Siemens NX CAE Symposium: Users show their love

27 Nov 2011: The week before last I attended an invitation only event in Charlotte, NC, as a guest of Siemens at their first NX CAE Symposium. Designed as a way for users to get together to exchange ideas about how they use NX CAE software, some 80 customers attended the symposium, held at the Joe Gibbs Racing Facility just outside Charlotte.

The overall consensus of the presenters and the attendees I spoke with was satisfaction with the NX CAE suite. Many complimented the breadth of the CAE software, some of which I summarize below. Overall users were most satisfied because of the inherent associativity of CAE models with design models.

Several users told stories about how, in the past, they were asked by the design team to evaluate designs and get back to them. Even with an integrated system, the CAE analysts often spend substantial amounts of time simplifying models, insuring that the mesh is adequate for an accurate design, performing a series of analyses, and making recommendations to the design team, only to find that the design team has moved way beyond the design they were working on. Thus their work had to be scrapped. NX’s CAE and design integrations allow analysts to work on the design model, thus having a better ability to stay synchronized with the design team.

Also, NX seems to play well with external solvers, often integrating them tightly into the design stream workflow. Among these were Ansys solvers as well as specialized fluids solvers, such as those from MAYA.

My reactions:
Siemens PLM Software has a well-focused and wide breadth of solutions for heavy-duty CAE experts. Jon Heidorn, Siemens PLM Software (SPLMS) Vice President welcomed the attendees, stressing that simulation is one of their fastest growing markets, encompassing integrated modeling and solutions, system level modeling, multi-discipline simulation and optimization, and the intensely complex simulation data and process management. Beyond 2010 Heidorn predicted software would be available that would perform topology optimization. SPLMS also announced that their partnership with Joe Gibbs Racing was extended to 2016.

Mark Bringle and Nelson Cosgrove of Joe Gibbs Racing discussed their facility and their focus on engineering. Building their cars from scratch, and their engines almost from scratch, but carefully following NASCAR rules for each car, provides an impetus to carefully hone each major subsystem for optimal performance. Fascinatingly, their design cycle during racing season is one week! The three main groups include chassis and vehicle dynamics, aerodynamics, and powertrain. The latest version of NX allows for full chassis FEA modeling. With NASCAR demanding similar car frames and engine performance, their engineers carefully analyze every part to improve weight and aero performance so they can achieve even small advantages over their competition.

Jim Rusk of Siemens PLM Software discussed the latest trends in product development with NX CAE Simulation. He highlighted a few concepts they are working on sand delivering to make it easier than ever. Among these are Synchronous Technology for the CA analyst which makes for easier simplification, workflows for the advanced analyst, continuing improvements in multi-discipline analysis, motion analysis for flexible bodies like springs, multi-solver support, topology optimizations, and HD3D requirements management and validation.

ATK Aerospace, MDA of Canada, and JPL, Proctor and Gamble, and Solar Technologies spoke about their analyses ranging from rocket design to cryo engineering of spacecraft to making 1 million paper diapers to designing complex solar collectors.

Hendrick Motorsports’, Charles Macdonald, discussed detailed part analysis and the tradeoffs they make for lighter, yet strong and most of all highly serviceable parts of a suspension.

Kendra Short, of JPL and the mechanical manager of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), successfully launched just two days ago, spoke eloquently about how having a sophisticated analysis system working directly on the design model enable them to perform many more complex analyses than would have been possible without simulation done directly on the design models. Without the ability to service the MSL (it’s a long trip to Mars), Ms. Short chatted about the enormous planning that goes into having multiple alternatives in the event of a failure. I found fascinating during a break discussion about how the MSL is to be deployed to the surface using a tether. No backup here, just reliable explosive bolts.

One of the symposiums objectives was to have users exchange ideas about how they use simulation. This seemed to be more than fulfilled. If you have a chance to attend the next symposium, don’t miss it.

Disclosure: Siemens paid for my travel expenses to attend the event.

Autodesk Takes Simulation Mobile with New ForceEffect App for iPad

If you have not yet had a chance to see how Autodesk ForceEffect works, visit for a series of videos on how this 2D force simulation app works.

Autodesk ForceEffect, a new mobile simulation app for iPad allows engineers to quickly and easily simulate design options during the conceptual phase, and is now available on the App store. Autodesk, as it has done with other iPad apps, offers Autodesk ForceEffect for free.

ForceEffect provides an easy to use environment for drawing, constraining and simulating concepts using free body diagrams by tapping objects to select, move, rotate and scale. Real time solving capabilities provide immediate feedback on the static stress performance of a design, enabling users to use engineering analysis in the field.

Users can send the geometry as DXF files, via email, for further analysis.

It’s not quite clear how or whether Autodesk plans to generate revenue from these free apps, yet their thinking is way out in front of their competitors in exploring new ways to use mobile computing and simultaneously explore potential uses of cloud technology. It’s refreshing that the company is forging ahead, exploring new ways of delivering software and testing the waters for new paradigms, both in software and pricing models.

Inforbix $ errata, Autodesk Vault to the cloud

In my previous blog, I made an error on the pricing of Inforbix, which I have since corrected. I wanted to make sure you all have seen that correction. In the pricing example that was given, for a company of 100 persons, with 30 engineers, Vic Sanchez estimated that they might have 100K to 200K files to be indexed. The annual price for Inforbix for that size customer would be $10K to $15K. A great price range for the service provided. In fact one that is very compelling.

In the meantime it looks like Autodesk is planning to announce that their Vault will now be cloud hosted. I have no other details than some early teasers that were provided by Autodesk. It will be interesting to compare these offerings. I am planning on attending Autodesk University and will be there Monday through Wednesday, Nov 28-30. Say hello if you see me. I will report on this upon my return.

Inforbix – a new approach to cloud based PDM

18 Nov 2011: Oleg Shilovitsky, one of the more prolific bloggers in the PLM industry recently announced his new venture – Inforbix LLC.

Last week I had the chance to speak with Oleg, the CEO, and his partner, Vic Sanchez, about what their new offering was all about. Of course, I suspected that the new company, with Oleg’s background as a development manager of PLM systems, might be about PDM or PLM. Of course I was right. But, I wanted to find out what the product was all about, who founded the new company, what its objective was, a little bit about the technology, and who might use it and what it might cost.

Oleg and Vic were most accommodating in helping me understand and ferret out answers to the above questions.


Inforbix began development on its product in early 2010. The product was officially launched in last October, 2011, and has been in Beta since last April. Shilovitsky teamed with a Russian development team to bring the product to fruition.

About the product

In a nutshell, here is what I learned. Inforbix, today, consists of a product data crawler app that is installed onto the target system or local network containing the product data to be indexed. After user customization of the crawler app, which basically tells it where to find the data to be indexed, the app goes to work finding relevant product data, exploring the metadata stored within the data files, and indexing the data. No actual data files are uploaded to the cloud, only metadata and where the files are located. What makes this exciting is that the crawler can crawl through many data types and vaults, and decode the inherent metadata and product structure.

Targeted at small and medium sized CAD companies, the object of Inforbix is to “help people find, reuse, and share product data.”

Both the crawler app and the cloud based search environment are optimized for manufacturing and design companies. I like that non–vaulted data such as Word docs and pdfs can be “related” back the products.

The system today supports crawling CAD and PLM data from Autodesk, PTC, SolidWorks, and Siemens. More will be coming in the future. Also supported are pdf, Word, and Excel files.

A few niceties

It is secure since no files are changed, moved or uploaded. Being cloud based, little maintenance or local support is needed. It is affordable and seems to be priced right – the first 20K files are free. Each 20K files after that cost $600 per year. Sanchez estimated that a typical medium sized company with 100 people and 30 engineers might spend $10K to $15K per year, a seemingly small cost considering that no hardware and no support staff is needed for the service. Also, it immediately allows accessing the data worldwide using a browser. Asked about what happens if indexed data moves, Shilovitsky said that the crawler monitors and tracks the new location, and updates the cloud.

Inforbix offers many ways to present the data to make sense of the product connections. These include Excel like tables and filters.

I see a few drawbacks and improvements needed

The original data still needs to be maintained along with support and local data backups. A local PDM system might still be needed to support applications that depend upon understanding the product data structure. Further discussions are needed as to how the system allows role-based access to the data. For instance, how can suppliers access the data? Data being relocated might have a delay before the indexes are updated on the cloud.


I really like the concept and the possibilities for extending the concept to other areas of a company. It seems that it would be relatively straightforward to have different crawlers looking for different data types. Think of it as a private Google for the data in your entire company or how to get organized without the fuss. If you are a company without a PDM system (and some 75% of companies are), then this is a perfect way to get started.

Try it out

With a free entry price, it makes sense to give this a try.

A few ways to learn more

The company:

The latest press release:

Oleg shows how to start using Inforbix in 20 min:

A Poor Man’s Solid State Drive

I am always on the lookout for exciting technology improvements. Today I came across an interesting product announcement from Kingston Digital, which launched a super fast and high capacity USB drive. The DataTraveler HyperX 3.0 features the fastest speeds and largest capacities that Kingston has to offer in a USB Flash drive.

Its high-speed eight-channel architecture provides USB 3.0 data transfer rates of up to 225MB/s read and 135MB/s write. Users can save time associated with opening, editing and copying large files and applications between devices. The fast write speeds also allow users to work on large files or applications directly from the USB 3.0 drive without performance lag.

Doing a little research I found out that USB 3.0 is capable of transfer speeds of up to 5Gbps (gigabits per second); that’s a little over 10 times faster than USB 2.0’s 480Mbps. USB 3.0 allows simultaneous reading and writing between two connected devices. That wasn’t possible on most older USB 2.0 gadgets and computers

256GB allows storing 10 Blu-ray Discs™, 54 DVDs or 13.5 million Microsoft® Word files pages with various formatting and basic graphics.

Last year some time I upgraded the 128GB hard drive on my laptop with a 500GB drive resulting in more weight and a battery time reduced by two thirds. Were this available then, I think this would have been a better alternative. The (minor?)  drawback is that few computers support the USB 3.0 standard. Prices start at $193 USD for the 64GB version and just under $400 for the 128GB version.

The Cloud Lives!

18 Nov 2011: Ralph Grabowski proposed his opinion that the cloud is dead. He couldn’t be more wrong. Consider users at the Siemens NX CAE Symposium that ended last week. Virtually all of the eight users at a panel noted that cloud computing would definitely be part of their plans. Assuming that some minor issues such as security, cost, and application software licensing could be solved, all seem to have or want it in their future plans.

Several customers represented companies that already have with HPC clusters. While this ideal “local cloud” met their expectations, the cost of such a cluster is very high and not a solution for smaller companies.

I agree that the use of cloud computing for interactive applications is a bad idea. However, the vast computing power, parallel processing, and expected low costs make it a very appealing idea for tasks that require modest bandwidth and have high computational needs. Autodesk’s CEO, Carl Bass, clearly has the right idea. Autodesk, over the past two years has introduced several applications that span the range of interactive hardware and relying on the cloud to ramp up compute speeds. At AU last year I had the chance to listen to Bass and speak with him about his ideas for best utilizing the cloud. As I wrote in that article, Autodesk’s concept is to “Don’t replicate desktop solutions on the cloud. Instead make maximum use of desktop and mobile systems, utilizing the cloud where it makes sense.” Still makes sense today. Here is a link to that article

Oddly enough, with the possible exception of DS, Autodesk’s competitors don’t seem to get the concept. For example, while I interpreted from Siemens customers that they were excited about potential use of the cloud, Siemens PLM Software, except for licensing issues, seems to have no plans to enable them. The same goes for PTC.

Let me know what you think.

World Technology Summit Highlights

1 Nov 2011: Last week I attended the World Technology Summit and Awards conference in New York (#WTN20110), sponsored by World Technology Network ( Since last Saturday, I have been suffering through a power outage for both my home and office, now going into the fourth day. Thus, the delay in reporting. Even now, I am using my iPad with no wireless signal. Not only that, but is is the second time in less than six months I am without power for more than 2 days. Ahh, the beauties of high technology at exactly the same time as not being able to power any of my fancy electronics at all. Maybe its time to bury all the power lines underground in our area so we are no longer suspect to such weather vagaries. I wonder who determines the order of power line restoral — it seems so arbitrary, and one that the power companies are loath to describe.

Anyway, back to new technology. Of this two day conference I was only able to attend the first day. Here are some the highlights of that day.

James Gleick, author of the book “Chaos: Making a New Science,” discussed his latest work about the flood of information happening today ( Gleick noted that information has never been so accessible, but we don’t feel any wiser! We need to devise strategies to gather the meaning of this massive information flow.

Albert Teich, Director of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, spoke on the current Washington scene and its effect on Science policy. The first thing that struck me was when he said that in over 30 years in Washington he had never see such acrimony as there is today. He attributed a large part of the perceived stalemate of our legislature to two primary causes. In the last election there was a huge swing in the House, with Republicans gaining 62 net seats, and the loos of an absolute majority of the Democrats in the Senate. Many of the new Congressmen are Tea Party reps and their unwillingness to compromise seems to have highjacked the Republican Party, causing effective gridlock. Meanwhile in the Senate, the Democrats have a 51-47 majority with 2 independents. The Senate rules defy logic because 60 votes are needed to invoke cloture on a filibuster. With the current focus on reducing the deficit, Teich believes that the deficit reduction Super-committee, because of its even split among the two parties, will not be able to submit a workable plan. He is positive on continuing Congressional support for R&D, but less so on climate change and energy research. [Ed: Where did the debate on global warming go?]

Next Island ( I have to admit I don’t get gaming sites and that’s what this is — a massive multi-player online game. But one with aspirations of getting users to spend real dollars. You check it out and let me know what you gamers think.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have perfect fitting ear buds at a modest price. Sculpted Eers can do just that (and eers is not misspelled). Not only that but its available today. A specialized fitting headset with a rubberized membrane sits inside the ear. Pushing a button on the headset squirts liquid silicon into the membrane which expands into a tight fit along with the earphone electronics for a completely custom earpiece. Estimated street price is $200 versus a custom filling by a professional at a cost estimated at $400. Sculpted Eers (

Motivating more people to recycle. RecycleBank ( rewards people for taking everyday green actions. Its main concept is to actually measure recycled materials and base the rewards on the amounts collected. Ian Yolles, the CSO of the company spoke about the need to solve this 21st century problem; a problem that needs intervention. Not sure what the business model is here, but I am individually highly motivated already without any compensation. Maybe a large majority is not?

Dr. Steven Howe, Director, Center for Space Nuclear Research, of the Idaho National Lab (, spoke about his organizations focus on revolutionizing planetary exploration. Today it is expensive, provides limited science results, con only explore very limited areas, and requires safe landing sites. A proposed Mars hopper powered by U238, can change sites every 7 days by powered “hopping” to the next site, will accrue samples, and possibly return with up to 1 Kg of samples. The basis for their involvement is the development of a Nuclear Thermal Rocket. [Ed: High energy per unit of mass, but ongoing concern about launching nuclear material into Earth orbit.]

Want to get a really good handle on what might happen 10 years from now? Art Kleiner, Scenario Planner and Strategist and the editor-in-chief of strategy+business, took the audience through a series of exercises that examined possible scenarios for the year 2021. His approach used postulations about what might occur by then. What made the discussion really lively was not only postulating the question, but also writing down what would need to happen between now and 2012 to make that scenario take place. His independence and approach seemed to make this a terrific long term planning tool.

How about a battery that is 10X the life and 1/10th the sixe of the most effiicent batteries of today? Universal Nanotech ( Michael Haag, CTO discussed his exploratory work with a new technology called a QED – Quantum Energy Device. As yet unproven, his company has managed to create a new type of battery that outlasts and outpowers existing alternative batteries. Not only that but is is almost 10X smaller and can be built using flexible plastics as a substrate. Imagine wearing a sleeve that powers your iPhone for days! One would think that battery manufacturers would beat a path to his door. What about Apple?

Tired of WiFi, how about LiFi, a network powered by LED lighting? It turns out that LED lights have the unique ability to turn on and off very fast. Special circuits could be added to LED lights that would enable them to transmit at very high bandwidth, at high levels of efficiency, and also be very secure (needing no radio frequencies). Presented by Prof. Harald Haas, Univ. of Edinburgh. It was unclear to me as to the exact nature of this research and the state of its commercialization.

Thinking about how to understand the future of new technologies? It turns out that Michell Zappa, Designer and Technologist has developed a visual analysis using his technology map of innovations. See more at and twitter:@mz