Perfecting designs in the cloud

Triggered by the explosion of web-enabled simulation technology, product development looks set to move forever to the virtual realm, making physical prototyping a thing of the past


The Industry 4.0 paradigm, which opens up to the idea of the “digital and smart factory”, promises to boost manufacturers’ innovation rates and competitiveness by cutting development costs and time. A whole set of analyses that were once made exclusively through physical prototyping and testing has moved to the digital sphere.

What’s more, the range of application is broadening so that now, not just the physics of components and subsystems, but also entire manufacturing chains, systems of products and services can be accurately modelled and the behaviour predicted.

With the incredible amount of data generated and embedded in these innovative products, the real advantage for companies is turning to solutions specifically built to exploit the potential of highly scalable distributed environments. High-performance computing (HPC) infrastructures coupled with SaaS cloud-offering models have the potential to extend the reach of simulation from a limited group of computer-aided engineering specialists to a broader team of designers, engineers and discipline experts working on different product development steps.

By scaling up simulation routines on computational clusters, the design is transformed into a truly collaborative engineering task

ESTECO’s mission is to help companies design better products by providing optimisation and integration technology that enables analysts to consider the product as a whole, rather than splitting the process and analysing single components. As a result we have been involved in distributed computing since the beginning.

The IT environment has evolved and with today’s computing cloud infrastructures we can fully exploit our technology for distributed processes. Whether the service is private or a public cloud, our software can orchestrate the execution of computationally intensive calculations on the most suitable resource.

By scaling up simulation routines on computational clusters, the design is transformed into a truly collaborative engineering task.

Our success at injecting these crucial capabilities into our software solutions is the direct result of a close collaboration with our customers. Take, for example, how our technology has grown in parallel with one of the big players of the automotive industry.

Yan Fu, technical leader at Ford Motor Company, explains: “Ford and ESTECO’s relationship goes back a long time. For more than a decade the modeFRONTIER desktop platform has been successfully used as a process integration, design optimisation and decision support tool inside the organisation. This close technical partnership has brought to life a common vision to expand from a desktop paradigm to the new web-enabled solution SOMO, capable of satisfying all the design needs of a global enterprise such as Ford.”

This is the only way to develop solutions that truly solve customers’ problems and as a result we are consolidating more and more partnerships around our technology.  This transition to company-wide deployments exploits the flexibility of renting both licences and computing capacity. In this way it’s possible to truly remove traditional bottlenecks at design department level and between geographically dispersed research and development centres.

We are very proud that Gartner has included our technology in this year’s Cool Vendors in Product Design and Life Cycle Management report[1]. We believe Gartner recognised that we are trailblazers. What distinguishes ESTECO is its long history in, and experience with, traditional technology through the engineering of products and its ability to propel itself into the future of IT technology. We think it’s no coincidence that when we moved from a very technical desktop solution to an enterprise solution where our interaction with IT is the prime focus, that’s when Gartner noticed us.

The way we see it, the decision-making process in product development will become less deterministic and more social, catering to different customer requirements and demands. Making this process virtual with cloud services will make needs and desires emerge, and open the door to interaction between who is using and who is designing the product.

John Mannisto, engineering director of simulation-based design at Whirlpool Corporation, states the importance of the cultural change needed to achieve this transition and adopt tools that enable a collaborative engineering process. “Driving designs virtually instead of cut-and-try is essential. We have a lot of things to worry about – costs, competitiveness, attributes that people want – and pulling this together in one tool keeps us ahead of everybody else,” he says.

It is collaborative, distributed environments such as these that enable the integration of diversified systems, while ensuring product and engineering data quality and consistency, which will be the solutions of tomorrow. On top of that, the technology supporting this set of advanced solutions will also have to incorporate cloud computing. In this respect, ESTECO is way ahead of the game.
[1] Gartner, Cool Vendors in Product Design and Life Cycle Management, Marc Halpern et al, April 2015

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