Tag Archives: Creo

Dear COMSOL,

Comsol. If you are like me than you know the name, know it’s a CAE company, but after that things start to get sketchy.

I routinely run across their ads in all the major printed and online outlets. Their business must be growing because they spend a lot of money on promotion. On the Comsol web site the company states it has 200 employees which suggests to me they have $35 – $50 million in annual Sales.

A couple years ago when I was at Blue Ridge Numerics I phoned up one of my peers at Comsol to kick around the idea of collaboration but I was told a message had come from the top to terminate all dialogue because I was a competitor. Seemed kind of paranoid to me but to each his own.

Last week my curiousity got the better of me (again) so I sent an e-mail to the designated conatct at Comsol requesting a 10 minute phone conversation to discuss a few basic questions on dealing with complex CAD geometry and meshing techniques — so far, nothing. I also sent a similar request to one of the Authorized consultants listed on the Comsol web site but they blew me off too. Such is the life of a rookie blogger.

A thermoacoustics simulation of an ear canal simulator with a damped Helmholtz resonator. The model includes thermal conduction and viscous losses and allows for customizing the acoustic response.(Image courtesy of COMSOL Inc)

The Comsol product line is jaw dropping. These guys do it all! Their flagship product is Comsol Multiphysics which appears to provide a ton of openess and flexibility to set up a simulation consisting of just about any combination of physics. They also provide a tantalizing set of add-on simulation modules to tackle all kinds of extreme realities that only an engineer could love: CFD, microfluidics, subsurface flow, chemical reaction, electrodeposition, batteries and fuel cells, plasma, and acoustics just to name a few.

Beyond all the cool physics Comsol also provides a LiveLink module for customers who want to work with a geometric model in Creo, SolidWorks, Inventor, and a few others.

By all accounts Comsol does it all.  I mean these guys talk about doing fluid-structure interaction like it’s just run of the mill, no big deal. We’re talking CAE studs! The alpha male. The cock of the walk. Superman. Michael Jordan (before his first retirement).

Which brings me to the question I’ve wanted answered for several years now… If Comsol is as amazing as it sounds why isn’t everyone using it? Shouldn’t ANSYS be on Red Alert? Why isn’t Autodesk, PTC or one of the other cash-rich, simulation-poor CAD companies dropping some major coin to acquire this treasure trove before it gets too expensive.

At a technical level I would really like to know: 1) is one mesh used for all/most simulations, i.e. the same mesh for CFD, Structural, Acoustics, etc. and 2) what is the workflow process when starting with a prexisitng, complex CAD assembly? My hunch is that the answers to these two will also answer my previous one.

If you know — or think you know — the answer to any of the above, please clue me in. The world needs… heck, I need… a hero. Maybe Comsol is it but they’re not telling.


Creo Simulation… When Will it Rain?

It’s been 16 years since PTC paid $205 million for Rasna and its upstart Mechanica structural/thermal simulation tools. In 1995 Mechanica sales were “projected” to hit $35 million so when PTC swooped in with an offer nearly 6 times greater everyone in the business thought for sure Mr. Harrison and company had an exciting vision that might revolutionize CAE.

No such luck.

It soon became apparent that PTC was buying revenue growth and didn’t really understand or have interest in CAE. I think they’re sales force at the time found it too difficult to sell and possibly even a distraction. Soon Mechanica went to the back burner and there it has remained.

With the installment of Jim Heppelmann as President and CEO has come a grand, highly creative vision for the PTC product line. Last week I did a post on ANSYS and its lack of vision, nothing could be farther from the truth when it comes to PTC. With Mr. Heppelmann at the helm this company has vision out the wazoo. So much so that when I read a PTC press release like the one issued today I envision Bill Starbuck (Burt Lancaster) in The Rainmaker telling me a story that may defy logic but I want to believe it anyway.

Bill Starbuck in the Rainmaker (1954) is in the business of making believers.

In today’s media alert about the release of Creo Direct/Elements v18.0 the CAE acronym appears in the 2nd paragraph which is then followed by several references to Creo Simulation. This suggests to me that Mr. Heppelmann and company are aware that there is a lot of buzz and a lot of investment around CAE and they do not want to miss the SEO (search engine optimization) opportunity. As you read the announcement it becomes apparent that -sadly – there are no innovations for those of us who care about CAE. What is now being called Creo Simulation is still just Mechanica, a decent tool for basic structural, stress/strain, and steady state thermal analyses… pretty much what it has been since 1995 with obvious improvements to user interface, CAD integration, etc.

For me the most troubling part is not the lack of CAE innovation coming from PTC but it is the product name itself. It appears PTC perceives “simulation” to be a single app — like a prospective buyer will ask “do you guys do simulation?” and the sales rep will reply “oh yeah, we’ve got an app for that” and the buyer will say “cool“. Selling and buying CAE was not that simple in 1995 and it still not that simple in 2011. CAE, or engineering simulation, is a very broad category that includes a wide spectrum of enabling technologies and includes numerous unique and rarely integrated software applications.

I am skeptical by nature so I could be overreacting but the Creo Simulation story feels condescending to me. I love a good story as much as anyone but Mechanical Engineers need more than an app to climb the product development mountains with which they are regularly confronted. The whole Creo story is very compelling and I’m generally confident that PTC will bring some important innovations to our world but when it comes to CAE it still feels like 1995 to me.