Last year, just a few days before Christmas, Autodesk snatched up analysis software maker Algor for $34 million. Among those who stand to benefit from Autodesk’s shopping spree are Autodesk Inventor users. Ever since SolidWorks and COSMOSWorks became one (by SolidWorks’ parent company Dassault Systemes’ acquisition of COSMOSWorks’ creator Structural Research and Analysis Corp. in 2002), Inventor users had been longing for the same type of integrated CAD-analysis workflow they’d witnessed on the other side of the fence. Until recently, Inventor users had had to rely on third-party add-on or standalone analysis packages to fulfil their needs.
To borrow Autodesk’s own words in its press release, the debut of Autodesk Algor Simulation 2010 last week represents “a key milestone in its integration of recently acquired Algor software.”
But the integration, I discovered, is more organizational than technological.
“Since January of this year, we had become an Autodesk subsidiary,” explained Bob Williams, product marketing manager, Autodesk Algor Simulation. “While we had restructured our products to some extent, we were still operating in our own business systems, shipping products and providing support under the Algor brand. With the release of Autodesk Algor Simulation 2010, licensing, technical support, e-learning–all these will now be done through the Autodesk subscription center.”
On a technological level, “We did make a concerted effort to go through the outstanding RCPs [requests to change product] to address those related to the integration of Autodesk Inventor and Algor,” said Williams.
Autodesk’s acquisition of Algor was preceded by the company’s purchase of PlassoTech, another analysis softwrae company. Whereas Algor Simulation currently comes at additional cost to Inventor users and launching it requires opening a separate program window, some of PlassoTech’s features have now become embedded in Inventor, as part of the software’s Simulation Tab, available at no additional cost.
For those who want to try out Algor Simulation, Autodesk offers Algor DesignCheck, a free first-pass analysis program for running linear static stress tests (in normal English, simulating the effects of a certain weight or force on a single part). For the most part, Algor DesignCheck offers features similar to those found under Inventor’s Simulation Tab.
Though now part of Autodesk, Algor seems poised to support multiple CAD systems for the foreseeable future, so if you’re working with design files from different CAD systems, including Inventor’s rival packages, Algor might be a better analysis platform.
Williams pointed out, “Algor DesignCheck and Algor Simulation read Inventor files directly, without going through translation or neutral file formats. There’s full associacitivity between the Inventor model and the Algor analysis model.”
Many CAD users express a desire to export into the analysis environment not only an assembly’s geometry but also the kinematic joints and contacts that define the assembly’s mechanical motions. Currently, most CAD-to-analysis file associativity runs one way: You export the design into the analysis program; you run stress tests; then, when you’ve figured out how to improve the design, you need to go back to the CAD program to make the change. Ideally, users should be allowed to make the desired change — whether increasing the thickness of a wall or introducing a series of ribs to reinforce a weak corner — in the analysis program itself and count on the CAD model to automatically update. Such bidirectional integrations, in my view, would indeed be milestones.
Williams revealed the Algor team plans to tackle these improvements in future releases.
Prices for Autodesk Algor Simulation products:
- Autodesk Algor Simulation 2010: $7,995
- Autodesk Algor Simulation CFD 2010: $14,995
- Autodesk Algor Simulation MES 2010: $14,995
- Autodesk Algor Simulation Professional 2010: $21,995
For more on the relationship between design and analysis, read “An Explicit-Analysis Partnership,” Sep 10, 2009.
For more on Algor Simulation, watch the video review of Algor DesignCheck below: