Cloud computing comes to plastic molding simulation

Autodesk Moldflow says its Project Cumulus initiative, where Moldflow Insight users can leverage the processing power of multiple computers through cloud computing, will finally allow plastics processors and designers to fully utilize the simulation software's capabilities. "Meshing, or the actual number crunching, any of those mathematically intensive, computer-intensive-type operations, can now be pushed to the cloud," explains Bob Williams, product marketing manager simulation at Autodesk Moldflow, "and by doing that, the cloud can scale up and provide whatever number of hardware resources is available and required in order to handle the situation."

Currently in what it calls a technology preview phase, Williams says Autodesk Moldflow has approached a select number of its Insight users for a test run of the service. Williams reports that users have responded favorably, and any voiced concerns are largely limited to security. To allay those fears, Autodesk Moldflow is using the Amazon S3 cloud, which is SAS 70 type 2 certified. The company says that's the main certification that exists for cloud computing security.

Autodesk Moldflow believes the cloud-computing initiative will allow simulation users to move past simple validation of parts to their optimization. "Historically, simulation has been much more used for validation," Williams says. "Just because of the amount of time it took-the number of cycles that a company might be able to spend on simulation-they mainly focus on will this thing be safe and trying to cut out some physical prototypes. While simulation is perfect for optimization there just wasn't time to do it."

According to Williams, Moldflow specifically includes a design-of-experiment tool that the company has found wasn't historically applied by many of its customers. Now instead of running two or three iterations, Williams says his clients can start looking at tens or even hundreds of iterations. "As you scale up, the benefit keeps growing," Williams says.

Autodesk Moldflow believes Project Cumulus reflects where the industry was already headed in many ways, with efforts towards distributed processing and cluster computing already underway. The difference with its program is instead of a company needing to invest in that hardware themselves, the same or greater computer power is available without investment by leveraging the cloud. This way, Autodesk Moldflow says users can minimize their upfront costs in terms of hardware and study more detailed models then they've ever been able to.

On a more practical level, Williams says Project Cumulus means a design consultant, for instance, can go to a job site and not have bring their fully outfitted computer power with them. "No matter where they're at in the world," Williams says, "they can just plug into the cloud and have amazing hardware resources available to them."

"This is really about understanding and opening up simulation to do what it's always been able to do but couldn't be leveraged to do because of time and resource constraints" Williams says. "This is really unleashing the untapped power of what simulation can do." Tony Deligio



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