Reach for the stars! From space to subsea (and everything in between), here’s how the EDRMedeso Startup Program is making a crucial contribution to innovation

We are living in unprecedented times, with economies and business struggling throughout the world. But it seems there is much to be optimistic about in engineering start-ups. If the model of recovery from previous world crises is to be mirrored, alongside record funding being released to kickstart growth and drive progress, innovation will gather pace….and, if the recent experience of our recent start-up event is indicative, so will positivity.

It was inspiring to hear the stories behind four organisations who are taking advantage of the EDRMedeso Start-Up Program, which allows participants to adopt world-leading Ansys simulation tools at a fraction of the cost, earlier this month. As advocates of innovation, the helping hand our program gives is not a new concept; it has been and continues to be instrumental in the success of thousands of companies whose products and services are varied and, often, push the boundaries of engineering.

During the event, Gary Panes, MD of EDRMedeso UK introduced the concept of the start-up, how often it is a struggle to balance vision and ideas, passion and drive, with the constraints of resources – time, money – and having all the relevant answers at this early stage.  The impact of simulation within a start-up offers the chance to explore and gives a ‘path of focus’ by reducing development time, allowing engineers to develop their products to be the best they can be. Not only that, but EDRMedeso offers the same passion for your venture, in the form of practical advice, training, and the desire to build up a community in the engineering sector – in addition to the many years of experience at hand, EDRMedeso offers advice on funding, R&D tax credits, IT infrastructure to name but a few.

Ansys accounts for more than 50% of the entire simulation market, with a group of best-in-class tools, and over 3 years, offers an affordable, competitive program with access to arguably the largest suite of simulation software available. The knowledge, capability and experience built into the package infrastructure allow your vision, your dream and your potential to come to fruition.

Getting down to the detail, Sam O’Donnell (EDRMedeso Start-Up Program Account Manager) gave an insight into the program itself and how to start your journey of accelerated product development using industry-leading software at a fraction of the cost. The program runs for a maximum of three years and gives access to various solution bundles, the crucial elements for saving time, money and engineering resource. As the program operates on a yearly lease basis, you do not have to commit to the full term; one, two or three years, you choose. You will have access to the same level of training, support, engineering time as our commercial customers – you can have confidence of being operational with competence built in.

After a presentation from our engineer Ben Tillett on the elements that are included on the solution front, we opened the floor up to four current participants in the Start-Up Program, beginning with Nadiur Rahman, from Carnot.

‘The Ansys program was way ahead of the rest’

Carnot is in the midst of developing an ultra-efficient hydro combustion engine, constructed from advanced ceramics. This radical redesign of modern internal combustion engine will provide a large power source, and if arranged in a bank configuration will impart even greater power.

Component and system levels considerations are key to the design and twelve months ago, Carnot set about on a multiphysics solution fact finding mission. With thorough, yet basic selection criteria, it soon became apparent that Carnot required a package that offered both structural, CFD and thermal solutions, and an interface with its incumbent CAD software (Solidworks/CREO); support was important – the engineers at Carnot had no in-depth CAE knowledge, having previously barely scratched the surface. Therefore, support and an online community would be invaluable. User interface was also a key factor. However, Nadiur openly admits some naivety when it came to the costs of implementing a fit for purpose simulation solution. Investigating further and after conversations with Comsol, Star and Altair amongst others, after weighing up options, it quickly became apparent Ansys was miles head of the rest.

The EDRMedeso/Ansys program gives an early-stage start-up, like Carnot, full access to bundles, which helps develop its technology quickly and cost effectively. Access to a range of simulation products allows numerous virtual prototype iterations to be tested and modified in the same amount of time to test a single physical prototype. In fact, the successful implementation and use of Ansys now means Carnot is approaching the limits of its hardware capability – there is a need to upgrade hardware, alongside taking up the option of the HPC bundle included in the Start-Up Program; this typifies the way in which Ansys grows alongside operations and, high on the Carnot agenda, is helping to minimise environmental impact.

‘Why are you sat here listening to a 17-year-old talking to you about simulation technology?

Next up on the agenda was 17-year-old Ewan Craig from Connect Everything Aerospace (CAE). As with many of us, during the constraints of the last year’s lockdown, Ewan found he had time to kill! With a passion for Space, in March 2020 he enrolled in an online open course addressing the fundamentals of aerospace engineering and found it fascinating. So much so, that when he began to research beyond some of the basics of rocket science and propulsion systems, he came across a book published by NASA in the 1960’s which detailed the equations behind the design and build of chambers, injection manifolds and exhausts. His passion soon gathered pace and within weeks, Ewan was developing ideas and designs around an aerospike engine, a new, highly complex engine that thanks to new technology, including 3D printing, has the potential to revolutionise the space industry.

Iterations that result in hundreds of prototypes, a single piece engine, immense complexity; all these considerations can now be addressed, and an engine delivered in under 6 hours rather than years. But it is crucial that the involved and complex geometries are tested to see how well they respond in hostile conditions; therefore, simulation is crucial. There is a need for prototype assurance, a requirement for highly accurate and powerful simulation, not just using fluid dynamics, but also including the impact of immense heat issues, so using combustion dynamics, materials science and thermal dynamics – with Ansys, this is all included in one suite of software. Ewan has great confidence in Ansys and stated that, ‘if you want software that is actually going to work and give results you need, you need Ansys. Its breadth and depth are unparalleled.’ And with no official training and being slightly intimidated with what was in front of him, Ewan pointed out that he gets the answers he needs, quickly, from the team of experts at EDRMedeso.

Going on to explain just how his concept will have an impact on the future, and from his initial findings, Ewan fully expects that with optimised, efficient engines, that are cheaper and faster to manufacture, commercial entities will launch their own rockets, powered by CAE designed and optimise engines. Rather than the traditional 120metre Saturn 5 rocket, orbital payloads will sit in Space Planes, using runways to take off and land, using nothing but fuel. The commercial benefit will be a reduction in cost per kilo expense, from upwards of £10000 per kilo to the price of an airline ticket – and more importantly new accessibility and a renaissance in spaceflight borne out of the UK.

 Wow! Blown away? We were!

We then moved onto Dale Jones from Form Lab. Dale has been involved in product development for a number of years and using this knowledge, started a product design and engineering consultancy in 2015.

Dale outlined the typical journey that is taken when considering the purchase of engineering software solutions and asked the question ‘why Ansys?’.  When you go and undertake research, there is so much to consider, but uniquely, the Ansys StartUp Program
offers a complete set of solutions; comparing engineering problems he has encountered over the years, it soon becomes apparent that you cannot just consider a single domain; analysis of an equipment concept as a structural problem often becomes more than just a structural problem. Fundamentally, you cannot define yourself by the problems thrown up by a single domain, which is why the start-up bundle is so good. Structural, thermal, multiphysics, conjugate heat transfer: all included and what drew Form Lab to this particular program, a complete solution.

But the software is just one side of the story. When it comes to the ‘nuts and bolts’, Dale conceded that it is difficult to know everything – if you try, you’ll never make progress! Timing and cashflow is key, and as an engineer in a commercial environment, you simply do not have time to dive deep; Dale, and anyone on the program can leverage support from EDRMedeso and Ansys. You may have a baseline of how you might use the software, but when going into the detail of how you might look at multi-design studies, or maybe alternative material, it is easy to go down the rabbit hole and waste hours trying to solve potential pitfalls; but there is a whole community and helpline readily available. Within a couple of hours, you get an answer.

‘We don’t want to go out there and build hundreds of prototypes, we want a complete solution’.

In times where sustainability is high focus, the ability to rapid prototype is key. Form Lab do not want to build hundreds of prototypes; in Dale’s experience big companies can have an ambivalent attitude to this, in addition to having big budgets. Asking questions like, ‘why don’t we simulate? – what happens if you don’t have time money or want to optimise?’ are important. Likewise, addressing the limitations of physical prototypes is key. Whilst you can only perform 10 or so optimisation loops with a physical prototype, with simulation you can do thousands, pick your global optimum and be confident that it really is that!

Going on to describe a current project, Dale showcased the early-stage product development of a new type of desk, pointing out that even before COVID19, the shift to homeworking was on the rise. Fit for performance and with sustainability built in from the onset, the desk is a move away from ‘fast fashion/furniture and focuses on reliability, safety and lasting power. Dale used structural analysis to determine performance without the need for expensive and wasteful prototypes, generating multiple iterations, without committing to expensive tooling. Thermal analytics on the integrated electronics ensure they will withstand environmental conditions and enhance lifestyles rather than, for example, having the annoyance of noisy colling fans whirring in the background whilst you are catching up on your latest boxset viewing!

 Going forward, Form Lab know there is much more to discover and utilise in the Ansys suite of solutions. For example, material waste consideration can be achieved with Polyflow, reducing as much unrequired plastic as possible. Essentially, making the product the best it can be through design exploration and optimisation is the goal.

 Finally, we turned to Fathom, headed up by co-founders Richard McGovern and Krzysztof (Chris) Mackojc. Fathom is a company operating in the oil and gas sector, delivering efficient solutions to offshore and marine. They aim to be disruptive, lowering costs without compromising on health and safety. A benefit of having autonomy from large global O&G companies is that any R&D carried out is free from the organisational constraints that would otherwise be placed on an internal R&D team. The team at Fathom is true to its mission: to deliver the best products for the job. And without the Start-Up Program, they simply would not be able to afford the range and depth of solution at this stage of the business; now, the team can focus on developing efficient methods, for example automation of the engineering process.

‘Without the Start-Up Program, we simply just wouldn’t be able to afford it at this stage of our business’

Their most recent project is the design of a modular recovery system, part-funded by the Decommission Challenge initiative. Restrictions of funding deadlines were tight, so Fathom had to be efficient on how they delivered the engineering program. Designed to offer a diverless solution for the recovery of subsea assets via a crane and an ROV (Remote Operated Vehicle), the design focuses on concrete mattress recovery and has further application in pipeline recovery and boulder clearance or over-boarded shipping containers.

Ansys assisted in concept development, through to optimisation and verification. With a number of key issues to address along with the additional challenge of time, Ansys was indispensable, especially with geometric and operational efficiency constraints. Beginning with a 3D model, this was taken into DesignModeller, from which a conceptual design was agreed and then moved to optimisation. Given the complexity of the design, High Performance Computing (HPC) played an instrumental role during verification. At this stage Fathom took the model and progressed the design in more detail around joints where sub-models are optimised. HPC power was key and time saved can be equated to days, essential for meeting the deadline restrictions imposed by the funding body.

Ansys’ role in Fathom’s development is evidenced by use of customisation tool kits; operating in a highly regulated industry embedding these processes in the business allows confident and efficient transfer of data for Quality Management Systems and process management, with an added bonus of saving project costs. In closing, as had our other guest speakers, Chris remarked that one of the greatest benefits of working with EDRMedeso is the ability to develop the team by having 24/7 access to learning materials and training – giving the team the confidence that being up to date with cutting edge technology and processes will make business a continued success in the future.

‘I spoke more to EDRMedeso Support than my own wife that week!’

The final part of the agenda introduced a Q&A Session. Asked about EDRMedeso support, the panel unanimously gave this a ‘thumbs up’. Dale remarked that he had relied on the support to get to grips with the platform – even with a background in simulation, you can get stuck or get conflicting information, often the best way forward is to contact support – within a couple of hours you get an answer you can rely on – this is ‘invaluable’. Nadiur was equally happy with the assistance he had received – from installation to technical questions, the answer is always there; From server issues, client computers, and then gradually progressing to more in depth, specific simulation questions there was guidance along the way.

What was evident is that there is an active and enthusiastic community of engineers getting great benefit from the EDRMedeso Start-Up Program. The software itself is massively powerful and complex, and we understand that this can be as much as a problem as a benefit; whilst there is a heavy discount for our program members, what we will never do is ‘discount’ the most important part of our service, the support. Be it technical advice or access to our network of partners who specialise in areas such as funding, finance and R&D Tax Credits, or even a ‘business chat’, the team are
at hand.

Looking to the future EDRMedeso is in the process of facilitating a Start-Up Program Community Forum, where the proposition is to work towards creating a network for users who can learn from each other’s experiences, not only with regards to Ansys but in the wider framework of a start-up business. More on this soon! In the meantime, thanks to all our contributors for their excellent presentations, we loved hearing your enthusiasm for your innovation and how simulation has contributed to your successes.

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