by Roopinder Tara, Tenlinks.com
Autodesk this week made it quite clear that they are serious about simulation. At a small press event, they revealed Nastran-based products:
- One is a standalone FEA [finite element analysis] solver, called Autodesk Nastran.
- The other is in-CAD, which will work inside Inventor and in SOLIDWORKS.
The products are a result of Autodesk's acquistion of NEi Nastran. It would have been news delivered with a thunderclap -- if it had not already leaked earlier in mid-May. It seems NEi resellers admitted to seeing interest by Autodesk, which was misinterpreted by reports as Autodesk-only NEi Nastran code. A few weeks later, Autodesk was forced to reply in a blog post, but then only partially substantiated the acquisition.
And so it was on an uncharacteristically hot day (90 degrees in Portland!), Autodesk assembled a half-dozen simulation-savvy but befuddled analysts and journalists to its Lake Oswego offices for the official announcement. Autodesk had indeed purchased the entire company.
The acquisition cost was not revealed. NEi employees (numbering in "double digits") are now Autodesk employees. NEi will continue to operate in their Westminster, California offices -- not far from archrival MSC Software. NEi founder CEO David Weinberg was not seen at the media event, although I was told he is still with the group, and was very active during the four months it took to create in-CAD for Inventor.
More importantly, Autodesk enters the big leagues of CAE, such is the cachet of Nastran. With the acquisition of NEi comes customers of high-end FEA software, something Autodesk may had trouble acquiring on its own. NEi uses a hybrid direct/reseller sales network, which Autodesk will take over.
(Nastran is one of the classic FEA solvers, in use by every major aerospace firm, big auto, big enterprise -- and those who wish they were. Originally developed as a NASA project, it was picked up by a number of private companies and amde commercial. MSC Software is currently the leading incarnation of Nastran with MSC.Nastran, both in terms of market share and robustness. NEi may be in the top five.)
Though a general purpose solver, NEi has tried to build a reputation for composite material analysis for aerospace (ridiculously more complicated to analyze than homegenous isotropic materials, such as metals) and non-linear analysis (a specialized area in which materials get wierd like with viscoelastic materials such as rubber and certain plastics, or even ordinary materials when taken to extremes in temperature or load.)
Autodesk assured the skeptics among us that it will continue to support and develop in-CAD for SOLIDWORKS, which was previously named NEiWorks. Autodesk Nastran products will sell for "around $10K."
[Reprinted with permission of CAD Insider.]