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From LEGOs to Minecraft: Real time 3D Simulation for Every Engineer

I grew up with LEGO® bricks and I still love them. The next generation of engineers is growing up with interactive worlds like Minecraft® and immersive virtual reality experiences. When these future engineers take their turn creating products, no doubt the way they play with digital games today will influence the way they do product design tomorrow.

Interactive digital exploration of the shape of a product (think of your favorite CAD or illustration tool) has been here for a while, but not so for understanding the product’s function or behavior. Engineering simulation has historically been limited to a few highly experienced specialists — commonly referred to as analysts — and the simulations take days or weeks to perform. Because of these personnel and time limitations, less than 10 percent of engineers use simulation today, and more than 80 percent of product design choices never benefit from the insights that simulation can deliver.

When it comes to engineering new products, we are still in the LEGO brick stage of building and breaking physical prototypes to understand behavior. As a senior engineering manager recently said to his analysts, “I love you, but each time I ask you a question it takes you a week to come back with an answer. To save time, I will simply ask my design engineers to add weight to the product.” He meant that it would be faster and more practical to overengineer the safety factor by making the product heavier and stronger, rather than to optimize the design, save cost and improve energy efficiency using simulation.

All this is about to change. Thanks to the advances of NVIDIA® GPU architecture, we now have access to a veritable supercomputer in a convenient form factor. Simulations are no longer restricted to traditional supercomputers, but can be run on a local desktop, laptop, virtual workstation or computing cloud in real-time. Today’s GPUs, such as the NVIDIA Quadro® GV100, can operate at speeds of over 14 teraflops, which in 2005 would have secured you a place in the top 500 most powerful supercomputers in the world.

NVIDIA Quadro GV100.

NVIDIA offers a complete range of GPUs so every engineer can have one in a workstation or available for virtual access through the NVIDIA Quadro Virtual Data Center Workstation software (Quadro vDWS). Quadro vDWS, which runs on NVIDIA Pascal and Volta GPUs, is the world’s most powerful virtual data center workstation. We’re thrilled that organizations that prefer a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environment for security, collaboration and mobility, can also be confident they will get Quadro performance running our newly released ANSYS Discovery Live 3D simulation software. NVIDIA will be demonstrating Discovery Live at GTC, running on NVIDIA Quadro vDWS and Tesla® V100.

The development of GPU compute power.

A Powerful Combination

Discovery Live harnesses GPU compute power to make 3D simulation lightning fast, easy and accessible to every engineer. While GPUs had previously powered the graphics and user interfaces of engineering software (like CAD, for instance), we reimagined our simulation and numerical algorithms and wrote them natively on the NVIDIA CUDA® parallel computing platform. As a result, simulation speeds have increased by a factor of a thousand over traditional CPU- based methods, enabling many simulations to be completed in real-time. No longer does the engineering leader have to wait weeks for an answer!

ANSYS Discovery Live.

However, dramatically increasing speed is not enough. The user experience also must be as easy as Minecraft or Excel™. Thanks to the ANSYS Discovery SpaceClaim direct modeling technology and more than 45 years of encapsulating smart choices into the simulation experience, Discovery Live can meet this challenge.

Discovery Live simulation software is both intuitive and interactive to use. Now every engineer can run his or her first simulation in 15 minutes after downloading the software. In one afternoon, an engineer can explore countless design options with near real-time feedback on structural, thermal or fluids performance.

To learn how design engineers in companies such as Rossignol and Wibotic are utilizing this groundbreaking new capability, you can read more here. Perhaps more importantly, if you are working on a product design, you can download your free trial of Discovery Live at and begin simulating the future today.

We are finally moving into the Minecraft era — an era in which every product will be digitally explored. We will still build physical prototypes to verify designs with LEGO bricks, but only after we have virtually explored thousands of design variations we would never have been able to explore physically.

What will you discover?