Dassault Systèmes Acquires FE-DESIGN: What Does It Mean for the 3DEXPERIENCE Vision?
Chad Jackson posted on May 06, 2013 |

Another day, another acquisition. I have to admit though, I find this one intriguing. Not because the SIMULIA brand feels relatively complete already from a portfolio perspective. More from the perspective of what it means for their whole 3DEXPERIENCE vision. There's actually a lot there. Read on and I'll give you my perspective.

Background

On April 25th, Dassault Systèmes announced their intent to acquire FE-DESIGN Group, a software provider focused on FEA-based topology optimization (press release). This extends Dassault Systèmes' relationship with FE-DESIGN group, as Dassault Systèmes had already embedded the TOSCA product into their portfolio as the ATOM technology.

Capabilities Provided

OK. So what new capabilities does this acquisition offer the Dassault Systèmes SIMULIA product line? Well, before we jump into that, let's get a feel for what FE-DESIGN's TOSCA product and Dassault Systèmes' ATOM product does. Back in August 2012, I wrote a post titled Ghost in the Machine: A Look at Dassault Systemes' ATOM Technology. You can go back to get the full post, but here's essentially what the ATOM product does.

You define the outer geometric constraints of a design. You apply loads and boundary conditions of the engineering physics you want to simulate. You let ATOM go to work. It removes material not essential to the geometric constraints and boundary conditions, essentially coming up with new concepts for a design.

Essentially, Dassault Systèmes has had this capability as part of the SIMULIA brand for some time through their partnership with FE-DESIGN. So why acquire them? There's lots of potential reasons, but for the most part, I expect it has to do with what they plan next.

Commentary and Analysis

Back in January of this year, I wrote a different post titled Solidworks Mechanical Conceptual: App-ing the Process. In it, I covered how the new Solidworks product not only addresses conceptual design, but how its a interesting new mix of sketching, 3D modeling, kinematics and data management capabilities. Here's the most important piece.

Back in November, I wrote a post on Dassault Systèmes' strategy across their brands. The basic idea behind the 3DEXPERIENCE vision is to take different pieces of technologies from their various brands (CATIA, SIMULIA, 3DSWYM, etc.) and use them to support industry processes.

Little did I think I would be writing about it in the context of Solidworks.

Now this idea at a high level has been played out before. Some years ago, PTC talked about their Product Development System (PDS) and how they would track support of specific processes across their products. However, now that I've seen it in action, I know what Dassault Systèmes is doing differently. All of the capabilities needed to support the concept design process is in one application, not spread across four or five different ones. And that makes a difference with adoption. Kudos to Solidworks for doing it the right way.

So how does FE-DESIGN fit in here? Well, in the context of the 3DEXPERIENCE vision, it means some new add-on apps for Solidworks Mechanical Conceptual might be on the horizon. Granted, this is prospective thinking on my part, but the potential is there and fits in the vision. Imagine using Solidworks Mechanical Conceptual and defining the outer geometric constraints, your simulation setup and letting it come back to you with some new concept designs.

Interestingly, I think this is just the start of Dassault Systèmes' strategy along these lines. We're likely to see more acquisition that, at first glance, might not make the most sense. But in the context of the 3DEXPERIENCE vision, fits strategically. Specifically, Dassault Systèmes needs to own the TOSCA product to tweak it and merge some aspect of it into Solidworks Mechanical Conceptual and other future potential apps up and down their product lines.

What are my thoughts? Well, I'll be frank. I think it is a very good vision. I think if they do turn this into an add-on app for Solidworks Mechanical Conceptual, it has the potential to have a big impact. And I don't see anyone else with something very close, especially for conceptual design.

Summary and Questions

Let's recap.

  • On April 25th, Dassault Systèmes announced their intent to acquire FE-DESIGN Group, a software provider focused on FEA-based topology optimization (press release).
  • You can get a good feel for the capabilities provided by the TOSCA product by reading one of my past posts, Ghost in the Machine: A Look at Dassault Systemes' ATOM Technology. Essentially, it removes material from designs based on simulation results, creating new concept designs.
  • This acquisition fits in nicely if they create a new add-on module levering the technology for Solidworks Mechanical Conceptual. You can learn more about what that app does in my prior post Solidworks Mechanical Conceptual: App-ing the Process.

Alright folks, that's my take. What do you think about the acquisition? Is it a good fit? Does this sort of capability, topology optimization, seem like a useable technology for concept design? Sound off. Let us know what you think.

Take care. Talk soon. And thanks for reading.

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