Another week, another CAE acquisition – this time ZWSOFT + PHOENICS

Oct 10, 2023 | Hot Topics

I admit, I did not see this one coming: ZWSOFT announced (here) that it had acquired Concentration, Heat and Momentum Limited (CHAM), maker of the PHOENICS CFD solution.

You likely know ZWSOFT. They make the 2D ZWCAD and 3D ZW3D solutions, among others, that compete with Autodesk and similar solutions. I had heard of CHAM but have spoken to just a few of its customers over the years.

According to ZWSOFT’s press release, PHOENICS was first released in 1981, and since then, “has been widely used in a variety of industries, including machinery, electronics, automotive, architecture, transportation, and energy, serving elite universities and prominent enterprises, including the University of Cambridge, Pfizer R&D, EXCISS, WindSim, Tsinghua University, Meinhardt.”

The release goes on to say that PHOENICS offers generalized CFD, and “specialized modules for two-phase flow, CVD, HVAC and medical flow analysis. Besides that, it also provides rich APIs for CAD programs, 3D modeling, PARSOL grid generation, a flexible In-Form user-defined function and more than 20 turbulence models for scenarios including combustion, radiation, and multiphase flow.”

I had no idea that ZWSOFT’s ambitions were so high-end; most users I speak with see ZWCAD as a lighter, less expensive alternative to Autocad. Nevertheless, ZWSOFT plans to “accelerate its progress to create a comprehensive multi-disciplinary and multi-physics simulation portfolio encompassing structures, electromagnetics (EM), and fluids … With the addition of PHOENICS, our simulation products can better meet the complicated and diverse needs of our customers, enabling them to reduce costs and increase efficiency through realizing simulation-driven design.”

It sounds like the acquisition is a done deal — but it also appears that it’s not a complete takeover by ZWSOFT of CHAM. The release reads as though ZWSOFT takes over PHOENICS’ source code, but that CHAM’s R&D and business teams are not part of the deal and will “collaborate with ZWSOFT to provide exceptional service to PHOENICS customers worldwide.” No financial details were announced.

This is fascinating. In 1981, when PHOENICS was first commercialized, CHAM was a consultancy, and CFD was a specialist discipline run on super-expensive computers by experts. In the years since, CFD has gotten significantly faster, user interfaces have been vastly improved, and CFD products have been made commercially accessible to many more users. As just one example, Autodesk acquired Blue Ridge Numerics in 2011 to bring its CFdesign to Autodesk’s huge customer base (that offer is now called Autodesk CFD). An annual subscription to Autodesk CFD costs something like $10,000 — check with Autodesk for exact pricing and terms — still not super-cheap, but far more affordable than the tens of thousands it used to cost.

My point: until this announcement, I hadn’t realized that ZWSOFT users wanted CFD or that ZWSOFT had CAE ambitions. But the combination makes sense: more people doing more simulations leads to better products.