MSC Product Manager Talks APEX Release
Shawn Wasserman posted on November 05, 2014 |
In-depth Look at MSC’s New CAE Software

Initial MSC Apex release to focus on the Modeller.

The release of MSC Apex has certainly raised a few questions in the CAE space. Recently, MSC’s Product Manager Hugues Jeancolas spoke to clarify the news on the new MSC product.

Why Release Apex’s Simulation Capabilities Separate to the Modeller?

For a company that focuses on simulation, the release of a product featuring only the modeller portion (Apex Modeller), with the simulation portion (Apex Structures) ‘on the way’ was fascinating news. To that point, Jeancolas was quick to stress that:

“MSC Apex Modeller is CAE specific Direct Modeling and Meshing solution that is complementary to existing simulation workflows,” said Jeancolas. “Finite Element model building is time consuming and error prone. MSC Apex Modeller helps engineers efficiently transform CAD geometry into high-quality finite element models. Early adopters have reported 10 to 50 time speed improvements in their CAD-to-Mesh process.”

Therefore, for those that are interested in improving their pre-processing workflows then MSC Apex Modeller appears to be a great standalone tool in its own right.

However, Jeancolas added that when it is released, “MSC Apex Structures will extends MSC Apex Modeller with capabilities for linear structural analysis scenario definition, execution, and post-processing. The solver and post-processing capabilities of MSC Apex Structures will be fully integrated with geometry and meshing capabilities of MSC Apex Modeller. The resulting complete MSC Apex environment is generative, so changes to the Finite Element model automatically triggers results regeneration.” 

This means that, MSC Apex Structures will be focusing on the calculation and post processing end of the workflow as a separate, yet fully integrated product within MSC Apex.

How do Computational Parts Differ from Assemblies?

As only one computational part is changed, only the assemblies that call upon it must be fed into the solver.

When explaining the difference between computational parts and assemblies, Jeancolas said, “Today, you start with CAD geometry, mesh each part, and connect them creating an assembly mesh. This constitutes one large monolithic model. This model will need to be sent to the solver as one whole model. More often than not, the solver will fail to produce results due to errors in such a large model.”

When assembling computation parts they are still independently meshed like traditional assemblies. The difference with respect to computational parts is that you pre-compute the part’s behaviour. This will allow for incremental validation reducing the time needed to detect errors within the assembly. Time is also saved when you solve the model. Due to the compartmentalization you only need to resolve computational parts and sub-assemblies affected by design changes.

Jeancolas clarified, “with computational parts, we allow the user to pre-compute individual part behavior; their stiffness, mass, and damping properties. This allows the user to incrementally generate the model, as well as validate that each part is individually ready to be run by the solver. The process can be reiterated incrementally to generate and validate parts, sub-assemblies, and the complete assembly. Now when a change is made to one of the parts, this new solver architecture allows the user to incrementally regenerate and solve. Users only re-compute the part and assemblies affected by the change, this cuts down the overall compute time.”

How does Parts Based Representation Obfuscate IP?

Computational part assembly of an airplane. The IP of the parts supplied by other organizations is obfuscated.

When you think about it, a FEA model is nothing more than a matrix of numbers. Without more information, reverse engineering a matrix of numbers is quite hard. However, we don’t traditionally share a matrix with other organizations, we share a whole model.

Jeancolas explained, “Computational parts are mathematical models that represent the behavior of a part independently from other parts in an assembly. The computational part is not a digital representation of the physical part. They do not contain the geometry, mesh, or material properties of parts, and therefore can be shared between users while protecting their IP. Why risk the IP of your plane wing when you can just send a black box?”

“Although the first release of MSC Apex structure is for a workstation solution, the platform architecture is built to support multi-user, and high-performance computing,” added Jeancolas. This will help to make MSC Apex a more collaborative tool. However, when asked, MSC Software didn’t comment if this multiuser workflow will be available on the cloud.

Learnability of a Minimalist GUI

An added benefit of a minimalist GUI seen in MSC Apex is how fast users pick it up. MSC has reported that they have seen designers learn the program in as short as 4 hours. Additionally, the solution is packaged with video tutorials, tips, and tricks to use the application.

“We want more than just specialists performing simulation for design validation and certification,” said Jeancolas. “We are giving more engineers the opportunity to use simulation throughout all stages of the design process. For example, Apex provides rapid modeling, meshing, and validation needed for concept modeling, making simulation engineers self-sufficient, with no dependencies on the design team to provide them with CAD models.” 

Will Apex Run Multiple CAE Technologies?

Eigen vector plot.
Another common aspect of minimalist GUI in the CAE world is an attempt to consolidate the GUI of various products with seamless integration. However, during Apex Structures’ release the platform will only consolidate modelling and structural simulations. Unfortunately, this is currently a far cry from other next generation CAE technology.

“We fully intend to make the MSC Apex platform the host for all of MSC’s technology in the future. Our goal is to support a broad range of physics that we will introduce gradually over time. However, With MSC Apex Structures, we will start by supporting linear structural analysis. Our vision is to provide you with a scalable solution enabling the management of simulation and part behaviors for conceptual design all the way to detailed simulation validation.”

Perhaps, this ‘slow and steady wins the race approach’ will work in MSC’s favour. There is something to be said about taking the time to make sure that the different technology will all works together properly when integrated into one platform. Though MSC’s integrated platform will take longer to fully integrate all of MSC’s tools, it might be worth the wait if the final product is the leader in the integrated CAE market. In the end, however, only time will tell.

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