Industry Focus - CAE Industry
Interview with Gordon Ferguson of Visual Kinematics, Inc.
Since 2008, Spatial has partnered with Visual Kinematics, Inc. (VKI) to include their industry leading meshing capabilities in the Spatial portfolio of 3D components. The choice of VKI as a partner was an easy one for Spatial. Since their founding in 1989, VKI has been a leading provider of component tools in the CAE industry for use in mechanical, fluids, electro-magnetic and multi-physics applications.
VKI founder Gordon Ferguson responded to a few questions to provide his insights into the state of the industry.
Spatial: First, can you offer a short explanation as to why meshing is an important part of CAE?
Gordon: The term CAE (Computer Aided Engineering) is due to the advent of the numerical solution of the differential equations that govern the physical systems that dominate modern engineering practice. Numerical techniques, such as the Finite Element Method and Finite Volume Method, require that the full 3D objects to be analyzed be divided (discretized) into many smaller, simpler shapes such as tetrahedra and hexahedra. These primitive shapes are the fundamental building blocks of these numerical methods.
Spatial: CAE definitely is a mature and stable field. This includes the use of meshing for a lot of 3D applications in computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and finite element analysis (FEA). Are there challenges today that may not have been an issue 10-20 years ago?
Gordon: There are a number of changes, including the continuous requirements of increased problem size and robustness. Over the last decade meshing algorithms, particularly general volume meshing using tetrahedra, have become and are expected to be nearly automatic and fail-proof. As far as problem size is concerned, the industry is getting close to the fundamental limits of the size of 32 bit integers. A lot of code may require revisiting before the end of the decade to accommodate billions of node points. In addition, New numerical techniques are being developed, particularly in electro-magnetics, which require new constraints on the mathematical quality of the generated primitive shapes, such as tetrahedra.
Spatial: What are some of the changes over the same period for CAE to make life easier for engineers and analysts?
Gordon: I alluded to this previously, but advances in meshing robustness with respect to all types of input geometry are probably the best things to happen in mesh generation. In this case meshing robustness refers to more than simply generating a mesh in every case. It also includes increased quality of the generated elements and even esthetic improvements. In addition, mesh generation software is expected to adapt to a solution. This means to "take orders" from a solver which tells them where and how to refine a mesh. The result is higher quality meshes which can be solved more efficiently.
Spatial: Are there applications for meshing that you see today that surprise you?
Gordon: Some of the techniques used in mesh generation for engineering applications find use in graphics, data compression, computer games and animated movies. In the field of engineering, it is interesting to see meshing used in ray-tracing and optics.
Spatial: How is VKI changing to address new applications and market challenges?
Gordon: As a company, we have a number of other CAE software developer toolkits which complement our meshing tools. These toolkits cover graphics, visualization, data structures, CAE file interoperability and structural/thermal finite element based solvers. Our market exposure in all these products helps us identify new applications and market directions before they might be apparent from the sole viewpoint of the mesh generation market.
To learn more about VKI and their portfolio of products, visit www.vki.com.