COMSOL, Inc., is releasing version 3.2 of COMSOL Multiphysics™, a scientific-modeling package whose new features boost productivity throughout the entire modeling and simulation process. The software now reads geometry files created with all major CAD packages. It introduces COMSOL Script™, a standalone product featuring command-line modeling. The graphical user interface encourages the use of a consistent system of engineering units, and a moving-mesh feature allows a model to simulate moving parts and parametric geometries. Improved solvers handle models with millions of degrees of freedom and calculate the answers faster than ever before.

Perhaps most obvious to existing customers is the change of the product name to better reflect the company's offerings, which now address many areas of scientific computing. Company president Svante Littmarck remarks, “We are renaming our leading product from FEMLAB to COMSOL Multiphysics. That's already the software's name in Japan, and it's one we find better suits our growing product line. Although we started with finite-element method (FEM) software, COMSOL products today and those planned for the future cover considerably more in terms of functionality and appeal.”

CAD import addresses all major formats

To make it easy for users to import CAD drawings for modeling in COMSOL Multiphysics, a suite of optional CAD-import modules read a wide range of industry-standard CAD and mesh file formats starting with those for SolidWorks®, Solid Edge®, NX™, and NASTRAN®. Importing an existing CAD or mesh file enables users to bypass the geometry-creation step, which makes the first step in the modeling process fast and convenient.

The CAD Import Module is based on Parasolid® geometry kernel and includes ACIS® to support the SAT® format. In addition to the native Parasolid and SAT formats, the CAD Import Module also supports the STEP and IGES file formats. Live synchronization with the SolidWorks CAD package enables a truly productive design and modeling environment. Separate CAD-import modules accept the CATIA® V4, CATIA® V5, Autodesk Inventor®, Pro/ENGINEER®, and VDA-FS file formats.

COMSOL Script™—a technical-computing language for modeling

The scope of modeling takes on entirely new proportions with the release of COMSOL Script, which integrates seamlessly with COMSOL Multiphysics but as also runs as a standalone package. On its own, this interpreted language handles most computation tasks through its command-line interface, scripting capabilities, and 500 commands for numeric computations and visualization. For users of COMSOL Multiphysics, COMSOL Script also offer an alternative to MATLAB®, which up to now was a prerequisite for command-line modeling.

When run within COMSOL Multiphysics this new language enables command-line modeling whereby users can access all functions available in that modeling package, or they can call COMSOL Script functions from within the COMSOL Multiphysics GUI to define any property of a model. They can also save work performed in the graphical user interface to a Model M-file and run that text-based file in COMSOL Script. By working with such scripts, users can conduct iterative parametric studies and optimizations as well as perform any model explorations and simulations. Further, COMSOL Script's graphing and visualization capabilities set new standards for packages in this category, and a set of GUI tools allow users to quickly construct graphical user interfaces.

Consistent units throughout

Other features make it far easier to set up a model. For instance, COMSOL Multiphysics' graphical interface presents each parameter with an appropriate unit; users select from nine common engineering unit systems so that consistent unit labels appear in all dialog boxes, next to data-entry fields, and in postprocessing plots. Examples of supported unit systems are SI, MPa, CGS, and British Imperial Units. This feature avoids the confusion that can arise especially when trying to determine the proper value to enter for a parameter that has compound units, and it eliminates many unnecessary user errors.

Moving meshes for fluid-structure interactions and parametric geometries

Extending modeling into new areas is a Moving Mesh mode that allows COMSOL Multiphysics to easily simulate geometries with moving parts such as those in MEMS (microelectromechanical systems), piezoelectrics, and biology applications as well as free-surface flow and natural wave effects. Users define the desired type of motion such as for the deflection of a flexible barrier in a strong flow of liquid or gas, or even fluid sloshing in a tank. Coupled with the moving-mesh engine is geometric parameterization, where it is possible to describe a how a geometry changes without the need to set up a loop in a script file.

Solvers for large problems

New solvers address far larger problems and at faster speeds. For instance, thanks to new multigrid techniques for the Navier-Stokes equations, the package can solve fluid-flow problems ten times larger than before. Improved memory-management techniques remove the bottleneck of requiring contiguous memory so that time-dependent problems can now be of the same size as stationary problems.

Predefined multiphysics application modes make it fast and easy to set up common coupled-physics models that involve electro-thermal, fluid-thermal, fluid-chemical, and thermal-structural interactions. Because these couplings are already set up, the modeling process becomes as easy as for single-physics problems.

Time-domain simulation of electromagnetic waves

Intense research has made COMSOL Multiphysics the only finite-element based software that performs time-domain simulation of electromagnetic waves. This feature is useful, for example, when modeling pulsed excitations such as radar or in high-power optics where materials become nonlinear. The software can perform a frequency sweep in just one step, and the intuitive postprocessing animation can show how a wave propagates or reflects off objects in time. Further, the software offers both time- and frequency-domain electromagnetic analysis in a single package as well as couplings between the two domains. Finally, the new Time-Domain Analysis, Wave Type mode lets users enter coefficients and parameters directly into the wave equation, and the solvers have become extremely efficient. A related addition is the ability to access model data as lumped RLC parameters.

Price and availability

COMSOL Multiphysics 3.2, COMSOL Script, the CAD Import Module (for the IGES, Parasolid, SAT, and STEP formats) along with specialized CAD import modules for the Pro/E, CATIA, VDA-FS and Inventor formats, are all scheduled to ship in September 2005. A single-user license for COMSOL Multiphysics 3.2 costs $US 6995; CAD Import modules start at $US 1995; and COMSOL Script lists for $US 995.

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