© michal mrozek General | April 06, 2015

Ansys – a world of simulations on the horizon?

Simulation software expert Ansys predicts a future where production is based on simulation rather than prototyping. We had a chat with Matt Commens.
Matt Commens is the Lead Product Manager for HFSS at ANSYS. We had the pleasure of stealing some time from his busy schedule to have a chat about how Ansys see the future. And one area where the company will increase its activity is Consulting.

“Ultimately we sell software, that is our business. But we do see two new things. A new user needs more than just a training class to use the simulation software. They need something like a kickstart program to understand how to use the software, but also how to use the software in their design flow”, says Matt Commens.

“Simulation is difficult, it is very sophisticated software. We are talking about very smart people working in the companies. They are engineers, but they still need help in putting it all together. We have the ability to provide these kickstart programs to hopefully get new users in small and medium businesses investing in the software. And we get them up and running. And, of course, this is also good for us; the more successful we can make our users, the more we can jointly grow our businesses.”

However, it is not only in the SME-enterprises that consulting will become more important in the future.

“The other thing that we can see is that – for an established customer account in a larger company – people are looking for other consulting services. They want to know how to apply some new technique that we either just developed or just integrated into our design flow. Rather than having them task their engineers - saying 'okay, go learn these things' - we can come in and offer assistance. That is really how we envision the consulting part working. We have been doing this for a while, but we see that it is definitely time to expand this to drive the market forward and drive simulation forward.”

An expert field made easier?

Simulation tools – Mr. Commens explains – are almost always developed for the expert user. However, what they want in terms of complexity might be somewhat of a problem for the 'everyday stressed out product development engineer trying to make the best use of his or her time'.

“How an expert interacts with the software is very different from how a designer would interact with the software. It comes down to automation really; the expert user wants all of the buttons and knobs to use and experiment with. A designer is under a lot of pressure in terms of time-to-market and design constraints. They simply don’t have the time for that. What you need to produce as a software vendor are more automated flows.”

The cloud will help Ansys overcome another obstacle: The high investment cost for hardware. With the help of cloud computing, the company wants to take the software into the market without companies having to spend vast amounts of money.

Ansys is talking a lot about simulating the whole system, not just the components.Can you tell us a bit about this?

“The component never exists in isolation; there is always something close to it. Before, you were actually able to design your system with the isolated component information and do a pretty good job. You could ignore whatever electromagnetic coupling may occur in the design - but these days belong to the past. We have to include the entire surrounding structure.“

One segment where this is crucial, Mr Commens explains, is Defense. Before, you could simulate an antenna and see how it would perform on its own. Nowadays you are measuring how the antenna will actually perform in the aircraft.

But Ansys does small too. On the other side of the scale, far from the aircraft, you find smaller products. One is a wrist band that Ansys helped develop for the wearable market.

“This is an interesting, almost serendipitous series of acquisitions and development of technologies that led to this project. Ansys acquired a modeling tool called Spaceclaim, a 3d modeling tool. With Spaceclaim we could go from a sketch concept of the wearable to creating the geometry. In a fairly easy way. We then integrated an antenna concept into the unit and ran a simulation of the wrist band in it's environment.”

He continues:

“Like we talked about before, it is not enough to simulate in isolation. With this gadget it is actually a pretty difficult environment to work with. The human body - the tissue, the muscle, the fat - doesn’t react well to electromagnetic energy. It actually absorbs it. This can be a big problem for antennas. A classic example is, of course, the iPhone 4 antenna issue.”

So, lastly, what trends do you see for the future?

“Tools have got to be easier to use so that we can get them to more engineers. Simulation tools used to be the domain of ivory tower intellectuals within the companies. That is not good for the company itself. The closer you can get simulation to the design flow, the more effectively it can be used; not only to design, but also help reduce costs. The real goal – I think - is that simulation some day will be the default design tool. No prototyping, no test and measurement. We are talking many, many years from now, but that’s were we need to go.”

“Secondly, we have a myriad number of settings in software tools. Let us, with our knowledge, make good decision for the customers and let them move on to do more important things. Taking advantaged of HPC (High-performance computing) is also critical. And the last thing is multi physics. Solving just the electromagnetic aspect is not enough. You got to know how the unit – for example - heats up. The dreams is to be able to simulate the whole system - with all potential physics at once - and to allow people to design products with that knowledge.”
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