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The takeover of engineering and materials modelling software company MSC Software (“a global leader in helping product manufacturers to advance their engineering methods with simulation software and services”) by Hexagon AB (“a leading metrology and manufacturing solution specialist”) was announced in early February. It is an interesting development for a number of reasons. It is a move that looks very much aligned with realising the opportunities often associated with the terms Industry 4.0 and Smart Manufacturing. As the president and CEO of Hexagon, Ola Rollén, pronounced: “MSC represents a game-changer in our mission to deliver actionable manufacturing intelligence, taking us another step closer to realizing our smart connected factory vision in discrete manufacturing industries such as automotive and aerospace. We can now leverage the data our MI division is generating to improve design choices and processes upstream in the workflow.
It also clearly shows that modelling and simulation, from the part down to the material, has a big part to play in delivering on the promises of smart manufacturing. Finally, it looks lie European corporations in particular are ready to invest in this sector. The acquisition of MSC Software by Hexagon AB for $834 m follows that of the US company Accelrys (now Biovia) by the French Dassault Systemes for $750m and major acquisitions by Siemens PLM including that of CD-adapco for $970m and of Mentor Graphics $4.5b (“a leader in electronic design automation software”). It demonstrates Europe’s strength and vision for the “digital industrial enterprise” (Siemens), i.e. informatics, modelling and simulation spanning research, development and manufacturing across the discrete and processing industries.
We have published a report which was prepared thanks to support by Durham University. It provides an overview of the scientific software industry, with a particular emphasis on materials modelling and discussed the following topics:
- The structure of the software industry.
- Requirements for software development: in-house and through collaboration.
- Routes to market for scientific software, e.g. via software houses or direct licensing into specific industries.
- Commercialisation requirements: standards, IP ownership, licensing schemes.
- Warranty and liability issues.
On Thursday, 10 March 2016, the European Materials Modelling community held a workshop to discuss metadata and interoperability in materials modelling. The following overview is based on an introduction provided by Adham Hashibon (Fraunhofer IWM).
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss a holistic view on materials modelling data, recognising the universal structure of all models ( Physics Equations (PE) and Material Relations (MR)). It was shown how all basic elements of materials modelling can be represented in a four chapter organisation, the so-called MODA. Such a universal structure will allow a more focused interpretation of modelling information.
The question addressed in the meeting was how to represent knowledge and not just a collection of raw data (numbers). The metadata extracted by means of these MODA are used to establish interoperability between different types of models and between models and data.
The interoperability is achieved by a fundamental open metadata schema that is based on the elements of material modelling. Starting from this fundamental scheme, means to achieve both syntactic and semantic interoperability were discussed and how these can be further extended to achieve a more global, cross domain level of interoperability. This metadata schema is capable of providing a channel to link different specific domain standards. The schema is not intended to replace existing specific standards, but is rather intended to harmoniously integrate with, and augment existing domain and implementation specific standards of data. The schema is therefore providing for new fundamental interoperability avenues.
The proposed modelling element structures and metadata schema are neutral to any implementation in specific computer programming languages or formal mark-up schemes and also not bound to any specific data file format. Nevertheless, specific examples of implementations of the specification of the schema in both simple language (MODA) and the more formal mark-up languages such as YAML and JSON were presented. Additionally, it was shown that widely endorsed HDF5 based file formats, with their associated simple hierarchical data model can implement the data schema rapidly and efficiently.
The underlying fundamental open schema is further supported by a basic syntactic layer that provides common universal basic attributes (CUBA) defining a set of internally constrained materials modelling vocabulary. The semantics used for the CUBA are further elaborated in the schema allowing machine interpretations so that translations to other domain specific syntaxes and standards are seamless. This is achieved by incorporating a semantic level augmenting the e-CUBA with a common universal data structure (e-CUDS) that provides a neutral representation of the computational metadata including elements from the user case description. In essence, the e-CUDS provide the open semantic based metadata schema and the e-CUBA provide a common language to bridge the nomenclature gap between specific domains and communities.
It was shown that the MODA together with the e-CUDS and e-CUBA allow for a representation of the computational metadata of all models, including electronic, atomistic, mesoscopic and continuum models.
The workshop concluded with a series of challenges presented from the engineering, manufacturers and software owner view points. A particular case example of delamination was posed and answered by a formal representation within the schema presented.
Enginering & Upscaling is any activity that is required to take a technology to Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) required for commercial products in the relevant markets.
Fragmentation in Europe is seen as a key barrier to fulfilling the potential of engineering and upscaling in industry and a barrier to the uptake of promising results of collaborative research projects funded under the FP7 programme.
In 2014, the European Commission RTD Unit in “Advanced Materials and Nanotechnologies” therefore launched a cluster initiative with the following aims.
- Probe current activities for completeness and identify gaps.
- Help projects to support their individual and common innovation and exploitation activities.
- Identify obstacles to engineering & upscaling and pathways to overcome them.
- Support policy making.
With support from Goldbeck Consulting and Cambridge Nanomaterials Technology a survey of more than 100 projects included in the Cluster was conducted in 2014 and a workshop was held in February 2015 in Brussels.
Towards a Roadmap for Engineering and Upscaling,a discussion document of key topics for Engineering & Upscaling has now been published. It summarises findings from the Cluster survey and workshop and identifies barriers, requirements and potential actions in the following areas:
- Characterisation and testing for engineering and upscaling
- Pilot lines and manufacturing/processing facilities
- Modelling and Simulation
- Life Cycle Analysis
- Standards, Certification and Regulatory approval
- Management of the emerging product towards commercialisation
- Funding and Financing
- Brokerage and infrastructure supporting industry and academia relationship.
A nice collection of success stories of ab-initio calculations in a range of applications from materials to biochemistry is available in the April 2014 Scientific Highlight published by the Psi-k community.
These success stories are complementary evidence of the wide ranging impact of the field described in my reports on Industry interactions of the Psi-k network as well as the Economic impact of molecular modelling.