Designers can access a broad range of software programs – and link their results together automatically – using a revolutionary ‘leasing’ arrangement. Lou Reade reports
Many design engineers, if asked which software programs they’d like for Christmas, would plump for one seat of everything on the market – from 3D CAD all the way through to sophisticated simulation tools.
It might sound like fantasy, but there is a way. By leasing the software packages over the web it is possible to design products, run them through simulation and move to the next iteration in a “fast, reliable and secure” way.
“We are making these tools – which are normally only available to the rich and powerful – available to all,” says Peter Collins, CEO of Southampton-based Dezineforce, which is offering the service.
They were developed at the behest of aerospace and motorsport companies, he says, which were “struggling with optimisation and computationally intensive activities”.
Software hosting is easy to understand: instead of shelling out on multiple seats of CAD, FEA, CFD and other programs, designers sign up to Dezineforce and access these programs over the internet.
“This empowers designers, freeing them up to exercise judgement and responsibility,” says Collins. “They spend more time thinking and being creative. They are no longer slaves to IT.”
But as well as hosting the software – which includes offerings from SolidWorks, Catia, Ansys and MSC – Dezineforce uses a range of computing algorithms to speed them up and link them together automatically.
There are three main ‘speed up’ options: parallel computing; automation between different tasks; and ‘optimisation’ software, which looks at many design variants.
On the first point, Collins says: “If you chop up your task, you can slash the time to process it by making it run in parallel. We can speed things up by about 20 times.”
Once a CAD design is finished, it can automatically be fed into a simulation program.
“You can press ‘go’ and walk away,” says Collins. “You’ll get an alert when the process is finished.”
The same is true of the optimisation package, which will run and test slight design variants with a view to finding the best one. Professor Simon Cox of Southampton University was responsible for much of the optimisation software. He is also Dezineforce’s chief scientist.
“These tools guide the design process to identify where there are better, cheaper, faster designs,” he says. “They separate the wheat from the chaff.”
The university has run a number of trials, using the optimisation tool to solve different design problems: in one instance it helped to identify the best way of stiffening aircraft wings; in another, it tested different configurations of sound-absorbent acoustic linings in aircraft engines.
The most basic package costs £3,000 per month. Dezineforce stresses that a free trial always precedes a contract – in most cases the trial will use data from a previously completed project, to prove its speed and ease of use. Collins compares the cost to a mobile phone tariff – in that customers buy a set number of hours per month “which can be rolled over if they’re not used”.
As well as paying for ‘compute hours’, there are other factors such as storage space and the complexity of the optimisation – which leads to higher cost packages.
Collins expects medium-sized companies to be the first takers, but does not rule out either large or small companies – which he says will also benefit.
“A designer is meant to be designing, not running computer programs,” says Collins. “We can help them use computers as a tool rather than being a slave to them.”
Dezineforce hosts a range of software products – including 3D CAD, FEA and CFD – which can be accessed over the web. Third party applications can also be run
Special algorithms, developed by the company, allow designs to be run more quickly. It will also link programs, such as 3D CAD and FEA, automatically
There are users in the aerospace, automotive, renewable energy and electronics industries – in design teams ranging from two people to more than a thousand
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