STAR GLOBALDid I see you at CD-adapco’s STAR Global conference in San Diego a few weeks ago? No? That’s too bad — it was a dynamite event, with presentations galore, a beach party and even cake and champagne. It was a jam-packed event, culminating in hands-on and lecture-style training.

The main takeaway: CD-adapco isn’t resting on its laurels. There’s an ambitious, 3-per year release plan, new physics, new ways to transact, all backed by the company’s core values of quality products backed by dedicated customer support.

The lessons were many, and often came fast and furious:

  • There is greater reliance than ever on simulation-based design. What started as a way to save money by eliminating physical prototypes is now almost equally weighted towards the innovation that comes from building a CAE model once and then using it to test alternate design possibilities and usage scenarios. From Trek bicycles to Mercedes car side mirrors, leading companies are exploiting their CAE expertise to create exciting, optimized new products. We’ll probably always simulate bend-and-break, but we’re way beyond that today.
  • Many, many of the attendees are longtime CFD users, with years of experience in STAR-CCM+. They want CD-adapco to keep perfecting CFD but are also looking for ways to grow their use of simulation in general, to address new product-related challenges (if manufacturers) or offer new services to clients (if service bureaus). I can’t count how many people told me that they wanted to “take their use of simulation to the next level” and expand a perhaps modest simulation program into new types of physics or new parts of their companies. Bosses now seem to understand what CAE can do; there seems to be less justification of the concept and more “can it do this, too?”.
  • These companies are no longer looking at simulation as a special tool to be used in a limited context; the convergence of cloud/HPC, efficient solvers and price-conscious licensing is leading a lot of people to look at how they can grow their use of simulation.
  • CFD is still the realm of experts, super-users. STAR-CCM+ isn’t easy to use, but its results are increasingly easy to communicate. Again, it’s about innovation: the simulation itself isn’t the end-goal; using the results to move a design forward, make decisions about a particular facet, is the point. That’s easier to do if everyone can look at a colored plot or movie and see flow streamlines, velocity contours, cavitation and so on.
  • Optimization was everywhere — not surprising, considering that CD-adapco acquired Red Cedar a couple of years ago, bringing its HEEDS and SHERPA in-house. STAR-CCM+ users may use HEEDS or a competing product, but many are exploring what’s possible. Some expressed concern that we’re losing physical understanding by brute-forcing thousands of cases rather then narrowing on a smaller set of likely possibles, but just about everyone sees optimization as a gigantic shift and leap forward.
  • STAR-CCM+ v10 is a game-changer for CD-adapco, moving it into the realm of multiphysics. V10 carries three basic themes: Technology, with new modeling capabilities and other enabling or advanced technologies; Experience,  making the technology more accessible and streamlining workflows; and Productivity, meaning faster simulations and greater efficiency leading users to explore more designs. Within the themes are specifics like remote execution for CAD clients, a parts-based thin mesher, GPU utilization improvements, and much much more. Go here for details. Jean-Claude Ercolanelli, Sr. VP, Product Management and his team moved quickly through the plans for v10 and even teased a bit of future direction; it’s worth a look.

CD-adapco turns 35 this year. That’s pretty cool for a software company, and an impressive feat when you consider that it has held on to many customers for that entire time. One big reason? CEO Steve MacDonald and members of his management team make themselves visible and accessible, setting up in a corner of the conference center lobby whenever the formal sessions were on a break. Any attendee could walk up to Mr. MacDonald — unusual at a time when most CEOs of similar-sized companies (say $200 million or so) are guarded by handlers. That level of openness and communication is rare, and says a lot about the relationships CD-adapco and its customers have built over the decades.

Mr. MacDonald can generally be counted on to say exactly what he thinks. He is unashamedly proud of his company and its people. And he’s a demon for cake (well, icing, at least):

Steve and cake

He’s far from done, though. Mr. MacDonald told attendees that multiphysics is crucial, and that CD-adapco has built a framework to make it possible to grow from CFD to finite element and finite volume heat transfer, electromagnetics, stress and more. He said, “we’re committed to becoming a CAE code, based on a framework that allows multiphysics as well as stand-alone [single physics].” He’s laid out the long-range vision; now his team is working to put it all together.

One more thing: Did you know that STAR stands for “Simulation of Turbulent flow in Arbitrary Regions”. Me neither. CD-adapco’s Stephen Ferguson wrote about the origins of the company in the March 2015 issue of Dynamics, here.

Happy birthday, CD-adapco! Many, many more!

Note: CD-adapco graciously covered some of the expenses associated with my participation at the event but did not in any way influence the content of this post.

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