MULTIPHYSICS 6.2: COMSOL takes new approaches to simplify multiphysics and creation of hyper-fast simulations

Meet VP of Development, ED FONTES in today's INTERVIEW. An interesting trend in the CAE field is the growing importance of multiphysics simulations in digital product development. In the real physical world, few pieces stand by themselves, several phenomena influence. If, for example, current is conducted in a cable, heat is developed, the spread of which can affect the conductivity, etc. This is where the point of multiphysics simulations becomes apparent. By taking several physics phenomena into account at the same time, it is highly likely that you will get a significantly more realistic result than if you simulate each phenomenon separately.
It is also in this context that the Swedish software developer in multiphysics simulation, COMSOL, has had its global breakthrough. The great finesse of the company's solution is the flexibility of the underlying mathematical model. Since processes and products are often controlled by several physical effects at the same time, they tend to behave more non-linearly than linearly. In short, they are governed by more than one type of physics, each typically represented by a set of partial differential equations. With COMSOL's math engine, you can build on these in principle as far as you want and can thus describe complex combined effects.
Does it sound complicated? It is, but what created COMSOL's breakthrough is the company's ability to simplify use. When COMSOL recently releases its new version of Multiphysics, 6.2, there are more improvements in the simplification track that stand out. To stay in the multiphysics arena, ease of use is absolutely a badge of honor. A good example is that they are now taking further steps forward with the simulation apps. This initiative is about being able to disseminate simulation results as a basis for decision-making to all stakeholders in, for example, a product development project with tools such as Application Builder and Model Manager. The most important improvements in the 6.2 version also bear on this, notes COMSOL's VP of Development, Ed Fontes:
”Absolutely, I think the most important news circulates around this very thing. Our users can now create data-driven surrogate models, where the data for training the surrogate model is produced by a multiphysics model. If you span the parameter space reasonably well during training, the surrogate model can approximate the multiphysics model with good accuracy. This means that you get a very compact (takes up very little space) and extremely fast model that can be used, for example, in compiled apps and digital twins, or in other applications where the simulation must be delivered at lightning speed and where you may not have access to a lot of computing power,” says Fontes.
But there are significantly more performance improvements in Multiphysics 6.2 version. What are they about? Faster solver across the board is one, the boundary element method, used for radar cross section computation, is now up to 7 times faster is another.

In the interview COMSOL’s Ed Fontes claims that much of what is being introduced in the new 6.2 version is about, ”game-changing functionality for simulation apps and digital twins and faster solution technology.”

Surrogate models for simulation apps. A propylene glycol reactor app that uses a surrogate model to provide instant solution updates and an interactive user experience.

Hyper-fast simulations

We mentioned in the introduction that users can now increase the computational speed of their simulation apps using data-driven surrogate models, which leads to a more interactive user experience and promotes wider use of simulations within an organization. Additionally, the new surrogate model framework makes it possible to build new types of standalone simulation apps and efficient digital twins. Sharpened performance is of course also important and one of the things you expect to come with new upgraded software versions.

“That’s right,” says Fontes, “and there’s more of this in 6.2: We’re continuing to deliver faster solvers across the board. For example, the version has a new time-periodic study for nonlinear problems in electromagnetism – mainly for electric motors and transformers – which significantly reduces calculation time, turbulence models are around 40 percent faster to solve, and problems in room acoustics are almost 10 times faster in version 6.2 compared to 6.1. Our performance improvement projects continue to be among the most important. We aim to deliver solutions to multiphysics problems that provide hyper-fast simulations, and version 6.2 is a step on the way.

Ease of use is crucial, says COMSOL’s development chief, Ed Fontes. Version 6.2 also contains a lot of improvements in user-friendliness.

It can be added that in chemical engineering applications, the new version includes functionality for simulating vapor-liquid interfaces, including both condensation and evaporation processes. Furthermore, users of the structural mechanics-based products will see updated capabilities for damage and fracture modeling, along with functionality for calculating circuit board distortion and multibody dynamics analysis in electric motors.

Ease of use crucial

Fontes also generally believes that the company’s software is extremely user-friendly for its industry.

“Yes, but it still requires a certain amount of specialization, i.e. you have to learn a bit about modeling and simulation to be able to use it. It is important that we make multiphysics modeling and simulation available to more engineers and researchers so that more people can benefit from these methods. Simulation apps do help, but even modeling and simulation specialists who build models and apps need to be able to do this effectively.”

For this reason, among other things, ease of use is crucial, says COMSOL’s development chief.

“Exactly, and version 6.2 also contains a lot of improvements in user-friendliness. For example, we have new functionality for syntax help when entering mathematical expressions in text fields and for filtering the model tree, if for example you are looking for a special expression or boundary conditions. Users can also add tabs to the ”Ribbon” (main menu) where they can collect custom buttons with commands and command sequences they’ve created using methods – similar to macros that can be executed by custom buttons.”

High Mach Number Flow Simulations: A ramjet nozzle computed using the functionality for high Mach number flow with SST turbulence.

The vision for the journey ahead

If you look at software development – what does the vision for the way forward look like?
“The vision has not changed. We need, as already mentioned, to make modeling and simulation accessible to more engineers and scientists, for our sake and theirs. This means we need to focus on ease of use and performance. It must become easier to create models and apps and these must deliver results faster.”

“This also means new products. We see demand in many areas where a small clique of innovators assemble models using our mathematical interfaces, i.e. they input their own systems of partial differential equations. These innovators are demanding new, more ”ready-made” interfaces, so that more people can benefit from modeling and so that they don’t have to do all the work themselves. New products are in our vision for the future.”

What do you see as the most important technological competitive advantage?
”The main advantage is the ease of use in the creation of multiphysics models and apps. There we are probably by far the best if you look at general functionality.”

Acoustic Modeling with Realistic Absorption. Realistic frequency-dependent materials for acoustics simulations in the time domain.

“Almost too good to be true”
Are there any general observations among your customers that show that multiphysics simulation is growing in importance in development work?  
“Yes, you definitely have a point there. More and more of our users are developing their own apps. This means that multiphysics simulations will become available to more engineers and researchers. I would venture to say that the ability to create compiled apps is also starting to become a significant competitive advantage. More users are discovering the ability to compile apps and distribute them completely freely without having to install or pay for COMSOL licenses. It’s almost been too good to be true and maybe we haven’t been very good at explaining this. At the COMSOL Conference two weeks ago, we had several large customers tell us that we have become the dominant software for them because they have been able to distribute compiled apps within the enterprise and to customers.”

Finally – how has business developed for COMSOL – do we see a continued growth trend?
“We have had four years of very good growth, we have almost doubled sales over four years. So far we match last year’s results well. If we make a good final sprint, there can be good growth this year as well.”

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