Sorry, Easy5 Users: Elements is the Future

Hexagon has big plans in the systems simulation space.

In an official announcement in late 2022, Hexagon described Elements, its new systems-level modeling software, as a tool to help engineers understand the complexities and behaviors of systems designs. However, a keen eye might notice that the release also mentioned another systems-level tool from the digital reality solutions vendor: Easy5. Why would one vendor need two software options that services systems-level design and modeling?

A systems simulation of a robotic arm created using Elements. (Image courtesy of Hexagon.)

A systems simulation of a robotic arm created using Elements. (Image courtesy of Hexagon.)

Naturally, this raises a few questions:

  • What is the Elements software?
  • How does it stack up to Easy5 and other competing software?
  • What does this mean for Hexagon’s future in the systems-level modeling space?
  • How will this affect users—particularly Easy5 and Elements users? sat down with key Hexagon leaders to dig into the details.

What is Hexagon’s Elements Software?

Elements is a systems simulation software targeting design engineers working on complex solutions. As the market is moving towards electrified, smart and customizable products, engineers need tools to best make sense of these intricacies. Elements software is designed to help engineers quickly assess the performance and feasibility of each design iteration or customized version of a product. The aim is to reduce costs and risks (associated with a product’s design, manufacturing, use and even end-of-life) early in the development process by understanding how components interact and how decisions made by experts in various fields can impact the whole.

In an open-forum workshop at the Smart Simulation Summit, Shreya Chandrashekhar, Engineer at Hexagon, explains that systems simulations are tools to help define component parameters, inputs and outputs as they operate with other components. Engineers can then use set functions that govern the whole system, to do things like optimize the system as opposed to optimizing each component separately—which may or may not lead to system-wide optimization.

To do this, the software can model, compute and assess integrated multidisciplinary and multiphysics systems using equations, lookup tables, 1D simulations and other quick to compute alternatives. The software utilizes the Maplesoft math engine to optimize systems equations and computational time. Elements, like Maplesoft and similar offerings, also makes use of the Modelica Library, an open-source collection of components that can be used and combined to model events and systems.

Tony Bromwell, VP of Engineering Operations, Americas at Hexagon explained to that Elements fills a model-based systems engineering (MBSE) technology hole in the Hexagon portfolio. He adds that this is its first iteration, so capabilities will be added and broadened in the future.

To help engineers learn to use the Elements software, Hexagon streamlined the user interface (UI) by utilizing a drag-and-drop, flow-chart-based workflow to model physics, logics, systems and more. Each component in the flow chart can be customized or selected from a variety of standard and user-made libraries of components. In fact, a flow chart can even be packaged into its own component and added to a user library so that it can be quickly added to other systems.

In the workshop, Chris Coker, Engineering Manager at Hexagon, says that the UI is reminiscent of MapleSim, but Hexagon has expanded its offerings by including exclusive component libraries to model heat transfer, batteries, tires and more.

Chandrashekhar added that there are other tools to help engineers learn the software. Namely, Elements is packaged with sample models which can be used as starting points or educational tools for people new to the software. These sample models include explanations that are designed to guide users to understand what is modeled, how they can modify it to their own needs and how to create models of their own. Chandrashekhar says, “Users have the control to pack as much information as you want in here.”

What Sets Elements Apart from the Competition?

Currently, the biggest thing setting Elements apart is its compatibility with Hexagon’s SmartFMU (smart functional mock-up unit) technology. The traditional functional mock-up interface (FMI) standard makes it possible to integrate information from one simulation software into another—to produce a one-directional or multidirectional co-simulation. However, the FMI/FMU appears as a “black box” to the disparate software options. The SmartFMU, however, gives its users access to schematics, documentation and view/edit privileges. This makes the connection between the tools an open book for whomever has access to it.

To that point, Chandrashekhar notes that SmartFMU technology is not a tool to be used when working with intellectual property and external partners—the black box abilities of traditional FMI/FMU connections would be a better option in this case to protect company data and information. However, when these simulation connections are to be used internally, between teams within the same company, SmartFMU offers those teams more control over how the simulations interface.

Bromwell explains that SmartFMU has the ability to better influence the design as you improve an engineer’s visibility into the designs of other engineers. Where a traditional FMI/FMU would need to be static as the designs of the product iterate, the SmartFMU can be modified as each model changes.

For instance, imagine sharing information between an Elements and Adams simulation. Specifically, the speed of a car and its engine output can be defined by the Elements systems simulation and that can then be fed into the Adams simulation to determine driving torque, which can then be fed back into Elements for further simulations. If changes are made to either the Elements or Adams simulation, then whoever created the traditional FMI/FMU connection—and thus the only one with access—might need to produce a new one, slowing the iterative process. However, with SmartFMU, anyone with access to the connection can make the necessary changes.

Currently, Elements has SmartFMU functionality with Adams and Easy5. However, there are plans to add the computational fluid dynamics and thermal-fluid dynamics tool Cradle, as well as the acoustics simulation tool Actran, to the compatibility list.

Bromwell explains that what will soon set Elements apart from the competition are the plans to include it into the MSC One licensing system—expected mid-year 2023—and its future inclusion into the Nexus platform—Hexagon’s collaboration and data sharing tool that aims to seamlessly link its software offerings together. Note that currently, Elements needs a separate license to operate.

As for Nexus, Bromwell also differentiated it from similar offerings like Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE. He notes that the competing engineering collaboration offerings tend to only link to software owned by, or partnered with, the provider. Nexus, he explains, is designed to be more open between the various tools that engineers might use.

“The vision of Nexus is to open data between tools. It will be a lighter lift to add products to the system and share important information,” says Bromwell. “You can’t find a single tool from a single company to get the job done in the ever-growing complexity of product development. So, engineers need open platforms like Nexus to bring everything together into a collaborative workflow.”

Hexagon’s Systems Engineering Future: Why Many Users Should Choose Elements Over Easy5

Systems simulation experts are likely to recognize that the announcement of Elements brings into question the future of Hexagon’s existing Easy5 offering. The older software is designed to offer systems simulation and control software tools. As a result, when working to produce control software, Easy5 is the easy choice.

However, Hexagon officials at the open-forum workshop explained that developers are currently focusing on Elements. Though they note that Easy5 isn’t going away any time soon, there is a potential future where the two tools are blended into one—likely under the Elements branding.

What is known for now is that Elements isn’t ready to replace Easy5. For instance, it doesn’t have the ability of its predecessor to account for non-steady-state fluidic systems. But the same Hexagon officials add that the backend of Easy5, and an Easy5 library, will be added to Elements.

Those who can make the change because Elements fits their current needs might want to do so to stay ahead of the curve. However, for those that can’t make the change yet—for example, due to one of Easy5’s current exclusive functionalities—it might be wise to start learning the newer software, at the very least.

The people at Hexagon were clear about one thing: Engineers shouldn’t expect to lose any functionality. However they use Hexagon’s systems simulation technology today, they can expect that function to be possible tomorrow.

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.