Product Q&A: Simulation innovations

Experts from some of the world’s leading software suppliers offer their perspectives on the trends and solutions that are shaping their field. Jason Ford reports

Digitalisation and vehicular autonomy are just two arenas in which software will be the leading driver of innovation, but what do leaders in some of the most influential software companies make of current and emerging trends, and what solutions will they offer to stay ahead of the game?

The Engineer has sought the opinions of Olivier Roll, Lead Solutions Engineer for Europe at ANSYS, Alan Prior, Senior Director, Technical Sales, Dassault Systèmes, and Paul Haimes, VP Europe Technical Sales at PTC to discuss the ways in which their solutions are driving product innovation and the changes taking place in industry that are accelerating innovation and growth.

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PRODUCT DETAILS:PTS’s Vuforia augmented reality technology is helping improve a host of shop floor processes

What trends / customer requirements are driving developments in your area?

Paul Haimes (PH): We see many manufacturing organisations revisiting OEE (overall equipment effectiveness) and the need to better understand factory performance.  We see PTC customers’ looking at IoT technologies, such as PTC’s ThingWorx Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) platform, as a way to improve OEE calculations – not by replacing existing OT infrastructure, but by connecting it to our IoT platform via our Kepware technology.  Deployment of ThingWorx as part of a Smart Factory infrastructure captures a more detailed understanding of equipment availability, performance and quality through existing and secondary instrumentation – enabling OEE comparison between cells, between lines or between a global network of factories.  These insights are the first step towards realising better performance and unlocking other Industry 4.0 use-cases such as Predictive Maintenance and Connected Workers.

Alan Prior (AP): Functionality is always a key topic for clients in the simulation domain, and we continue to see a demand for technical advances across all the main areas – structures, fluids, electromagnetics, etc. However, there is a strong emerging requirement for rapid improvements in productivity and effectiveness of teams working in product development. Firms need to develop products faster, in the face of competitive pressure on time-to-market; they need to develop products in a more holistic manner, taking into account supply chain, manufacturing and distribution; and they must also demonstrate a sustainable approach to product innovation, through the use of advanced materials.

Olivier Roll (OR): Megatrends such as electrification, 5G and autonomous vehicle engineering are revolutionising products and processes across many industries. Take vehicle autonomy, where car manufacturers now need cost-effective solutions that are accurate and ensure vehicle safety. Using physics-based simulations, we are able to simulate real world accuracy for autonomous vehicles. For example, one particular challenge for autonomous vehicle manufacturers is harsh weather conditions. Rather than waiting for a foggy day for road-testing, they can use ANSYS simulation to test vehicle sensor technology in foggy conditions, virtually. This means that the testing time before an autonomous vehicle is judged safe and roadworthy can be dramatically accelerated.

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PRODUCT DETAILS: Ansys physics based simulation technology enables engineers to predict how a variety of products will behave in real-world environments

Give one or two examples of how your products are helping customers meet the challenges that they are facing?

PH: Augmented Reality (AR), through PTC’s Vuforia technology, is improving manufacturing, quality control or repair processes performed by operators on the shop floor.  An operator can perform his or her tasks faster and with better consistency by overlaying their view with relevant 2D and 3D information. It’s also important to add that AR now has the ability to meet the challenge of the ageing manufacturing workforce.  PTC’s Vuforia Expert Capture solution allows experienced operators to capture and document each step of their manufacturing, assembly or repair process.  This first-hand information, often from retiring, ageing personnel, can be delivered to the younger workforce using technologies they are happy to adopt.

AP: Society’s focus on sustainability is driving rapid development in the simulation capabilities for electric vehicles, alternative power generation and use of advanced materials. The simulation portfolio from the SIMULIA brand of Dassault Systèmes is advancing in all these areas. The multi-physics simulation of batteries, for example, involves a wide range of advanced capabilities in electro-thermal, mechanical and systems simulation.

OR: Last year, Volkswagen Motorsport broke the time record at Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Finishing in 7.57.148 minutes. Volkswagen driver Romain Dumas crossed the finish line in Volkswagen’s first-ever fully-electric race car – thanks to ANSYS’ technology. Using ANSYS solutions, the car had been engineered to meet the extreme conditions of the race, with the ideal balance of cooling airflow and aerodynamic loss to determine the optimal performance of the vehicle.

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Further reading

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Ansys physics based simulation technology enables engineers to predict how a variety of products will behave in real-world environments

What’s the key product for you currently and how is it being applied?

PH: PTC’s ThingWorx Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) platform is established as the IIoT platform of choice for industrial companies around the world, enabling thousands of companies to realise the promise of a connected enterprise through digital transformation objectives.  For instance, as of September 2019, approximately 2,000 global customers are using ThingWorx to connect their products, factories, processes, and people.

AP: While we continue to develop our various simulation technologies at pace, the major value for our clients comes from the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, which allows businesses to collaborate across their simulation, design, manufacturing and distribution functions, using a single source of the product definition, and minimising the siloed approach that has been so prevalent in the past. Rapid product innovation can only be achieved with multiple stakeholders all having access to a common, consistent, up-to-date definition of the product and supporting business operations.

OR: Physics–based simulation is becoming crucial in the design and development process. Engineers are now able to accurately predict how products will behave in real-world environments and using the ANSYS simulation platform enables them to couple multiple types of physics while building the virtual prototype of any product or system. ANSYS Workbench allows engineers to couple simulation across different physics in one simple environment. ANSYS’ multiphysics solutions let engineers examine various effects – such as electromagnetic radiation or fluid forces – in any combination, allowing them to meet today’s demanding product development requirements.

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PRODUCT DETAILS: Dassault’s SIMULIA portfolio is helping to drive advances in the development of alternative powertrain technologies

What products do you see changing your sector in the future?

PH: Factory connectivity as a technology is evolving at pace with the ability to connect wirelessly on the shop floor already in place in some leading manufacturers.  Allied to this is the concept of self-provisioning equipment – where assets are able to self-register on a network and automatically adopt connectivity and security templates.   Linked to this is the adoption of Cloud technology.  Companies are embedding hybrid enterprise architectures which accommodate both on-premise and cloud environments.  This recognises the need to keep localised asset data within the factory while still benefitting from the scalability of Cloud environments.

AP: We see three trends that are changing the approach to simulation within the broader business framework. Firstly, the use of the cloud for large volume computation, with all of the associated benefits of accessing a highly scalable compute resource while reducing IT overhead. Secondly, the increasing use of a systems approach to product development, and the subsequent acceleration of the innovation process. And thirdly, the increasing acceptance of the power of machine learning to help guide innovative solutions.

OR: As the demand for autonomous vehicles grows, we have seen an increased appetite for AI technology and AI-enabled solutions. In the aerospace sector, we’re currently working with Airbus on AI-enabled flight control software. Using our embedded software solution, Airbus is developing unmanned aerial vehicles that will be engineered for speed, safety and affordability. Developing these platforms creates a huge engineering challenge as advanced, safety-critical, AI-driven flight control software will be required to perform highly sophisticated decision making with unprecedented speed and accuracy. Using our embedded software flagship product, ANSYS SCADE, will deliver an exponential leap to Airbus’ autonomous capabilities and will empower them to cost-effectively deploy AI-driven flight controls in safety-critical functions