Extending Engineering Simulation

Dec. 21, 2004
MSC expects models will support a wide range of corporate activities.

Two years ago when Frank Perna became chairman and CEO of MacNeal Schwendler Corp., he changed the name to signal a vision of expanding the company's engineering and design solutions into broader markets. "I felt that MSC.Software Corp. was just a quicker way of letting people know that we're a software company," Perna explains. "Instead of asking what we do, potential customers can now immediately proceed to asking about the solutions we provide." Those solutions originated in 1963 when MSC's founders, Richard MacNeal and Robert Schwendler, devised structural analysis software for engineering departments. Today the Los Angeles-based company is a leading independent vendor of physics-based analysis and simulation software used for product development. Those engineering solutions originated in the 1960s when the company worked with NASA to develop a unified approach to computerized structural analysis of aerospace structures. Engineering solutions such as MSC.Nastran and MSC.Patran are examples of MSC's focus. The company says its design analysis and simulation tools have played a role in the design of almost every vehicle and aircraft sold today. Perna believes his challenge is to offer the benefits of simulation software as enterprise solutions. "In addition to helping engineers and technicians in our traditional aerospace markets, MSC wants to serve the management needs of companies throughout manufacturing." To accomplish that, MSC is broadening both its product mix and marketing approach. One sign of success is its partnering with Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., Findlay, Ohio. MSC worked with Cooper Tire to develop and implement an innovative set of software simulation tools to streamline product development. The program, called the Predictive Tire Modeling System (PTMS), shortened the company's 18-to-24-month product-development process to six months, says D. Richard Stephens, Cooper Tire's vice president for technical and commercial tire operations. PTMS simulates a complete, pressurized tire mounted on a wheel under load. Perna also cites similar implementations of simulation systems at companies as varied as Boeing Co., BMW AG, and LEGO Co., the toy maker. "Reducing the amount of physical testing of Boeing's 777 aircraft saves $150,000 per plane. At BMW annual savings of $1.5 million were gained by optimizing welding protocols and procedures to achieve weight savings. At LEGO, our simulation solutions reduced both time-to-market and material costs." Perna's strategy outlines a future where simulation will be used more routinely as a corporate management tool. Much of that future can be extrapolated from some of MSC's recently introduced capabilities. For example, MSC's Web-based engineering exchange helps customers engage consultants to implement enterprise simulation solutions. Customers such as Germany's Porsche AG also are using MSC as an application service provider. To speed the analysis process MSC introduced a Linux-based supercomputing initiative. Facilitating the supply chain also will help drive simulation's role as an enterprise strategy, adds Perna. He believes that access to simulation models will be a routine tool supporting virtually every corporate activity.

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