Star Global COnferenceCAE user conferences, for me, are all about fighting to understand. I’m an engineer but not a scientist, so I’m usually OK in these very technical presentations until the equations start flying. Then I can easily veer off-track as I try to figure out what’s important and what’s a red herring –a path the analyst went down and discovered was wrong for some reason– on the way to better understanding the physics of the world around us.

This year’s CD-adapco STAR Global User Conference was different. Yes, I still got lost at some point in most of the user sessions I sat in on and yes, SVP Product Management Jean Claude Ercolanelli’s presentation of what’s coming in STAR-CCM+ still went by too fast, but I think something new and wonderful is happening: the focus is shifting. We’re no longer always talking about the gnarly math underlying the simulations but looking at and trying to explain what it all means. After all, the point of a simulation isn’t the simulation itself, but the knowledge gained from it that is used to decide whether to redesign or go with the design as is. That’s powerful stuff. More about that in the next post, on customer presentations. First, more about what CD-adapco had to say.

M. Ercolanelli, who had the unenviable task of speaking after Gene Kranz’s keynote, recapped the STAR-CCM+ 8.02 release (out now). You can read more about it here, but the focus for all of the 8.x releases is on usability, performance and expanding the range of supported physics. Mr. Ecolanelli said that a team of usability specialists has been working with customers (in the new “Steve” customer portal and in the IdeaStorm innovation forum) to make the user interface more intuitive and modern and to implement technologies requested by customers.

M. Ercolanelli said that the 8.02 release includes 16 IdeaStorm suggestions. A further 41 have been accepted and are waiting for developers while 26 others are under review for inclusion in future releases. Customers can submit ideas and vote here.

Company founder Steve MacDonald told the audience that Cd-adapco is 750 people strong and will come close to hitting the $200 million revenue mark this year. Mr. MacDonald is proud that the company puts its money where its values are: “You can’t be a ping-pong ball in the wind. Pick a strategy and stick to it until you need to change it. For us, this means investing in our products.” About 50% of the company’s R&D budget goes to features customers ask for, the rest to what the company’s technologists and physicists believe are future needs, such as finite element volumes, 1D, 2D and platform tech.

On the second day of the conference, M. Ercolanelli blasted through what’s coming in the other 8.0x releases this year. It was a massive list, but again centered on “balancing market needs with satisfying customer simulation needs”. A couple of the things I thought were most important and of general applicability:

  • Bidirectional geometry transfer to/from CAD that makes CAD the driver and lets Optimate, the joint CD-adapco/Red Cedar optimization offering, drive CAD. [Think about the implications for a minute. It could lead to a significant workflow change, depending on who does what in your process, but really speed up the design -> simulate -> design cycle.]
  • A Spaceclaim client.
  • A simulation “assistant” that will guide users through pre-defined best practices. The sotto voce comment immediately behind me was “sounds dangerous”, but it should be a good way to get casual or new users up to speed quickly and to enforce standard methods.
  • A co-simulation API that can be used by other vendors as well as by in-house codes. [That’s a big deal, since many companies still carry a significant investment in in-house developed codes.]
  • Eulerian and Lagrangian multiphase models working together.
  • Adjoint flow solver and mesher.

I couldn’t capture everything but, as M. Ercolanelli said, “There’s a lot of good stuff in the plan for V8.” I did catch him after the session to ask about how the R&D team could work on so many different things at once, and he told me that the company’s 250 developers (1/3 of staff — impressive) use very efficient coding and testing methodologies so it’s not as hard as it sounds. Hmm.

One point to note: CD-adapco will stop supporting 32 bit Windows and Linux in 2014. However, M. Ercolanelli asked the audience “if you need 32 bit, let us know”.

Last company-related note: the next STAR Global Conference will be Vienna at about the same time, mid-March. Exact dates coming.

The breakout presentations were great, with a very diverse set of presenters from CD-adapco, industry, academia and partners. I’ll post some impressions in the next few weeks but I leave you with this tantalizing bit: Cinemizer. Goolge it. Very cool.

* Did you know I got to meet Mr. Gene Kranz? And see a rocket launch? All in one week?! Still doing a space-geek happy dance.

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.