LAKE OSWEGO, OR - Autodesk made it quite clear this week they are serious about simulation. At a small press event, they revealed Nastran-based products. See news release. 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.
How Not to Handle a Leak
The products are a result of Autodesk's acquisition of NEi Software. It would have been news delivered with a thunderclap -- if it had not already leaked months in mid-May. It seems NEi customers and resellers mentioned "certain assets" of NEi being acquired by Autodesk. Further reports mentioned Autodesk obtaining NEi Nastran code but nothing else. Since the news was out, Autodesk did post about they would be incorporating NEi code but said nothing about other NEi assets. The fate of NEi Software, the company, was unclear.
Oh, Yeah. We Bought NEi
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 Software 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.
We Told You We Were Serious
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 made 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 homogenous isotropic materials, such as metals) and non-linear analysis (a specialized area in which materials get weird 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."
Autodesk in the Big Leagues with Nastran - Monica Schnitger, Aug 12, 2014
Autodesk Releases Official Statement about NEi Nastran Purchase - John Evans, Design & Motion, Aug 13, 2014