The Engineering Software Alphabet Soup

 

Engineering software has grown in leaps and bounds since the first engineering products were developed. Where initially the focus was on computer-aided design, or CAD, now it has extended to provide digitized support to all areas of engineering. There are thousands of engineering software tools available today, many of which fall into categories that have a three-letter acronym to describe them. Managing compliance of all these products with vendor agreements has become an important discipline for the IT business unit, and the license management team in many engineering companies have come to rely on OpenLM in helping them manage the “alphabet soup”. We have compiled a list of some of these acronyms, and the products supported by OpenLM that fall under these categories.

BIM – Building Information Modelling

Building Information Modelling software has evolved from the original concept of 2D and 3D CAD. BIM provides the architect and engineer with 3D models of proposed and existing built structures. It can be used both for individual buildings and for whole ecosystems, like smart cities. The power of BIM is its ability to identify potential construction errors and weaknesses. Some of the BIM tools that OpenLM supports are Autodesk’s Revit and Navisworks, Tekla BIMSight, Dassault Systemes BIM, and BricsCAD BIM.

CAD – Computer-aided design

Computer-aided design heralded the revolution in engineering life, providing a software alternative to the drawing board and pens. Now available for 3D as well as 2D drawing, every engineering and architectural company has at least one CAD tool in their portfolio. While OpenLM is known for its ability to manage licenses for AutoDesk’s AutoCAD, it also supports BricsCAD, PTC Creo, Dassault’s Catia and Ansys, among many others.

CAE – Computer Aided Engineering

Computer-aided engineering performs analytics and simulations on engineering designs, such as computational flow dynamics (CFD), finite element analysis (FEA) and multibody dynamics (MDB) among other disciplines. Typically, such software is composed of a pre-processor, solver and a post-processor, and receives the output of design executed using a CAD or similar design application.

MSC Software were one of the earliest companies offering software for various types of CAE, such as Adams Car. Other CAE software includes Mathworks Simulink, Matlab, and Wolfram’s Mathematica, all of which are in OpenLM’s vendor list.

CAM – Computer-Aided Manufacturing

Computer-aided manufacturing usually describes an automated manufacturing process and is not engineering software per se, but does receive output from CAD and CAE application as part of the value chain and often requires the supervision or intervention of experienced engineers. Many vendors of engineering software offer CAM solutions, including Dassault (Catia), Siemens (NX CAM), PTC (Creo), AutoDesk (Powermill, FeatureCAM and Fusion 360) and HCL Technologies (Camworks). All of these vendor products are supported by OpenLM..

CFD – Computational Flow Dynamics

Computational Flow Dynamics or CFD is used to analyse the flows of gases and liquids via simulation and is one of the CAE analytic tools. Typically, like most CAE tools, CFD analysis is very complex and is run using multiple CPUs and/or GPUs.

Many major vendors offer CFD software, notably Ansys, which has products such as Fluent, CFD and CFX. Other well-known products include Autodesk’s Inventor and CFD, MSC’s Dytran and Solidworks.

ECAD – Electronic Computer Aided Design

Electronic Computer-Aided Design (ECAD) is a special branch of software that is dedicated to the design and production of Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs). The “CAD” in the name is a bit misleading, CAD is focused on design, while the best ECAD products cover the whole board manufacture process from design through to assembly and even parts explosion and bill of materials (BOM) generation.

One of the leaders in this field is Cadence Software with its Allegro software, which is focused on the design aspect, and some other products that are devoted to MCAD, the manufacture aspect, and IDX that allows electronic and mechanical engineers to collaborate on the board design and manufacture. OpenLM also supports Mentor Graphics’Xpedition PCB engineering suite.

EDA – Engineering Design Automation

Another acronym that is synonymous with EDT.

EDT – Engineering Design Tools

EDT is a global term for specialized engineering software, and includes any software that the engineer could find in his digital “toolbox”.

FEA and FEM – Finite Element Analysis and Method

Finite element analysis (FEA) is one of the CAE family of software. FEA software performs simulations and is usually run in batch mode. There is a wide variety of FEA software available, such as Simulia’s Abaqus, Nastran, originally from NASA and now available from MSC and Siemens, Livermore’s LS-DYNA and Ansys. There are many FEA packages that originated in universities and through research. These generally do not come with a license manager, but OpenLM has a feature that allows software like this to be monitored.

GIS – Geographical Information System

Geographic information systems (GIS) have been around for a long time and ArcGIS was the software that OpenLM is founded on. The founders were working at a company that used the ESRI product extensively, and the need for an independent license manager was identified. They started up a company that initially offered a solution for ArcGIS license management, then AutoCAD, followed by software from many other vendors. Today over 900 customers rely on OpenLM to manage their licenses, in industries ranging from Aerospace to scientific research.  

GPU – Graphics Processing Unit

What was originally a circuit board designed to support computer games has become a vital cog in modern computing. The parallel processing capabilities of graphics cards cuts down processing time and costs on intensive software processing required by CAE applications. Nvidia is the leading producer in the GPU field and they have collaborated with some of the leading software vendors, such as Dassault to optimise processing using the Nvidia boards. Recently OpenLM was requested to include Nvidia license management as part of the supported vendor products and this has been done. This simplifies work in advanced simulations and calculations, where cost of processing is an important consideration.

MDB – Multibody Dynamics

Multibody dynamics (MDB) is a CAE software tool. The discipline examines the behaviour of mechanical moving parts and the influences of external forces on these parts. Because the effects of these forces are unpredictable and cause friction and instability, this software can predict weaknesses and other potential flaws as well as mean time to failure. Some major software vendors in this field are Comsol, who have a Multibody Dynamics Module, and MSC Software with its Adams, Adams Car and SimXpert products.

PLM – Product Lifecycle Management

Early engineering software was siloed into different areas of expertise, and did not integrate readily with other applications used in the overall production of a part or product. This has been changed with the introduction of product lifecycle management (PLM) which covers the whole value chain of product development from inception to market. It also goes beyond this in that it supports maintenance during the product’s life up to the time when it needs to be disposed of as it has reached the end of its life. Some of the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software also lays claim to PLM management, but the main players in the PLM space are, Siemens, Dassault and Autodesk.

The Wide World of Engineering Software

These are not the only acronyms in the alphabet soup, and there are also many products that do not have a handy acronym to classify them that are used in various industries and engineering disciplines. Building roads and bridges, communicating via radio and satellite, designing transmission networks and the many facets of the oil and gas industry, all have their own specialized software tools. OpenLM covers many of these products too. If you are looking for effective license management over your valuable software, why not try our product and see if it works for you. You can download an evaluation copy and try it for 30 days at https://www.openlm.com/download/.