3DX Science aims to take users from atoms to systems
What happens when you put a lot of chemists and biologists in a room with engineers? Actually, more fun than you might think. And a lot of geeking out. But that’s to be expected.
Last week, Dassault Systèmes threw the first-ever combined user group meeting for its BIOVIA (ex-Accelrys and other) and SIMULIA (Abaqus, TOSCA, SIMPACK and other) brands. It was a 2.5 days science-fest, taking us from a Nobel prize-winning chemist who quoted a Nobel-prize winning physicist to some very practical and focused user presentations of what it means to be innovative in pharma, chemical, automotive, consumer product and other industries. We had a lot of math, some deep dives and a surprising amount of discussion of the business value of these technologies.
From DS’ perspective, the combo event was meant to be a spark that caused the everyone in the room to think fundamentally differently. SIMULIA users could perhaps innovate more radically with a bit of smart chemistry. And chemists may make stuff (or rely on end-product packaging) that could later be simulated with Abaqus or another SIMULIA tool. From bottles to their contents; BIOVIA + SIMULIA aims to simulate it all.
It all comes together in additive manufacturing, which will radically change the way we think about the products we design: how can we combine material science, manufacturing technology and design intent to make the perfect product for a singular user? It was a terrific message, though a bit out of the scope of many of the attendees last week. That’s going to change, as many of the large company presenters pointed out. We’re at the start of a revolution in this type of conceptual thinking; only the biggest of the big can today afford to have material purpose-developed to meet their design needs but that will become simpler and more cost-effective. Eventually (and not that far off), even smaller shops will be able to define materials to have very specific properties, and factor that into their design thinking. SIMULIA users are, of course, aware of the science that goes into their material properties; many BIOVIA users are, of course, aware that their work winds up as those assumptions. One goal of DS’ Science in the Age of Experience event was to start things percolating, getting those two groups to share ideas, concepts and concerns.
Another goal of the event was to continue to push/pull those users onto the 3DEXPERIENCE platform. Yes, you could use Abaqus as you always have, blissfully unaware of the visualization, data management, collaboration and other features of the platform. BIOVIA’s Platform Pilot users, too, can continue to work as they always have — but both user sets would miss out on the many of the benefits the parent company brings to the party. A lot of attendees are still warming up to the platform idea, but DS and its leading customers were pitching hard on the benefits.
As just one example, EXALEAD (in the information intelligence part of DS’ compass) can be used to manage product testing and validation. Most companies develop a test plan as the design progresses; the plan contains what to test, the resources required, expected outcomes (and what are unacceptable deviations) and how to manage the results. Almost always, the test plan is a balance of regulatory compliance, risk mitigation and costs — physical tests are expensive and take a lot of time. DS showed a stat they developed with one automotive partner: 50% of the OEM’s annual vehicle validation budget of €1 billion is spent on physical prototypes, 1% on digital models of those same components. It then costs another 25% of that budget to measure and test the physical model; 2%, the digital. This isn’t new news but reinforces what we’ve long believed to be true: physical testing is insanely expensive, can’t be done early enough in a design program to be useful for innovation, and is seen as a burdensome cost. How does EXALEAD help? By ensuring that a test plan meets its requirements and helping to define test strategies — and then making sure the plan is carried out with approved methods. But it’s not just about the plan; EXALEAD also ties into the simulation platform (SIMULIA, in this example), to manage and enable further analysis of virtual and physical test results with design space exploration and other techniques. It was a very automotive example, but the point was clear for all industries: everyone needs to do verification and validation of their product, before it gets into the customer’s hands. This is an (often expensive) undertaking that involves planning, resources and careful adherence to methods. Rather than relying on human memory, a digital platform can help systematize the process and make results data available to the next project — the first steps in continuous improvement.
Since I know much more about the SIMULIA offerings, I hung out in a lot of the BIOVIA sessions. One of the most fascinating findings of the event, for me, was how similar the concerns are across industries: a desire for more data-driven decision-making, that’s fed by simulation and not tribal knowledge. Many big pharma companies built their own data management, analysis, visualization and other capabilities and are now realizing, as did auto/aero maybe 10-15 years ago, that commercial solutions may offer a better approach. AMGEN, for example, wants to build a social network with/for its 1,800 scientists and their lab data. This both flies in the face of the stereotype of a scientist working quietly, alone in a lab and points out the pace of innovation in pharma: they need to develop molecules (what I might consider a concept design) at an ever more rapid pace.
My favorite quote of the event came from Richard Feynman, courtesy of Dr. Karplus, a keynote speaker and winner of the 2013 Nobel prize in chemistry: “Everything that living things do can be understood in terms of the jigglings and wrigglings of atoms.” That was DS’ point: those wriggling atoms make up the molecules that make up the …. that eventually wind up as the materials used in your 3D printer. Or as the magic ingredient in the next personalized cancer-killer or diabetes drug. Or as the next renewable power source. DS now offers simulation from quantum to system simulation; at an atomistic level from BIOVIA to a component or system level from SIMULIA, all underpinned by the broader DS 3DEXPERIENCE platform. Most of the users I spoke with still rely on individual products, not the platform and not an integrated BIOVIA/SIMULIA solution. That’s today; the operative word is “still” — many are interested in the possibilities and in what DS can do to help them bridge the gaps.
The event just scratched the surface of what’s possible with the technologies we have today, and offered a tantalizing vision of what’s going to be possible soon. BIOVIA enabled DS to get a foothold in the pharma, bio, chemical, personal care, and similar industries that would have taken a lot longer to establish alone; it’s early days for the platform concept but it’s already gaining traction. SIMULIA continues as it has, but with new energy as it gets into down into atoms and up into platforms.
Note: Dassault Systèmes graciously covered some of the expenses associated with my participation in the event but did not in any way influence the content of this post. The title image is of a slide shown during the keynote by Reza Sadeghi, BIOVIA Chief Strategy Officer, and Bruce Engelmann, SIMULIA R&D VP & CTO.