What a difference a year makes! At the 2013 NX CAE Symposium, Siemens introduced its LMS acquisition to long-time NX CAE, NX Nastran and Femap users; this year, LMS’ products turned up in nearly every presentation, highlighting the important integration of 1D and 3D simulation with test and PLM. Rather than trying to explain what LMS’ portfolio brings to the table, Siemens let its customers explain how it all fits together for both model-based engineering and the enterprise as a whole.
Presenters spoke about their particular design challenges and integrating simulation earlier and more often into their processes, moving away from digitizing bend-and-break to actually exploring design alternatives early enough for them to have an impact on the final decisions. One company* highlighted the use of LMS Imagine.Lab Amesim in proposal writing, for very early what-if analyses. That’s an awesome idea: Why offer to do something that’s not economically or technically possible? Why spend a lot to figure this out, with more complicated 3D tools, if the contract might not ultimately be awarded to you?
Other speakers covered Model-Based System Engineering (MBSE), a concept which has an official definition but is still a fuzzy, ill-defined idea for many. Everyone can agree, though, that MBSE is a worthy approach, saving time and money and improving quality — if only we can get there. MBSE models are complex and take time to build. One speaker, therefore, suggested his company’s approach: building high-level models to keep “on the shelf”, ready for use when needed. His point: adding details and modifying models is faster than building them from scratch, leading to greater agility and customer responsiveness.
The return on investment in CAE is a function of this reuse, but also of increasing familiarity with the tools offset by the growing complexity of the systems being modeled; that’s too hard to quantify, so most organizations no longer seem to be trying. We used to hear a lot of “didn’t build and crash 5 prototypes so save thousands of dollars” — not this time. Today, CAE is used to be more creative, validate assumptions, reach new opportunities and do it all more quickly. Companies are setting performance targets for their products and then modeling and simulating until they get as close as possible, in a multidomain world that encompasses cost, function, safety, manufacturability and many other factors. These iterations enable engineering teams to make the best possible decisions by knowing the impact of any particular change, well before it’s made in the physical world.
Siemens PLM didn’t make any earthshaking announcements during the event, but did give a further glimpse into its simulation and test product strategy — and it’s just what you’d expect, given the breadth of the portfolio. Jim Rusk, Sr. VP Product Engineering Software told us that we should think of NX as an innovation platform; design, simulation, mechatronics, manufacturing line design and so on, are all apps in that environment. NX 10, available in December, includes
- multiphysics improvements such as structural/thermal interactions with 1-way & 2-way coupling
- enhancements to let users solve coupled problems on the same mesh, with common element types, properties, boundary conditions, and solver controls
- a new expression management system for describing complex boundary conditions, and
- adaptive meshing for improved solution speed and accuracy
among many other things, like a touch interface — go here for a more comprehensive list.
Mr. Rusk laid out a timetable for the integration of NX and LMS tools, but was clear that this was not intended to exclude third-party solutions: “Openness is key, and has been part of our strategy all along. We have good, longstanding relationships with other [commercial] providers.”
Back to the Siemens portfolio. Siemens continues to bring LMS and NX together, and is devoting a lot of resources at areas like complex acoustics and fluid-structure interactions. You may recall that LMS bought Samcef just before Siemens bought LMS; in NX 10, Siemens introduces a new NX CAE environment for the Samcef solver to model composite delamination and calculate ply stresses due to vibration. Even better: integration between NX, Samcef and Fibersim, so that composite models designed in Fibersim can be analyzed in Samcef. The overall plan builds on the LMS Virtual Lab / NX CAE workflows introduced in 2013 (NX 9) and extends out to 2018 (NX 13), and includes the integration of acoustics, MBD, durability and NVH. Said Rusk, “when we’re done, we’ll have market leading capabilities.”
I think Siemens PLM already has market-leading capabilities in many areas, but they’re not yet well integrated where they cross brands. That’s only to be expected — LMS and Siemens co-existed but were not particularly closely aligned before the acquisition and it takes time to bring together such established tool sets. The goal, however, is clear: create a closed-loop, systems-driven product development environment, which defines, validates and tracks performance requirements to make sure that the product that hits the street/shelf/skies is what the customer wants.
One user said it better than I can: “No software will do everything. The ones to choose will work well together and be best at what they do.” Siemens is serious about this, investing in best-of-breed solutions and knitting them together, while making the technology better, more capable and easier to use.
* Siemens PLM asked me not to identify which customer presenter said what. Take a look at the agenda to see, in general, who spoke.
Image above is of the Queen Mary, the venue for the 2014 Siemens CAE & Test Symposium. If you’re in the Long Beach, CA area, the Queen Mary is worth a visit. Much of it is open to the public for free but a $10 tour can make her come alive for you.
Note: Siemens 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.