Spectris announces CAE ambitions, acquires VI-grade

Jul 24, 2018 | Hot Topics

The news came into my inbox this morning: Spectris has acquired VI-grade.

Who? I know, me too. Background:

Spectris is a big UK company, listed with over $2 billion in revenue in 2017. It currently does a lot of the physical parts of a test-and-simulate program: materials analysis (via the Concept Life Sciences, Malvern Panalytical, Particle Measuring Systems brands), test & measurement (Brüel & Kjær Sound & Vibration, ESG Solutions, HBM and Millbrook), and instrumentation, and offers industrial controls under the OMEGA Engineering and Red Lion Controls brands. The odds are you recognize at least some of these brands – I first noticed Spectris when they acquired HBM, because its nCode fatigue and durability codes are so widely used.

Spectris announced that it is adding VI-grade to this mix “as part of its continuing expansion into PLM and into ADAS [Advanced driver-assistance systems] vehicle development, testing, and simulation. The rapid advancement of mechatronics and autonomous systems has forced the convergence of physical and virtual testing. While many software companies eschew any role in physical testing and vice versa, Spectris is embracing the combination of hardware, software, and services to accelerate development of advanced electromechanical products.”

Why VI-grade? VI-grade makes vehicle development software, hardware, simulators and has a bluechip customer set in ground and air transportation, supplying them with real-time software-in-the-loop, hardware-in-the-loop, and driver-in-the-loop simulation solutions. As we know, these capabilities help engineers test and explore thousands of design alternatives and correct any development issues before investments in production tooling. According to Spectris, VI-grade’s customers include Airbus Defence and Space, Aston Martin, BAE, BMW, Bombardier, General Motors,Harley Davidson, Hitachi, Honda, Hyundai, Korea Aerospace Industries, Lockheed Martin, Mahindra, Mercedes AMG, Michelin and Toyota, among others.

VI-grade started in 2005 to commercialize products based on MSC Software’s Adams/Car simulation framework. Today, this is a range of industry-specific simulation tools. For example, Adams-based offline tools that use VI-grade’s multi-body dynamics solvers, VI-Automotive, VI-Motorcycle, VI-Rail, VI-Aircraft and VI-Motorsport. Or real-time, simplified simulation models with a virtual driver or rider, such as VI-CarRealtime and VI-BikeRealtime. Finally, driver-in-the-loop simulation tools, where hardware simulators test vehicle dynamics.

Spectris sees this is as a strategic acquisition — and an ambitious one too: VI-grade’s full vehicle simulations complement Spectris’ existing hardware, software, and services offerings and, “positions Spectris to effect a broader roll-up of software and hardware simulation companies to create a leading simulation business”. Let the M&A rumor mill swirl ….

VI-grade will become an independent operating company in Spectris’ Test & Measurement group, alongside Bruel & Kjaer, HBM (including nCode and ReliaSoft), ESG, and Millbrook Group. Industry veteran Bob Ryan will lead VI-grade as President.

Jürgen Fett, VI-grade’s Managing Director added, “The leadership team at Spectris has a strong interest in developing and investing in VI-grade’s capabilities and highly talented workforce. We also believe Spectris’ other portfolio companies will bring additional expertise and capabilities that will allow us to jointly offer innovative solutions to our customers. We expect to accelerate VI-grade’s growth through investment and expansion into key international markets. We will remain independent, yet benefit from the stability that this change of ownership brings to the VI-grade Group.”

This transaction requires regulatory approval before closings and no terms were released.

Interesting, no? We may be seeing the birth of a new CAE powerhouse.