taken many minutes or hours quite often come down to minutes or seconds. It’s definitely not just a re-skin.”

Perhaps the best example of this is the new morphing tool, which enables users to push and pull on a mesh to reform it in accordance with some design goal. This action preserves the original mesh nodes while smoothly moving them, meaning there’s no need to remesh after the morphing process. While HyperMesh has always had morphing functionality, it’s been buried beneath cryptic panels and complicated setups. The new tool strips away the complexity while preserving the power.

Users are cautioned to avoid distorting the geometry so much that the finite elements are themselves distorted and yield incorrect results.

“We have so many powerful tools, but they remain in the toolbox of the analyst who’s using them all day, every day,” Peterson said. “Just being able to bring these uniquely powerful tools to a broader audience is what we're excited about for next-gen HyperWorks.”

The new morphing tool in Next-Gen HyperWorks. (Image courtesy of Altair.)
The new morphing tool in next-gen HyperWorks. (Image courtesy of Altair.)

What’s Next for Next-Gen HyperWorks

Along with the new interface, new tools, and new workflows in next-gen HyperWorks, Altair has also introduced new vertical plug-ins to complement the main suite. The computational fluid dynamics (CFD) plug-in, for example, provides a custom interface and specialized tools for CFD simulations. One such tool automatically determines the interior volume of a part and isolates it as a fluid boundary.

Besides the CFD plug-in, Altair has also released a plug-in for noise and vibration simulation and one dedicated to the aerospace industry. Next year, the company plans to release a plug-in for automotive crash testing and another for fatigue and durability.

Industrial design using Inspire Studio. (Image courtesy of Altair.)
Industrial design using Inspire Studio. (Image courtesy of Altair.)

“We just released Inspire Studio with the new interface. It’s one of our most underrated tools,” said Dagg. The geometry creation tool that keeps a construction history, once known as Evolve, is based on NURBS and competes with Rhino for industrial design.

Altair is modernizing Inspire Studio, as well as all of its design and simulation tools, with the next-gen HyperWorks interface. Eventually, designers and analysts will be able to switch from one application to another as if the applications are simply revolving around the model. This will depend on the applications all sharing a common file or database—it’s a work in progress.

“Each one of these products has great capabilities that are compartmentalized between products. What we want to do in the next phase is to make these products interoperate really cleanly, so that as a single user I can navigate between them back and forth and get the best of both worlds inside of just one environment,” Dagg envisioned.

To learn more about next-gen HyperWorks, visit the Altair website.



Altair has sponsored this post.

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