(21.06.19) “Vive le Québec libre!”  Such were President Charles de Gaulle’s famous words on July 24, 1967. They are reminders of a time when independence for Quebec was on the mainstream political agenda. In the end, the Quebecois and the rest of the Canadian political system found a different solution, in the form of a reasonably harmonious federal system. So it is with NAFEMS, multiple disciplines and sub-communities gathering under the broad umbrella of CAE and including in that SPDM. Not perfect for any specific engineering discipline / professional field, but broad enough to have been a sustainable and vibrant global professional community for 36 years.

I just came back from NAFEMS World Congress 2019 on June 17-20 in Quebec. 3 days, 640 attendees, 39 exhibitors, 12 tracks, tons of beer. As expected, the conference provided evidence that much-hyped technologies in CAE like AR/VR, cloud, IoT, AI & ML are all moving up Gartner’s hype cycle curve and for many organizations are starting to become part their standard toolboxes. (The conference included a track named ‘The Hype’, where I personally spent most of my time). However, traditional engineering fields like FEA, CFD, and SPDM remained the focus for most attendees. Which is evidence that there are massive challenges and huge unresolved engineering problems to be worked on in traditional CAE.

Ceetron had of course a booth there, E 14. My colleague Dr. Andres Rodriguez-Villa also presented a paper on “Going From Collaboration + CAE to True Collaborative CAE: Cloud / Web and VR as Enabling Technologies” as part of the Hype Track. The fact that it was put there was slightly offending, we are seeing pervasive use of cloud-based technologies in major engineering organizations, and Ceetron technology powers some of the most impressive cloud-based CAE offerings in the industry.

We also had the opportunity to demo at our booth our new solution for collaborative VR, with prospective client in the booth and my colleague Frode doing design review with this client from his office in Tønsberg, Norway. One model, two avatars, prepared comments regarding simulation anomalies, teleporting between anomalies, integrated voice, everything over internet. I believe this first-of-its-kind VR-based collaborative design review technology, which has been developed in cooperation with DNV GL, will be one of the first serious use cases for VR in CAE (two others being medtech and CAE for very large constructions).

On a personal note, I had a stark reminder at the conference that while our generation think of VR as futureware, the younger generation are much more familiar with this technology. A representative from ANSYS brought indeed his daughter to our booth – (We have a Scooby Doo figure in our virtual room, for reasons that I am not aware of, probably testing). – This daughter was around 10 years old. It took her two minutes to get the Oculus Rift headset on her head, navigate in virtual space with Scooby Doo, use the controllers with buttons and joysticks, and create and undo cutting planes (and in the process cutting Scooby Doo to pieces and then putting him back again).

As an exhibitor at such event, it is always great fun to talk with competition, uncensored. Don’t tell your boss this, but fact is that sales people at such trade shows drink beer together, demo their newest technologies to each other (outside the coffee breaks, when booth traffic is low), compare offerings, and share industry gossip. Why would sales people do this? Because it pays off: I give you some information, you give me some information, and we are both better off than the lonely guy who decides that he cannot talk with competition.

If there is one thing I think the NAFEMS organizers should focus on in upcoming years it would be to increase the quality of the presentations and maybe increase the allocated time per presentation / reduce the # of presentations. This applies to the technical presentations, to the keynote presentations and especially to the sponsor / vendor presentations. NAFEMS has always been a meeting place for unpolished and open discussions about important matters for the community rather than a place for presentation of thoroughly peer-reviewed quality papers. But quality of content matters and maybe 12 parallel tracks over 3 days are too many.

On behalf of Ceetron: Thanks to Tim Morris, Paul Steward, Roger Oswald, Heike Wankel, Gabi Beller and all the other NAFEMS folks for organizing this event for the global CAE community.

Head S&M Ceetron AS