Autodesk moves simulation to the cloud

Autodesk believes Simulation 360 will lead to increased access, lower prices, and help push simulation up-front in design workflow. 

Autodesk has rolled up many of the simulation and analysis tools acquired in recent years and put them online as a new cloud-based service, Autodesk Simulation 360. The service is an extension of its existing PLM 360 line of cloud-based product data management services, but is purchased separately.

Autodesk Simulation 360 uses cloud technology to lower the price and increase the access to simulation for product and building design. The desktop printer here shows Moldflow injection pressure, mechanical stress, fluid, and thermal simulation results using Autodesk Simulation 360. (Source: Autodesk via Business Wire)

Simulation 360 is available as a pay-as-you-go service, in contrast to Autodesk’s usual upfront license and subscription models. Scott Reese, VP for Simulation and Cloud Platform, says the goal is to make the service as accessible as possible. “If you compare our pricing to the tens of thousands for software alone, you get a sense of how we are appealing to larger audience.” In the cloud, Reese notes, much greater computational power than most users can afford can be on-call 24×7.365. Pricing starts at 120 simulations in any combination for $3,600. Services available include fluid flow, thermal, and plastic injection molding tool analysis. Additional services include direct geometry exchange, meshing tools, material libraries, and solver tools for increased targeted accuracy within a project. An “unlimited” package for one year is $7,200.

Reese says 120 simulations should be “plenty” for the typical user. Some of the details on how the service will operate were ironed out with the existing version of Autodesk Moldflow, in which some cloud-based simulation was provided as part of the software license. Without the cloud tools, Reese says users were breaking models into pieces, and only doing a few iterations before having to move one. “We don’t want users to find a better answer; we want them to run enough iterations to find the absolute best answer.”

Product design is a major target for Simulation 360, but Autodesk is also promoting the service for architectural design. One early tester was Heapy Engineering, which provides a variety of services for buildings systems engineering. “Our customers can now visualize building comfort before the project is constructed. This enables them to make more informed decisions pertaining to project costs and lets them evaluate system and energy trade-offs as well,” says Heapy’s Darryl McClelland, BIM and Virtual Design manager.

Next up, mobile

Reese says the use of Autodesk Simulation 360 on mobile devices is the obvious next step. “We are working on technology for viewing results from mobile devices,” says Reese, and also tools such as a Unified Job Manager to track submittals and for post-processing. Reese says Autodesk does not currently foresee mobile platforms as a tool for preparing models for simulation projects.

Autodesk believes access to simulation tools does more than drive the price down, but that it also opens up simulation to more stakeholders in the design process. “As we gain experience from our various simulation acquisitions, we notice that one of the shortcomings is a lack of recognition for everyone in the workflow,” notes Reese. “People in early stages of design have different needs than somebody late in the design process. Early-stage users will explore feasibility of an idea; they just need something to see if their idea is feasible, not hardcore FEA.”

Our take

Autodesk is not the first company to deploy simulation in the cloud, but it is certainly the largest. For the past several months it has used a cloud-based service for Moldflow customers on subscription to work the kinks out of the larger offering, and believes it is ready to go. There is still considerable hand-wringing in some circles about sending off designs to a third-party, just as there were concerns a few years ago about online banking. Those whose hands are tied by government defense contracts or billion dollar projects may never use external cloud simulation. But for the small design firms who are Autodesk’s bread and butter, this could open the door to making simulation a part of their upfront design work flow.


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