The ANSYS Workbench and the Future of Simulation
Shawn Wasserman posted on June 11, 2014 |
ANSYS Convergence Conference treats users to the future of the ANSYS portfolio.

Simulation has become a linchpin of design in the current product development landscape. Engineers can use multiphysics to better predict how designs will react to every conceivable environment in an effort to design faster, cheaper and better performing products. One platform which makes this possible is ANSYS’ Workbench which brings together their modeling, meshing, fluid, multiphysics, structural, dynamics, electromagnetics and turbo system software components all under one roof. At the ANSYS Convergence Conference (ACC) they talked about the power of the Workbench and what might be in store for the future of ANSYS.

The Workings of Workbench

ANSYS Workbench picture courtesy of ANSYS
“Many of our comprehensive solutions are made possible by ANSYS workbench,” says Mike Hebbes, Sr. Regional Technical Manager. “The platform backbone technology gives access to all of our tools. It’s seamlessly deploying all of our tools in one environment. It can improve communications between the tools, opening up the architecture. Workbench is going more and more towards python scripting, CAD connectivity, PLM connectivity, and enabling high end simulations for more and more product design engineers.”

Though the process of knitting the entire ANSYS portfolio might sound like Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE, it appears ANSYS went a different route by not using a single GUI for all of their 3DX products.

Essentially, Workbench uses a drag-and-drop project schematic to link the simulation processes, CAD, project updates and optimization tools. Changes and parameter modifications can be made to any section of the schematic and Workbench automatically updates the projects, saving time producing iterations, DOEs, max/min and ‘what-if’ scenarios. It also automatically transfers data between projects allowing for easy multiphysics.

Many would say that this is starting to sound like system engineering. As Mike Smocer, Regional VP, says, “System engineering is really in the eye of the beholder … It does include the idea of behavioural modeling but it also includes the idea of coupling embedded software, predictive analysis that enables conformance auto code generation with industry standards … Also multiphysics is more and more accessible to engineers and groups where formally it was impractical based on there being different tools and different types of interfaces or different learning curves. And this is becoming … a big conversation.”

It seems ANSYS is already working towards their goals as simulation expert Ansel Dooley, Technical Specialist in multiphysics analysis & CAE at Yazaki North America, talks about ANSYS’ cross platform functions and user support: “I’m an ANSYS user for over 7 years and I’m enjoying version 15. I find the product to be very effective, cross platform, user friendly, and I’ve had excellent user support … If I didn’t believe in it I would have to go somewhere else as that is what I use day in and day out.”

Washing Machine Example

Washing Machine system diagram.
The PVM Signal controlling the motor.
ANSYS’ goal with Workbench is to provide full product simulation by combining 3D physics and system level analysis within one platform. In Hebbes’ presentation, he used the example of a washing machine to describe how this system level design might look.

Though a washing machine might seem like a mundane product it is a great example of the power of the Workbench as it contains embedded software, drive circuits, electric motors and will need thermal, structural and acoustic noise assessment.

ANSYS can help in the early design stage to determine on a generic level if a design can be made to meet the customer’s designs. However, “sometimes early in the design stage you will not have CAD … and you do not want to create the next generation’s product based on a previous generation CAD model. You want to design a product based on performance requirements as opposed to CAD,” says Hebbes. ANSYS’ comprehensive solution also provides tools that allow engineers to produce CAD models early in the design cycle.

ANSYS Simplorer system simulation is used to assess the washer’s power supply. This power is supplied to the controller, AC-DC Converter, PCB circuits and IGBT inverter modules.

The motor, which operates at variable speeds, is controlled using an electric drive, controller and the ANSYS Esterel Scade suit. Simplorer will run this code, producing a PVM signal to determine the speed of the motor.

The motor can then be simulated using ANSYS Maxwell 3D field solver. The PVM signal can be used in Maxwell as input for its 3D electromagnetic physics simulation for high fidelity reduced order models to assess the electromagnetic design flow in conjunction of the circuitry.

Motor’s Maxwell Simulation.
As the inverters are temperature dependant, assessing the operating conditions is important for optimal performance. ANSYS Icepak can be used to produce a multi-domain, multiphysics simulation that will determine the temperature of the IGBT units based on the power they receive.

Icepak runs off the ANSYS Fluent fluid dynamics solver to determine the results. Simplorer can then make a reduced order model based on the simulation allowing for the simultaneous solve of the electromagnetic and thermal simulations. The temperature is then fed back into the system to determine the IGBT performance. As the drivers control the speed and position of the motor this is fed back into the system to close the simulation loop.

Speed, location and acceleration can then be used as an input to a ridged body dynamics analysis to determine the transient behaviour and stresses of the structure as the washer runs based on motor torque.

Finally, the system can be assessed for acoustics. The electromagnetics found using Maxwell will determine radial and tangential forces which can deform portions of the mechanism producing harmonic motion and noise. Stresses in the transient time domain are converted to the frequency domain, which is then used in ANSYS Mechanical to analyze the harmonics automatically. With the information calculated, engineers can take steps to reduce the noise produced.

Collaboration with Simulation Non-Experts

The ACC event spent a lot of time addressing the prospect of bringing simulation non-experts into the simulation design development cycle. ANSYS reports that this idea isn’t to water down the need for analysts, as some might fear, but to acknowledge that an analyst cannot be an expert in everything. Bringing simulation into the design cycle earlier, through non-experts, is also an ongoing trend in simulation to ensure better, more educated design decisions along the whole project lifecycle. Therefore, making the platform easy to use could be beneficial if these simulation non-experts are instead experts of a brand of physics or some other useful task in design.

“Enabling simulation non-experts by people who are physics experts, or chemistry experts, to access high-end tools in a standardized approach is invaluable if you want to go fast,” says Mark Meili, Associate Director of Procter & Gamble and ACC Keynote. “It changes the culture and it changes how people learn.”

He continues using a bottle pouring experiment as an example. “[This is] a routine thing that we do on a regular basis, and I want you to ask yourself, do you want a simulation expert doing this particular thing? … I don’t want to have simulation experts doing this all day long because honestly they are going to get bored building this and it’s not a great use of their time. But if the guy who is designing the package can do this routinely then that is a really big thing.”

As non-experts will be joining the ranks of simulation users it is best to brush up on their specialties to help promote better synergy on a project. Paul Oliver, Regional Sales Director suggests that users take the time to learn about other physics that they may not normally use.

Oliver says, “One of our strongest suits at ANSYS is our ability to do multiphysics.  Having a common user interface in workbench, for all our physics, allows for “occasional or non-expert” users to get up to speed quickly.   So, if you are a fluids users, please take the time to learn about mechanical … and see how that can help you, and your engineering processes, or vice versa. Take a look at electromagnetics and see how that may help and finally, take a look at our high frequency applications.”

ANSYS’ ability to bring non-experts in simulation into the fold is shown with Arvind Karandikar, marketing specialist at Celanese. He says “I’m a beginner. I just started getting trained. But I find the technical support excellent. They really make you learn and even though it is quite complicated, they make it simple and support is available throughout its not just for the start, which is a good feature.”

The Future of ANSYS

“In 1997 when I got started in simulation it was pretty much used as a verification tool after something had already been designed,” Smocer said. “When you fast forward some amount of years you find simulation is then used as a predictive tool for individual physics on individual components. But that’s no longer okay, today is about systems and multiphysics and understanding those interactions across an entire workflow, an entire product lifecycle and that’s where the challenges lie for all of us.”

To access this level of simulation you will need some high performance computing. However, if “you’re a small company, you say I don’t have access to all the technology or the cores large companies have. Well there are cloud-based partners that we work with and there are licenses models that open the doors to those technologies now. So we are trying to move with the times of today’s realities,” says Smocer. But Smocer is quick to add that cloud computing isn’t just for small companies, large companies may want to add it to their goals as it is hard to ensure you have access to the latest technologies. Cloud services can help eliminate this issue.

Of course, ANSYS is not the first simulation company to move towards the cloud. Like the aforementioned 3DX and Autodesk’s 360 environment many small companies are turning to cloud options to power their simulations.

To add to ANSYS’ system level abilities, Smocer hints at the ability to move SPACECLAIM and Reaction Design, ANSYS’ recent acquisition, into the workbench. “This is something that highly compliments what we are doing on the fluid side, to be able to look at different fuel mixtures and ultimately commit to them based on certain emissions and efficiency standards and ultimately move that into an ANSYS CFD solver and look at the entire engine block.” SPACECLAIM on the other hand will be able to vet ideas and perform feasibility studies without needing a CAD environment.

Smocer further hints at a more all-encompassing, big picture solution for integrating all of these changes. “We’re focusing on next generation opportunities … there is something that is, released is not the word, because it’s not a product there’s not a price, and it doesn’t do everything all our technologies do today. But it is an environment that is everything that is suggested here. It is immersive. It’s one environment with all physics. And some customers are testing and using it right now and providing feedback on it. It was a multi-year effort. It is distinct from the products we have today. It is a product we are putting out on the market in limited form.”




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