Simulation: Entry-level tool links to MD Nastran and supply chain


Design engineers at small companies who work with aerospace, automotive, and biomedical device makers may be most interested in a new desktop simulation tool ready to work with Microsoft Vista. SimOffice is specifically designed for engineers who design, analyze, and test complex mechanical parts and systems, and is the fourth piece of an emulation enterprise suite introduced by MSC Software , Santa Ana, CA.

Designed for users who have standardized on MS Windows as an IT infrastructure, SimOffice puts robust simulation technology and access to common CAD geometries behind a familiar, easy-to-use Windows-based interface. "SimOffice takes form and fit information from CAD programs and puts a functional aspect on it. And because it's based on Windows, users who only do simulations once a month can come back to the tool easily," said Ted Pawela, director of product marketing.

SimOffice can read and run simulations from MSC's MD Nastran package and use CAD geometries from proEngineer, Solidworks, Catia, and others. It consolidates the functionality of various point solutions into a single tool for stress analysis, dynamic analysis such as response to frequency or time-based input, heat transfer analysis, and more.

"It's built on .NET technology, on which all Microsoft productivity applications are built, so there's seamless integration to MS Office. You get spreadsheet-driven simulation," said Pawela. "When you run a simulation, you've essentially captured a Visual Basic Script. Now, someone else can use their own spreadsheet data to run that script. You can also bring simulation results back into Excel to chart them, or into Word to create summary reports."

Moreover, SimOffice is upwardly compatible with enterprise-level MD Nastran, providing engineers in complex supply chains the ability to leverage each other's data and processes across OEM and supplier organizations. Another benefit to users is immediate compatibility with Vista, Microsoft's new operating system scheduled for release in January. "We're ready to go on Vista, but we don't require customers have it," said Pawela. One important business application coming with Vista, he said, is Sharepoint, a central storage facility that lets documents be centrally stored, revised, and version-controlled.

Another Vista tool is Microsoft Groove, a real-time collaboration engine that lets people work on the same document from different computers. With Vista, users will be able to work in SimOffice documents collaboratively, Pawela said, discussing documents then circling, highlighting, and changing them on someone else's screen miles away or two floors down. "Companies have adopted lots of point tools that don't interact well. They've supported the design engineer, but not the guy who runs the business. Enterprise solutions are about integrating tools and making them accessible to the business users within a company," said Pawela.

Other MSC Software products in the enterprise suite include MD Nastran, SimDesigner (a user environment for CAD/CAM engineers), SimExpert (for managers of analysis processes), and SimManager (for managing data, including the storage and reuse of models.)

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