Tim Webb is Director of Marketing Communications for SIMULIA. He is responsible for guiding activities related to product launches, customer referencing, industry conferences, and market awareness. Tim has 15 years experience in the CAE industry, communicating on a broad range of simulation technologies, including multibody dynamics, finite element analysis, CAD-integrated simulation, multiphysics, design optimization, and simulation lifecycle management. He holds a BA in Communications from the University of Iowa.
Think back to 1978. What were you doing? Maybe you were not born yet. Or if you were a teenager like me, maybe you were chilling out to, what is now known as, Classic Rock. But for David Hibbitt and Bengt Karlsson 1978 was the year they were figuring out how to launch their new company in Rhode Island that would be focused on commercializing their finite element analysis (FEA) software called Abaqus. A year later, Paul Sorenson joined them and the company became Hibbitt, Karlsson, and Sorenson or HKS, Inc.
It’s hard to imagine, but they started a software development company and they didn’t even own a computer! They started their development via a UT200 batch terminal (a combination of card reader and line printer) which was installed in the Hibbitts' laundry room in Scituate, RI. It communicated with a Control Data Corporation (CDC) computer in Minneapolis over a 4800-baud modem.
Let’s Get Technical
At this point, you may be wondering, just what is FEA software? At the Wikipedia website, you can find a highly technical dissertation, but basically the software is used by mechanical and civil engineers in a range of industries including Aerospace, Automotive, Consumer Goods, Electronics, Medical Devices to analyze structural integrity of their products, on a computer, as if they were being subjected to real operating conditions. Think about an Automobile and how many potholes have you hit yet your car keeps running. But if you hit that pothole 5000 times, maybe something breaks, that’s a durability and fatigue problem which FEA software helps engineers predict and come up with more reliable design configurations. That’s just one example, but FEA can also be used to study vehicle vibration, heat transfer, crashworthiness, acoustics, and more.
In June 1978, David Hibbitt met an engineer from the Hanford nuclear development site who needed software to study the mechanical restraint of the core of a prototype for a fast breeder reactor. The reactor assembly consisted of hexagonal-section fuel rods that came into contact when subject to thermal expansion and irradiation-induced swelling. The Hanford lab offered HKS, Inc a contract to develop this capability in Abaqus, provided it was delivered in working order by the end of September. "We wrote Version 1 in three months," says Bengt. "It was 15,000 lines of FORTRAN. We had four elements: beam, gap, truss, and SPHEX, which included elasticity with creep and swelling. We knew that if we didn't deliver code to them by the end of September, we wouldn't get paid. That was a big incentive to get Version 1 delivered."
When David Hibbitt graduated from Cambridge University in 1966, he went to work for a large steam turbine company in England. "I quickly realized that I had to learn how to manage or learn more mechanics," he remembers. "I decided to learn more mechanics. I consulted K.L. Johnson, who had been my advisor at Cambridge. He said that Brown University was the best place to study mechanics in the U.S., so I moved to Providence."
And the rest, as they say, is FEA history. In 2002, after 25 years of successful operation in Providence, RI, HKS changed its name to Abaqus Inc and a new executive management team joined the organization to prepare the company for the next phase of its life. In 2005, the company was acquired by Dassault Systèmes (DS), a France-based PLM company, and the SIMULIA brand was born. DS has several other brands which serve the product design, engineering, and manufacturing industries including SolidWorks, ENOVIA, and 3DVIA, all headquartered in Massachusetts. The CATIA brand operates from the DS headquarters near Paris and the DELMIA brand operates out of Michigan. DS as a whole has more than 7,000 employees worldwide.
SIMULIA continues to develop and enhance the FEA capabilities of Abaqus, but we are expanding with new designer analysis products as well as software for design optimization and simulation lifecycle management. What started with two employees in a house in Scituate, RI, is now a world class company with more than 800 employees worldwide. More than 300 of those employees work at our headquarters in the renovated Rising Sun Mills complex, in the Olneyville section of Providence. Nearly 70% of our Providence workforce is dedicated to Product development, IT, and MIS.
Gerry Pollock, SIMULIA's Senior Development Group Manager for Implicit Architecture, describes SIMULIA as a company with "an intense and stimulating working environment. Employees are challenged to be innovative and are rewarded for their contributions. Teamwork and collaboration are encouraged and valued by SIMULIA, leading to an open, interactive work community."
While many of the employees are native to New England, many have come to SIMULIA from all over the world. This diversity provides inspiration, new ideas and unique experiences. For example, our employees from China and India not only sharing their knowledge but also share their culture by inviting co-workers to enjoy Chinese holiday luncheons or to play cricket. This type of exchange promotes corporate and personal growth while simultaneously fostering innovation.
In 2009, SIMULIA received an award as one of the Best Places to Work in Rhode Island by the Providence Business News. Pierre Burgers, Director of SIMULIA Customer Services, notes, "Our people, are for the most part young, energetic, and want to contribute to their field of expertise... The team spirit shown in the games they play at lunchtime brings them together. There are runners, cyclists, soccer players, basketball and volleyball teams, tennis players, etc. who regularly use the company's gym and locker room facilities. Playing together helps us work well together."
The company’s growth and ongoing success is readily apparent through our double digit revenue growth (as reported in the DS FY 2008 and Q2 2009 earnings announcement), a growing customer base, and the 2008 acquisition of North Carolina based Engineous Software, a market leader in process automation, integration and optimization.
While this is just a small taste of our history, our technology, and our people, I invite you to visit our website at www.simulia.com to learn how our software is being used to improve the products we use in our daily lives. You can also learn more about Dassault Systèmes at www.3ds.com.