Simulation software for engineering has been an important area for product developers, especially in current times, with reduced product development cycles and pressure to get designs right the first time over. One of the leading providers of engineering simulation software solutions is ANSYS, which claims to have been promoting engineering simulation for the 21st century. In a recently interview, Dr Ajei Gopal, President and CEO, ANSYS Inc, told us about the broader industry view on pervasive engineering, additive manufacturing, automotive megatrends defining future of mobility and industry standards.
Dr Gopal took over the role of President and CEO of ANSYS in January, 2017, before which he served as President and COO of the company from August, 2016 to December, 2016. He had served as a member of the ANSYS Board of Directors since February, 2011, before which Dr Gopal was an operating partner at Silver Lake. Dr Gopal has a doctorate in computer science from Cornell University and a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. He began his career as a member of the technical staff at Bell Communications Research, following which he has held various top positions in companies including IBM, ReefEdge Networks, Symantec Corporation, CA Technologies and Hewlett Packard.
ATR _ It’s been about a year since you took over as the President and CEO of ANSYS. What were your first priorities, and how has the journey been thus far?
AJEI GOPAL _ My primary focus as the President and CEO of ANSYS has been to accelerate the growth that the previous CEO, James Cashman, succeeded in producing over the years. Historically, we have been the world leader in simulation, and we intend to continue to maintain that status. Personally, I have spent a lot of time with our customers and partners to understand how people take advantage of our solutions and offerings, so that I can provide the right context for our company to be successful.
How will Pervasive Engineering Simulation transform the industry in the long-run?
Products are intrinsically multiphysics in nature, and therefore one element of pervasiveness is to be able to support multiphysics solutions. We offer an integrated platform that gives customers the ability to drive innovation and analyse designs across all the different physics. The other element of pervasiveness is that all products can be simulated — not just high-end products. The value of simulation is so high that we believe it can affect the design, implementatiown and deployment of products across all industries, because all product designers deal with the same concerns: cost, quality, time-to-market and innovation.
Additionally, simulation now pervades the entire product lifecycle. It is not just for the validation phase. Simulation plays a very important role in steering customers through the ideation phase towards the best design possible under various constraints. As engineers and designers use simulation more ubiquitously and pervasively, it will simplify the tasks downstream and allow personnel to make decisions early on, before production costs rise. It also makes the design process much simpler and less expensive since the different options have been thought through early in the process.
As we go downstream from design to manufacturing, historically customers have used ANSYS simulation to develop sophisticated machinery for specific custom manufacturing projects. Of course, the big revolution that is taking place is additive manufacturing, in which we believe simulation will play an even larger role than ever before. With additive manufacturing, the process of manufacturing itself can introduce changes in the final shape, and simulation can help to factor in those changes. An example of a solution from ANSYS for additive manufacturing is in providing topology optimisation, where the system provides the design requirements for the manufacturing of a certain product.
Another area of tremendous interest for ANSYS is the notion of the digital twin. Here, pervasive simulation extends into the operations end of the product lifecycle, where it can produce an incremental revenue stream for our customers through preventive maintenance. With digital twin technology, a virtual copy (digital twin) of a device is created and subjected to the same operating conditions as the physical device. Analytical programmes run on the digital twin can identify in advance when problems might be developing, and maintenance can be scheduled to fix the problem instead of waiting for the physical device to fail.
Scheduled maintenance is always less expensive than emergency repairs. Potential repair scenarios can be run and evaluated on the digital twin in advance to come up with the best fix. Also, data collected from the digital twin over the device’s lifetime can be used to improve the design of the next generation of the device. So, digital twins can save time and money in many ways.
You talked about additive manufacturing. How critical is 3D printing going to be for the industry in the long-run?
I think additive manufacturing is interesting for a number of reasons. From a business model perspective, it has potentially profound implications on the supply chain. If you take any major supply chain, in this case automotive, there is a set of parts that is needed in large quantities to deal with vehicle servicing; other parts are required in lesser numbers. As years go by, the inventory requirements start to pile up. There are huge stockpiles of parts, leading to an enormous cost.
Additive manufacturing offers the possibility of “printing” these parts on demand instead of stockpiling them. By eliminating warehousing, the cost could be dramatically reduced from a logistics perspective. There is no question that there are complexities to be solved around additive manufacturing, but the fact remains that it presents a significant opportunity to disrupt the supply chain.
Another important element of additive manufacturing is that it makes mass customisation possible. While mass customisation sounds like an oxymoron, the idea behind it is that you will have the ability to customise a part as needed even though you are creating a general purpose solution. With additive manufacturing, you are able to take a core design and then start customising it depending on the individual circumstances. A manufacturer can offer a much more sophisticated service model, taking into account the exact usage requirements of a specific customer to perform final customisation.
What’s the role you see ANSYS playing in defining the future of mobility, especially with reference to global automotive megatrends?
When ANSYS was founded almost 50 years ago, it was mainly in the mechanical space. A lot of conversations with automotive companies were around structural integrity. As we started to diversify our product portfolio and move into the fluid dynamics space, conversations about external airflow, streamlining vehicles and combustion (optimising engine design) started to take place.
However, with electronics comprising over 35% of the materials in a car today, the challenge has changed. Hence, our current conversations with car manufacturers are on topics such as signal integrity and interference, EMI/EMC, electric drivetrains, autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles and so on. We’re also having conversations with customers about safety and safety analysis.
There is a set of algorithms that has to do with the logic of driving. We evaluate the context within which the driving can take place. For example, the eyes of the autonomous driving logic could be radar, so what happens when it doesn’t detect an obstacle? ANSYS helps customers figure that out. There are multiple computers in a vehicle, and varying weather conditions that could have an impact on the electronic sensors that feed data to these computers, in terms of noise from the perspectives of thermodynamics, heat and interference. Profound questions exist about the physics of autonomous vehicles. We give our customers an environment within which they can evaluate and validate the performance of their vehicles.
How critical is it to meet safety and security standards for the automotive industry, from the perspective of simulation?
ANSYS is supportive of and compliant with standards. As you know, ISO 26262 is an important standard. One of our areas of expertise is in embedded software, and in a system like an automobile there is an enormous amount of embedded code. We have technology that can automatically generate software that is ISO 26262 compliant. Through this standard-compliant software generation, we can help customers reduce the skill level and costs needed to create specific codes. But often you need more than just standards because they are still developing in some cases, while in others they don’t go far enough.
We are witnessing shrinking product lifecycles, rapid pace of development and the industry chasing very strict deadlines. How can simulation ensure we get products right the very first time?
There are two ways I’d like to respond to this question. The first is that the traditional way of doing business is a very waterfall-oriented methodology, where you create a prototype and go through the physical testing process. This is a very linear process. We can shorten the process by performing a lot of the testing work upfront using simulation. Also, with digital simulation, you can obviate the need to build all those physical prototypes, which saves time, effort and money. Once a digital domain prototype is created, you don’t incur the physical latency of building a physical prototype, and can carry out testing completely digitally. Digital simulation enables you to investigate innumerable design variations with the digital prototype.
Over the years, the computer science industry has adopted Agile development methodologies. Whenever a change is made to a piece of software, a bunch of regression tests are run immediately and this is repeated every time changes are made to the software. This methodology has reduced cycle times, and now engineering firms are adopting it more widely.
The functional equivalent of doing software testing is simulation, which through Agile is carried out as and when design changes are made. This ensures that there isn’t a large amount of validation work at the end of the design cycle, since it is carried out at regular intervals beforehand. Simulation enables the physical product industry to take advantage of the Agile development methodology because simulation can rapidly validate the changes that have taken place.
Do you see collaborations between different stakeholders within the industry becoming a norm in the future, especially with increasing product complexities?
As we begin to deal with complexities, especially with regards to next-generation products, I think there is an opportunity for collaboration, which lends itself to innovation from multiple sources. We believe in a collaborative environment and work closely with partners to better support our customers; we also work closely with customers to develop better solutions. ANSYS is a huge supporter of open innovation.
How do you see India as a strategic hub for ANSYS globally?
ANSYS has a very vibrant start-up programme that has been around for a little over a year, with the participation of over 300 startups from all over the world, including India. We also offer support in the educational sector. We have relationships with universities around the world, where we offer different types of partnerships for the use of simulation.
There is a lot of dynamic activity taking place in India, whether it is in the educational environment, the start-up environment or design centres for multinational companies. These design centres are powerhouses driving global product roll-outs for companies, including innovations from India. We at ANSYS have an opportunity and obligation to support customers with global development through our operations in India.
TEXT: Deepangshu Dev Sarmah & Naveen Arul