Application Builder Launched with COMSOL Multiphysics 5.0

Protect IP & Reduce Tedious Tasks with the Application Builder

The pre-release of COMSOL Multiphysics 5.0 was announced at the COMSOL Conference 2014, in Boston. The release includes three new add-on products: the Ray Optics Module, the Design Module, and a LiveLink for Revit. Users can even use Boolean operations on a mesh and convert it into geometry. However, all news took a back seat to the release of the Application Builder now featured in COMSOL Multiphysics. The Application Builder turns often complicated models into simple input/output applications. COMSOL hopes this new tool, and the new COMSOL Server will spread simulation access through independent simulation apps. The initial release will come in late October with the COMSOL Server and more to follow.

What is COMSOL’s Application Builder?

Applications make it easy to test different mixer operating conditions based on power and torque needs.

Once an analyst completes their simulation model they will be able to package it into an application using the Application Builder. This app will feature a custom made interface and control method designed by the analyst for their clients, co-workers, students, and more.

The tool first uses a wizard to get the application started. The wizard detects parameters, results, tables, models, and plots used in the model. The analyst then chooses which of these inputs and outputs to include in the application. The wizard then produces a basic application based on the desired I/O.

The interface and logic of the application can be perfected using the Form Editor and Method Editor, respectively. With the Form Editor, a PowerPoint-esque layout is used to design the input and output fields of the app. Users will have access to buttons, drop down menus, plots, 3D viewers, and more, which can be added to the interface. In the Method Editor, users can add scripts that control the application. You can theoretically design the app to perform any COMSOL task you can think of. It is therefore imperative that the Method Editor’ scripts and user interface ensure safe use and interpretations of your model.

“The Application Builder is our vision for the future of simulation,” says Svante Littmarck, CEO of the COMSOL Group. “It brings the expertise of engineering specialists working in research and development to a greater majority of people … This is achieved by supplying those involved in the design and manufacturing process across all engineering disciplines with apps created by simulation experts.”

Littmarck continued to ensure that the models used by the applications can be password protected. This will ensure the safety of your IP when you send it off to customers, suppliers, and more. Conversely, if the model isn’t password encrypted, then application users can access it on COMSOL allowing greater collaboration.

How to Run Applications and the COMSOL Server

COMSOL Server allows worldwide App access.

Currently, the applications can only be built on Windows machines. However, once built, the applications will be able to run independent of the operating system. To run the applications users only will need the required licenses for the COMSOL Server. Apps running through the server can be accessed worldwide.

The COMSOL Server will give users, around the world, access to models and licenses through a web client. Companies will be able to manage the server and allow their customers access. This will be especially useful when supplying customers, without access to COMSOL Multiphysics, with apps.

Alternatively, if the customers need a more permanent way to run the app, they can create their own apps and run them on the COMSOL Server for a price cheaper than COMSOL Multiphysics.

Applications of the Application Builder

An Application made from a helicopter swashplate model can test mode shape on operating conditions and constraints.

The power of the Application Builder is to free experts from running repetitive tedious tasks. Quite often customers, coworkers, and suppliers will ask the analyst to perform a minor model change and determine the results. COMSOL used the example of modifying the length of a tuning fork to determine the frequency. With an application, everyone from the sales team to the shop floor can run the simulation and assess the minor change.

Jeffrey Crompton, COMSOL consultant and Principal of ALTASIM Technologies said, “Building an app has two advantages. It takes the analysis out of the analyst’s hands and onto the shop floor of manufacturing environments. This is best for small to medium businesses that don’t have the money or skill to make their own COMSOL analysis. Instead of paying for the hardware, software, and training, you can hire a consultant to provide the app at a reduced price.”

However, some users were unsure about the app as it isn’t packaged as a complete executable.
“I can see the potential of the application builder for presentations, teaching, and as an introduction to COMSOL simulations; but I would prefer to see an executable application,” said Dr. Christian Schardt. “I think the logon process needed to sign onto the COMSOL server would deter students to use the model. An .exe will go a long way.” Considering how the younger generation is accustomed to instant gratification, he may have a point.

However, “Most undergrads don’t have the math or time to make the models or learn COMSOL,” she said. “The Application Builder looks like a good way to learn a system without the tricky modeling. The tool can also be a good entry to get these students interested in simulation and computational experiments. Once you pique this interest then you can teach the modeling.”

Crompton agreed, “With a full .exe, you will need hardware that small and medium businesses cannot afford. So running the application on the cloud through the COMSOL Server will benefit these organizations.”

Ray Optics Module and Other COMSOL Multiphysics 5.0 Improvements

Vegas’ Vdara Hotel and it’s dangerous light convergence.

The other announcements at the Conference included the Ray Optics Module, Design Module, and a LiveLink for Revit.

The Ray Optics Module is used when modeling the interaction of a large object with a short wavelength wave. Examples for this would include: solar energy, building science, telescopes, and more. Analysts will be able to computer the trajectory of rays (graded and ungraded media), as well as model partially coherent, polychromatic, and unpolarised light.

For an example, COMSOL displayed an interesting simulation of the Vdara Hotel in Los Vegas. The hotel is infamous for its ability to focus the sun’s light onto the swimming pool and pool deck area, causing dangerous sunburns in minutes. With the Ray Optics Module this design flaw could have been avoided.

“The Ray Optics Module is not like any other simulation software available for modeling ray optics,” says Dan Smith, COMSOL software developer. “For the first time, multiphysics simulations can now be integrated into the modeling of geometrical optics, a truly cutting-edge development for the simulation industry.”

Valerio Marra, Technical Manager at COMSOL said, “A customer of ours models the interactions of light on a lens. The energy exchange between lens and light will affect the shape of the lens and create a new light path, which will affect the shape if the lens again, and so on. This customer used to use three different software to model this multiphysics interaction and run a simulation. Now they can do it all within COMSOL.”

Users may also be interested in the Design Module. This will allow users more control over their geometries within COMSOL. These new drawing tools include: fillet, loft, mid-surface, chamfer, and thicken.

For further control on the design, Users can now perform Boolean operations on an imported mesh. “You can convert the mesh into a geometry and then perform solid operations as long as there are no intersections between the objects,” said Bjorn Sjodin, VP at COMSOL, Inc.

He added, “For example, you can use a nano-CT scan of a microstructure and then subtract the mesh to create a hole inside of a block, which can then be used for further analysis. This type of operation is particularly useful in CFD and electromagnetics, where you frequently work with exterior domains.”

Finally, COMSOL announced a LiveLink to the BIM (Building information Management) software Revit. This product will allow model changes in COMSOL to automatically update in Autodesk’s Revit and vice versa.

Other improvements to COMSOL Multiphysics include:

  • New predefined Multiphysics couplings: Joule Heating with Thermal expansion, Acoustic-Porous and Porous-Structure interactions, Thermal Stress
  • Optimization & Multipurpose: accumulation of particles for particle erosion, and multianalysis optimization
  • Studies & Solver: Handling of large CAD assemblies, extradimensions, material sweeps, parametric sweeps, and interval based eigenfrequency analysis
  • Materials & Functions: copy, paste, duplicate, drag, and drop materials.
  • Mechanical: nonlinear beams & elastic materials, and elasticity in joints. Cryogenic damage, thermal thin layer/film fracture, new acoustic modeling methods.
  • Fluid: Automatic connections between pipes and 3D fluid domains. New Algebraic turbulence models.
  • Electrical: frequency and material auto mesh suggestions.
  • Chemical: new chemistry interface.
Written by

Shawn Wasserman

For over 10 years, Shawn Wasserman has informed, inspired and engaged the engineering community through online content. As a senior writer at WTWH media, he produces branded content to help engineers streamline their operations via new tools, technologies and software. While a senior editor at, Shawn wrote stories about CAE, simulation, PLM, CAD, IoT, AI and more. During his time as the blog manager at Ansys, Shawn produced content featuring stories, tips, tricks and interesting use cases for CAE technologies. Shawn holds a master’s degree in Bioengineering from the University of Guelph and an undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Waterloo.