My previous post described the “Digital Twins” in general and the importance of PLM to support it. To begin with a Digital Twin need to provide the means to design, validate and optimize a part, product, manufacturing process or production facility in the virtual world using a set of computer models. It should enable companies to do these things quickly, accurately and as close as possible to the real thing – the physical counterpart. They also need to consume the data from sensors that are installed on physical objects to represent their near real-time status, working condition or position.

Digital Twins was in the making for many years , especially around advanced robotics. Siemens has recognized the value of the digital twin for a long time and enabled the development of full 3D models for automotive body assembly cells. These models were used to simulate, validate and optimize robotic operations before they were executed on the shop floor. With an extremely high degree of fidelity, these applications could not only simulate a cell, but also enable its near perfect virtual commissioning. Advances in computer science have made it possible to broaden the scope of the primitive digital twin to include many more capabilities, information, inputs and outputs. Today Siemens support digital twins for product design, manufacturing  process planning and production using the Smart  Factory loop and via smart products.

One of the most important value of a digital twin is that it enables flexibility in manufacturing and reduces the time needed for product design, manufacturing process and system planning, and production facility design; thus helping companies to develop and introduce new products to the market much faster than ever.  Connecting Engineering , manufacturing process design and actual production is the foundation and starting point for Digital Twins.

A digital twin also improves quality and even supports new business models that offer opportunities for small-to-midsize companies to expand and bring more high-tech capabilities into their shops. Digital twins will help companies become more flexible,  reduce time-to-market and costs, improve quality and increase productivity at all levels of the organization.  When implementing a true “Digital Twin” on the first day becomes a  big ask for companies,  they might want to adopt it in a phased manner, may be in a similar way it evolved – starting with automated manufacturing process design and production.  My next blog will outline the three pillars involved in deploying a digital twin .

Digital twins are the next new thing for product development in this digitalization era. They bring the physical and the digital worlds closer than ever and represent everything in the environment of a physical product, and not just the product itself and its production system.  Enabled by Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), and supported by advanced communications processes and workflows; often described as digital thread, Digital Twins represent the complete physical product throughout the entire lifecycle, end-to-end.

As products become ever more complex due to ever-increasing design complexity, regulatory requirements, higher software content, and the like, conventional simulations can constrain problem solving and decision-making. Digital Twins are much more than the typical CAE simulations with just design specifications,  materials properties, geometric models, components, and analyses such as anticipated behavior under load . It moves past the primary reliance of conventional simulations on geometry. Even the best of today’s simulations are largely limited to geometric data in CAD, CAE, and PDM solutions plus other elements contained in engineering repositories. Conventional simulations are limited to problems that are tightly circumscribed.   Digital twins have no such limitation: geometry and other engineering constraints are just starting points.  Digital Twins are virtual frameworks for managing product data that is orders of magnitude more varied than what conventional simulations handle and more importantly to turn it into actionable information -information that can be used for making decisions and for supporting those decisions as elements of business models.  This new framework uses latest digital technologies to simulate and accurately predict physical product behavior, which can change a business model and provide new revenue and value-producing opportunities; it is the process of moving to a digital business.

The growing importance of digital twins adds to PLM’s key role as the innovation platform. End-to-end digitalization of both products and processes is essential for any enterprise that intends to implement and take advantage of this new models . This means PLM itself must also continually adapt to support the design and delivery of innovative products and services and further enhance its abilities on collaboration, connectivity, and interoperability; which forms the foundations of any innovative platform .

“What you buy makes a difference but from whom you buy makes a bigger difference”

Most often, I talk about greatness of our product offerings in my blog articles. Such kind of blogs assist prospective customers in choosing the right product. But the same product can be procured in multiple ways, either directly from the developer or through a value-added reseller also called as VAR. In this blog article, I would emphasize on how prospective customer should select the right VAR while purchasing a Dassault Systemes or Siemens simulation product.

The first thing a customer needs to verify is whether VAR is supplying just the product or the complete solution. The difference between the two is the “value added services” associated with product usage.

Without value added services, it’s not possible for a reseller to become a value-added reseller.” Please identify if you are doing business with just a reseller or a value-added reseller. Remember, simulation tools are not easy to use. There is a learning curve associated with these tools that can greatly impact the ROI and break-even timeline. The productivity of the user can be substantially enhanced if he is associated with a reseller who can provide whole bunch of services to shorten the learning curve and achieve break-even faster. Now let’s look at what type of services makes a difference in simulation space.

We are talking about software sales as well as consulting, training and support. Our software partners, Dassault Systemes, Siemens and Autodesk offer a bunch of certifications around these four components to distinguish between just “resellers” and “value added resellers.” Being certified means reseller has enough resources and knowledge to execute a given task of sales or service. Let’s talk about each component with respect to Simulation:

Software: To sell any DS SIMULIA product, the associated VAR should have “SIMULIA V6 design sight” certification as a minimum. There are further brand certifications available such as Mid-Market Articulate for product highlight and Mid-Market Demonstrate for product technical demonstration. To sell FEMAP product from Siemens, the VAR must have “FEMAP technical certification” as a minimum. All these certifications are associated with timed examinations.

Training: Training should be an integral part of simulation software sales. It gives users enough knowledge to use the software product in production environment. To offer technical training on any SIMULIA product, the VAR should have “finite element analysis with Abaqus specialist” certification as a minimum.

Support: Once users are in production environment, technical support is required on continuous basis. While many answers related to product usage are in documentation, it’s not a full source of information. Many queries are model specific that require attention of a dedicated support engineer. To offer technical support on any SIMULIA product, the VAR should have at-least one engineer who has “SIMULIA technical support specialist” certification.  This certification should be renewed every two years. It is associated with a lengthy and “hard to pass” support certification examination across all products of SIMULIA brand.

Consulting: Consulting service plays a big role when customer either does not have enough time or resources to execute projects in house in-spite of having software product. It happens during certain burst phases of demand. While there are no certification criteria for VAR’s related to consulting in simulation space, a dedicated consulting and delivery team is needed to offer the service when demand arises.

The above information should help you in ranking your VAR. Do you need to know our rank? Please contact us.

 

Robots, automation, and what some would even call “artificial intelligence” are everywhere around us today.  From factories to automobiles; our smart phones to our refrigerators; digital life today has had a profound impact over recent decades.  This doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon either.

Automation and robots in factories have replaced many of the assembly line jobs, and this has also lead to a great improvement in quality and efficiency.  Instead of assembly line workers, we now have robot technicians and programmers.

The big question is “Why?”.  And the answer is generally along the lines of improved efficiency due the need to stay competitive.

It could be argued that we are seeing the same thing in the engineering environment with design automation and the associated engineering intelligence built into repeatable design types… or automated workflows that are electronically managed to ensure process repeatability, quality and efficiency.

This begs the question:  Can companies survive in today’s market without investing in their business and engineering processes like they also have or must do in manufacturing?

Multi-select for Project Security

Active Workspace 3.3 provides the capability to apply project security to multiple objects simultaneously in Teamcenter version 10.1.7 and 11.2.3, and higher .

This video showcases the new capability in detail.  Click here

Highlights include

  • Assign multiple objects to one or more projects
  • Remove multiple objects from one or more projects
  • Remove objects from projects that are common to all selections
  • Honor project membership and access while making assignments

Structure support 

The second new feature is the ability to assign content of a structure to a project.  While viewing structure content, users can assign the elements in the structure to projects.  Users  can multiply select elements, to assign them, or use the option to assign all of the content in a structure, or just to some level.  Users can also assign the specifically referenced revisions, or to all revisions, so that as the structure content revises, it is also assigned to the project by default.

This video showcases the new capability in detail.  Click here

Highlights include

  • Assign projects to content while working within the context of a structure
  • Assign projects to entire structure or up to a specific level of the structure
  • Optionally apply project security to the revision or all revisions
  • Multi-select to assign projects

Effectivity Authoring

With Active Workspace 3.3, users can assign existing effectivity criteria to elements of the structure to indicate when those elements are applicable.  Users can also define new effectivity criteria using dates or units.  For example, this element is effective for this date range or for this range of production units.

Users can also name the effective ranges, to enable sharing, or reuse, of that same range when applying effectivity to other elements in the structure.

This video showcases the new capability in detail.  Click here

Highlights include

Assign existing effectivity criteria to qualify what structured content will be configured  (Teamcenter 10.1.7 and 11.2.3 and upwards)

  • Search and filter for existing effectivities to apply
  • Apply effectivity to revision status
  • Apply effectivity to occurrences in structure

Define new effectivity configuration criteria (Planned for future release, Teamcenter 11.2.3 and upwards)

  • Set units or dates to specify or edit effectivity
  • Apply specified effectivity to occurrences
  • Optionally share named effectivity to apply to other content in structure or other structures

Baseline

Another complete the thought capability in the area of structures is creating a baseline.  Baselines are used to capture a view of that structure at a point in time.  Siemens chose to make this work in the background, asynchronously so that  users can continue to work in the client as the server generates the baseline.  When it completes, the Active Workspace notification center is used to alert users that the baseline has been created.  By default, the process applies a release status of baseline, but that is configurable.

This video showcases the new capability in detail.  Click here

While the example shows a requirement structure, baselining works with any type of structure. Highlights include

  • Executes asynchronously to allow the user to continue other work
  • Notification sent on completion – click notification to open the baseline
  • Applies a release status of “Baseline” by default, but is configurable
  • Creates a precise baseline
  • Works with any structure content, e.g. parts, designs, and requirements

Show all Results from Find in Context

Lastly in the area of completing a thought is a visualization related topic.  In previous releases of Active Workspace, the show only results in the viewer would only work for the results that had been loaded to the client.  Users no longer have to scroll through all of the results to load them in the client before selecting the show only results in the viewer.

This video showcases the new capability in detail.  Click here

 

Universal Viewer

One of the most exciting user productivity improvements in Active Workspace 3.3, is the new universal viewer.  It enables viewing and paging through multiple file attachments.  In prior releases, only one file could be viewed.  You could not easily view other file attachments. Siemens also enabled support to view additional types of files including image files, text files, and html files.  This viewer supports markup for many of those types as well.

This video showcases the new Universal Viewer capabilities in detail : Click here

Tab Overflow Direct Access

Previous versions of Active Workspace used a carousel approach and required multiple clicks to navigate to tabs that were hidden.  The new approach allows for direct access to any of the hidden tabs. Highlights include

  • Eliminates multiple clicks to access some tabs compared with prior carousel interaction
  • Dropdown allows direct access to any of multiple tabs that not shown
  • Preserves the order of tabs
  • Replaces last tab with newly selected tab

This video shows how the new tab overflow access works: Click here

Command Stack for Visual Analysis

Siemens introduced command stacks in Active Workspace 3.2.  This is an example of their usage in 3.3 to improve access to the 3D viewer’s analytics capabilities.  Instead of having to navigate tabs, users can now directly access any of the features using the command stack.  Highlights include

  • Directly access measure, query, section, and volume and proximity search commands
  • Administrators can configure alternative arrangements and visibility of commands for specific roles, e.g., commands can be unstacked or hidden for specific roles

This video shows how the command stack works for the viewer’s analytics capabilities: Click here

Drag and Drop in Structured Content

Active Workspace 3.2 supported cut/copy/paste to edit structures, including working across multiple browsers and across multiple structures. Active Workspace 3.3 builds on that capability to improve user productivity by enabling drag and drop for many cases as described below

Edit structures efficiently using drag and drop

  • Drag and drop between unstructured lists such as folders, search results, & favorites and structures
  • Drag within one window or across multiple windows
  • Drop action active only when dragged object is valid to be dropped on the target object

Predictable results based on context

  • Drag and drop between structures to copy content
  • Drag and drop content within a structure to move
  • Drag and drop different types of objects/elements to create relations – e.g. dropping a requirement on a part creates a tracelink

This video shows how drag and drop in structures works: Click here

Some of the other improvements include

  • Icons in the object header make it easy for users to clearly understand what object is open. For objects with thumbnails the thumbnail is displayed with the type icon overlaid
  • Newly created items show up in at the top of the list to ensure that they are immediately visible and easily accessed.Object is automatically selected in single create mode
  • Easily paste on a folder or in its contents .Select a target folder and user paste command from the command bar, Use paste command on table header to directly paste content into the table

 

Perhaps one of the biggest surprises for Abaqus user community in 2018 is that the two most popular licensing schemes of Abaqus would gradually go away for new customers. These schemes are Abaqus analysis pack and Abaqus portfolio pack. It’s worth mentioning that many of our Abaqus customers are still using either of these two licensing schemes. While our current customers who have perpetual or lease licenses may be able to continue with these schemes, our future customers will have to migrate to something that is available as a replacement. Instead of putting this news as a surprise to each customer individually, I thought a common piece of information well in advance through a blog article would keep the anxiety under control.

THE MIGRATION PATH

The migration path eventually leads to a token configuration that has been available since couple of years now. It is called the extended tokens configuration. While many of our customers have already migrated to this licensing scheme by choice, others are still using one of the traditional licensing schemes. Let’s look at the logic behind this high-level decision. If we look at the history of acquisitions that Dassault Systemes has made in past few years, it looks like this:

 

The inception of extended tokens is related to acquisition of three companies in above chart: FE-Design, Safe Tech and Engineous. The product offerings from these companies, if coupled with Abaqus can greatly enhance its simulation portfolio. Following acquisition, these products were offered as point tools for a long time with their individual licensing and pricing schemes. As a result, existing Abaqus customers who wished to use either one or more of these products had to go through a complicated purchase and IT process. Dassault Systemes has been looking for a consolidated licensing scheme that would enable users to procure these products along with Abaqus in a single license file that works on a single token scheme and on a single license server. This token scheme is now called the extended tokens. At this point of time Dassault Syetemes believes it makes sense to migrate all existing Abaqus users to extended tokens through a migration path that would enhance the simulation portfolio of users in a cost-effective way.

           COMPARISON BETWEEN DIFFERENT TOKEN SCHEMES

Siemens PLM has introduced lots of new functionality and improvements in the  latest version of Active Workspace 3.3 , the key themes being

  1. User Productivity Improvements
  2. Reduce Information Overload
  3. Configure, Extend, and Deploy
  4. Process Execution and Other Application and Industry Template Exposure

The user productivity improvements are breakdown into three categories.

  1. Improved user efficiency

First focus area for user productivity is  improved user efficiency and proficiency, which is achieved through the use of accelerators such as drag and drop and multiple select to do bulk actions. Some key capabilities are

  • Universal viewer
  • Tab overflow
  • Command stack for analysis
  • Copy and paste hyperlink improvements
  • Drag and Drop Editing structure editing
  1. Enable “Completing a thought” with a single client

Second focus area for user productivity is to enable users to complete a thought with a single client.  Users are enabled to execute complete use cases with just the Active Workspace UI or with a native authoring application and Active Workspace hosted within it.  In the latest version core features and capabilities are extended for targeted use cases. Some key ones are

  • Manage Security in Single Level Projects Hierarchy – multi-select for project security
  • Achieve secure collaboration by applying project security to configured structure content
  • Effectively manage granular access to data in larger programs through hierarchical project level security
  • Assign existing effectivity criteria to qualify what structured content will be configured
  • Define new effectivity configuration criteria
  • Create a baseline of a structure to capture a view of that structure at a point in time
  • Enable showing only the results from a find in context to easily visualize them
  1. Responsive performance

Third focus area for improved user productivity is to make the client perform and respond as fast as possible to user gestures.  In the latest version server calls are minimized to reduce latency sensitivity.  Things like long running reports are run in the background to free up the client and to allow the user to do other work. Some key improvements are

  • Minimize bandwidth and memory usage through virtual paging and streaming of content
  • Minimize server communications and sensitivity to high latencies
  • Efficient execution through journaling, analysis, and tuning

I will introduce the new user productivity improvement features to you in detail through the subsequent blogs

 

MESHING CAPABILITIES IN ABAQUS CAE

It is a well-known fact in the CAE community that the efficiency and accuracy of finite element models are directly dependent on the quality of the underlying meshes in the model. The various quality parameters associated with elements are element size, aspect ratio, skew angle, jacobian, warp, and many more. Yet another parameter of concern is element topology, which means triangular/quadrilateral elements in case of shell meshes and tetrahedral/hexahedral elements in case of solid meshes. Each of these element topologies has its own advantages and disadvantages; for example, tetrahedral elements are easy to create on complex geometries but they have slower convergence, while hexahedral elements are very much desired in computational expensive simulations such as crash due to better convergence and accuracy but cannot be created easily.

Due to specific meshing requirements arising from the increasing complexity of part geometries, meshing techniques are becoming more important across all industry verticals. Transportation & mobility is primarily concerned with hexahedral meshes of pre-defined quality for very complex geometries. This industry has more focus on using Hypermesh and Ansa as a dedicated meshing tools. However these tools are primarily known for good meshing capabilities only. When there is a need to create input decks for advanced non-linear simulations such as with Nastran solution sequences 600/700 or for Abaqus multiphysics or acoustics, many of the solver features are not supported by Hypermesh or Ansa and have to be entered manually into the deck. Aerospace industry has almost always a requirement for composites modeling. They prefer a user interface that can either create or import composite plies and layups. The need for high quality meshes on complex geometries is rather rare. Due to these reasons Aerospace industry has been relying on MSC Patran since many years due to its composites modeling capabilities. However industry is now looking at alternate tools as Patran is losing its competitive edge on CAD import, CAD repair as well as meshing techniques. The CAD repair features are very minimal, there is no CAD associative interface to propagate design changes on FE side and meshing techniques offered are still at very basic level as well.

The objective of this blog is to highlight the meshing techniques in Abaqus CAE that makes CAE a tool of choice in situations where a decent quality mesh, tight integration with multiple CAD platforms as well as tight integration with Abaqus solver are topics of concern for the analyst. It’s worth mentioning for Aerospace industry audience that Abaqus CAE has basic composite modeling capabilities. For advanced composite modeling and visualization capabilities, there is an add on module called composite modeler for Abaqus CAE and there is tight integration between CATIA composites workbench and Abaqus CAE for transfer of FE meshes as well as ply layup information.

THE MESHING TECHNIQUES

 There are primarily four meshing techniques available in Abaqus CAE, both for solid meshes as well as for shell meshes.

Free meshing: This is the easiest of all the techniques as it almost always works with a single click. It primarily generates quadrilateral or triangular elements on surfaces and tetrahedral elements on solids, even on very complex geometries. The downside is that user has very minimal control on elements quality except controlling the mesh density using global and local seeding options.

Sweep meshing: This technique is useful when hexahedral elements are needed on solids with minimal geometry editing though this technique is applicable on surfaces as well. The meshing algorithm automatically identifies a source side and a target side on the geometry, it creates a quadrilateral shell mesh on the source side and sweeps those elements to the target side thereby converting them to hexahedral or bricks. The underlying shell mesh is automatically deleted. The downside is some geometry restrictions with respect to source and target side.

Structured meshing: This meshing techniques is useful when high quality hexahedral or near to perfect shell elements are required on solids or surfaces. This technique offers a better mesh control to the user compared to sweep meshing technique. It works by partitioning the complex solids into smaller six or eight sided parametric solids that can be brick meshed. The nodes at the boundaries are automatically fused to ensure connectivity.

Bottom’s up meshing: This is the last approach when all the other meshing techniques fails. It works on the concept of divide and rule. To some extent it resembles sweep meshing but the underlying geometry restrictions are removed.

THE COLOR CODING FEATURE

This is one feature that sets Abaqus CAE apart from other meshing tools available in the market. While doing meshing, user can see either entire part or regions associated with part (in case of partitions) in pre-defined colors. These colors helps in determining which region of the part would be meshed with which meshing technique if the mesh algorithm is executed. The color cold is as follows:

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The process is quite interactive. The orange color is most undesirable as these regions are non-meshable and require further partitions. Once the region is correctly partitioned and subdivided regions become meshable, the color code is updated instantly. What the user needs to see is the combination of greens, yellows and pinks with peach at certain times before executing meshing operation. During meshing, user has option to either mesh one region at a time or the entire part having multiple regions. In case of interfaces having different element topologies on each side such as green with pink or yellow with pink, tie constraints are automatically created at the boundary to ensure mesh connectivity.

Below is an example of a part that has been partitioned to create certain sweep meshable yellow regions where brick elements are needed. The other region is pink with tetrahedral elements associated to it.

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EFFECTIVE PARTITIONING

Transition of orange region to either yellow, green or peach requires intelligent partitioning of surfaces or solids. While there are many such partitioning tools available, achieving desired results with minimum partitions requires some practice in using these tools. Let’s highlight few of these partitioning methods:

Solid partitions:  Six options are available.

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VIRTUAL TOPOLOGY

This is an optional process that may be needed before partitioning and prior to meshing. This is a way to fix bad CAD data. Many times CAD data has more details than needed by the meshing algorithm. This includes very short edges and very small surfaces. Virtual topology offers certain tools to combine such small faces and edges. There is also an option to suppress these small features so that meshing algorithm does not recognize them.

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There was a day when it was unlikely that a company would buy a 3D CAD system without extensively evaluating it.  They required demos, trials, benchmarks, pilot projects and extensive financial ROI analysis.  Are those days gone?  Early in my career, I made a living by simply being able to demonstrate relatively new 3D CAD technology.  These days, a demo is rarely required for purchases of 3D CAD.  Decisions about a company’s core 3D CAD package have generally been previously made, or are now based on data formats of customers or suppliers.

It seems that 3D CAD is simply now an expected part of product development processes and an integral part of PLM in general.  The specific version of 3D CAD doesn’t seem to be nearly as critical as companies previously expected them to be.  Most can now get the job done in small to mid-size companies, with minor differences depending on the specific situation.

There does still seem to be a “pecking order” for the various CAD systems in the manufacturing sector.  The large companies with the broadest set of requirements (and the deepest pockets) generally define the standard.  This includes the Automotive and Aerospace OEMs as an example.  Once they settle on a primary CAD system, many other suppliers base their CAD requirements upon the OEM’s decision.  This doesn’t automatically mean the suppliers choose the same CAD system; just that the supplier needs to be able to communicate and exchange data with the OEM in an efficient manner.  Often times, an automotive supplier will obtain a license or two of the OEM’s chosen CAD software, but it will not be deployed across their entire environment.  The “Top-Tier” CAD that the OEM decided upon may only be used to translate and communicate directly with the OEM, while the bulk of their CAD users might be using a “Mid-Tier” CAD system that is perfectly capable of meeting the supplier’s design requirements.  A host of emerging cloud based CAD technology is also available.

 

So what does this mean to the industry?  Focus on the next thing.  Maybe that is a fully electronic PLM environment, or updated NC or additive manufacturing software.  It could be the adoption of up-front simulation technology to accelerate the design cycle.  There are a lot of things from a technology continuity perspective that can still be addressed once the CAD platform has been settled upon.  Just don’t lose sight of other opportunities for continuous improvement once your CAD house is in order.

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