MSC Apex: Questions for decision-makers

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MSC Apex. Source: MSC Software

This week we take a pause from design space exploration to look at MSC Apex, the new “computational parts-based” CAE system from MSC Software. For practitioners evaluating this novel offering, what are key questions to consider?

MSC Apex’s differentiator is what MSC calls its “generative simulation workflow,” designed to let users (1) rapidly prepare analysis models and (2) incrementally solve parts and assemblies for faster run times and results visualization. The first of the software’s two modules, MSC Apex Modeler, is a CAE-specific direct modeling and meshing solution intended to streamline the CAD cleanup, simplification and meshing workflow. MSC says this software lets users prepare and mesh models for simulation up to ten times faster than older tools.

The second module, MSC Apex Structures, is an integrated, generative structural analysis solution for engineers and analysts. MSC says the software’s “integration of the user interface with solver methods gives the user a unique ability to interactively and incrementally validate that FEM models are solver-ready.” In the case of an aircraft landing-gear door assembly, MSC says, “Computational Parts technology was used to perform an incremental analysis. After modifying one part of the assembly, an incremental or subsequent analysis completed 2.5X faster than its first solve.”

Questions for decision-makers:

Does it work? Does it scale? Initial customer use cases reported by MSC support its claims that MSC Apex can dramatically accelerate modeling, meshing and analysis processes. A next test is to watch whether these benefits continue to be realized as adoption spreads across many different products, industries and usage scenarios.

Will engineers accept it? How quickly and in what numbers? That is, will the benefits to initial adopters prove compelling enough to convince large numbers of engineers to abandon their traditional intuition-based or handbook-formula engineering methods, and invest in this new automated approach? While the benefits appear real, we think the jury is still out on how fast sales will accelerate, and what it will take to convince large numbers of engineers and designers to embrace this new way of working.

Will engineering managers and CAE discipline leads welcome it into their organizations? Will they trust the tool to safely deliver reliable results in the hands of non-expert users? Will some experts see the new tool as encroaching on their professional turf, and thus resist its adoption? We think these potential hurdles may be more readily overcome than the requirement at many engineering organizations that any new CAE software undergo painstaking accuracy-validation and results-characterization tests. This could slow development of the reference customer base that prospective buyers rely on when assessing new technologies.

With MSC Apex, as with any new product, these questions of market acceptance are important to help prospective buyers assess the vendor’s likely long-term commitment to the product. Equally vital in this regard is understanding the product’s strategic importance for the vendor. We believe MSC Software views MSC Apex as a cornerstone of its future, both to differentiate itself from competitors and to help accelerate revenue growth to levels that would support the $1 billion valuation mentioned in The Wall Street Journal’s report a year ago that the company’s owners, Symphony Technology Group and Elliott Management, were shopping it to potential buyers.

Finally, can MSC Software afford the costs to robustly develop, market and support this new software family in tandem with its legacy products? We think this will not be any problem, as its broad, deep array of existing software and its large, loyal customer base yield steady, high-margin revenue streams from license renewals, maintenance and support.

© 2015 ENGINEERING.com. Originally published here. Reprinted with permission.