MSC Apex Generative Design Getting Started

Get started using MSC Generative Design

MSC Apex GD introduces new technology that makes it  possible to generate lightweight and easy to manufacture, but strong, parts that can be sent straight to a 3D printer. The designs take Additive Manufacturing constrains into account when developing these components as well as any number of events (load cases) and other user prescribed conditions.

NB: No meshing or geometry creation is required by the user! The whole process is automated while the user still has the option to manipulate the end-result.
There are a few important steps for all users of MSC Apex GD that you need to know about.

One-time setup settings for new installation 

GPU settings

Do you want to use your Nvidia GPU for processing?

If you graphics card has a powerful GPU, with a decent amount of dedicated memory, ensure that you checked this option when you installed the software:

Step 1: Correct install option 

Step 2: Install the Nvidia Cuda runtime libraries

You can search the internet for "Nvidia Cuda runtime download" or use this link to download and install the required libraries: 
You only need to install the Runtime component (much faster and smaller installation):

Step 3: Select the GPU for solving

Under "Application Settings", ensure you check the option to use the GPU for solving.
If you do not have the GPU option enabled, you will have to re-install MSC Apex GD and ensure you check the option as shown above during the installation.

Improve the graphics display

If round corners of the model geometry do not display smoothly, change the Graphical Tolerances setting under Options > Application Settings, to "fine". 
The finer this setting is, the better the model detail will look but the slower your computer may be to rotate, pan or zoom around in large models. This performance is a function of your computer's graphics card capabilities and the number details being displayed on screen (and other possible system functions).

Your first generative design (minimum steps)

Minimum analysis steps for your first generative design

These are the absolute minimum steps you have to take to get any design result. 
NB: If the result is not to your liking, dive into the more advanced settings.

1 - Define the design domain

How big is too big? The design domain sets the limits and where no material may be. The design domain can be any shape, form or size but you need to have, or create, a solid in your model that defines it. 
No matter which one you chose, the end result will always fit inside the design domain you defined.

2 - Define the material to be used

The end result of your design will be influenced by the chosen material's mechanical properties. You need to specify the Young's (or Elastic) Modulus (E), Poisson's Ratio (u) and Density (p) and then assign it to your part.

3 - Define constraints for the part

Just like in a linear static FE analysis, rigid body movements are not allowed. The part has to be prevented from moving, even in directions where no forces are applied in. Constraints can be applied to entire faces of the design domain, but ideally you want to isolate attachment areas using features on the design domain or by defining non-design regions within the design domain. 

4 - Define loads acting on the parts

Without loads, there's no point and think this one through carefully. Any load that you don't include, can be the end of your part!

NB: Applying different loads in one event, vs. defining different events for each load, will NOT provide the same results. Loads in the same event are added (or subtracted) and can therefore cancel each other out.
Refer to the next step (Study setup) on where and how to define events.

5 - Study setup

Right-click on the Design Part, and choose the option "Place in Analysis Scene".
Address any issues that may be indicated under the "Analysis Readiness" tab (normally just something you missed in the previous steps).
Proceed to the "Studies" tab. The minimum settings that you have to define in your study, are the stress goal(s) and events (load cases). To manipulate the end result though, you will want to know more about the other settings available here, as explained under advanced settings.
Double-click the "Loads and Constraints" tab to create more events and to select which loads and constraint should be active in each event.
Note that after you created more events, you can define different stress limits for each event.

6 - Start the simulation

Right-click the GD Scenario and choose the "Run Simulation" option.
Once the simulation is running, you can monitor the progress and switch on options to view graphs of the mass and maximum stress values etc. Take especially note of each of the options marked in red in the following image:

Detailed tutorials & Advanced options

In the more detailed tutorials below, you will learn how to exclude certain regions from the analysis, how to keep more material for machining purposes in certain areas, how parts can be combined, how to manipulate the level of detail and density of connections and more.

Getting Started Tutorials

There are 2 useful sources of training material for MSC Apex, one comes pre-installed will the user interface and the other is available online.

1) Basic Getting Started material from within the user interface
This will open a browser window where you can watch a detailed getting started video:
2) More tutorials and the complete online documentation are available at the link shown above:

Advanced Options

Open the documentation (referred to above under "More Tutorials")

The documentation includes all you need to know about MSC Apex GD. Here is a few useful highlights and where to find it:

Install a material library

To have a handy list of common 3D print materials available in MSC Apex, like the example below,
Download the script and run it as shown here:

Strut Density Options

There are three strut density options: Dense, Medium and Sparse as indicated below. The sparse option creates fewer and thicker connections and result in shorter simulation times, ideal for initial simulations.

Complexity 

Apart from the density setting, the level of complexity (i.e. detail or resolution of features) can also be set using the complexity value. 

The number provided here, has a unit of GB (of GPU or CPU memory) and relates to the amount of memory that the solver may use at the highest mesh resolution if no material was removed (at the last few highest resolution iterations). 
Since material are always removed and seldom less than 50%, it's safe to set this value higher than the physical limitations of your hardware, but not too high. 
To learn what that magic number is, you need to experiment a little since it will be different for every model and hardware setup. 
The generally safe rule-of-thumb is to specify a number twice as high as what is physically available.
There are 2 ways to monitor how much GPU or CPU memory are actually being used during the simulation, but be aware that the initial iterations require the least amount of memory, while the last iterations generally requires the most. 

The first method is to simply monitor the resources in the Task Manager, but that will only show the current load on the system. When using the GPU, monitor its Dedicated Memory usage as shown below.
To see a history of memory usage per iteration, locate the folder where the results are being generated (under your project folder).
The GD_Engine.log file records the memory usage per iteration. The indicated memory recorded there (during the last few iterations when the highest resolution mesh is used), is the number that should not exceed the physically available dedicated memory.
If this value is still much lower than what is available, you may increase the Complexity value to obtain an even more detailed (higher resolution) result with your available hardware resources.

More features

Part consolidation

The part consolidation tool provides a quick method to create a bounding box around a selection of parts to be used as the design domain. The result is a rectangular solid that aligns with the global axes (by default) and can be further modified through normal geometry operations to define the final design domain.

Machining Allowance

The machining allowance tool, forces the solver to leave more material in the areas where you know the part will be machined after printing, e.g. at attachment points to have a smooth surface. This option therefore ensures that there will be enough material printed to be machined away in the specified areas.

Access Region

The access region tool simply provides a way to easily create solids that can be subtracted from the design domain space to define areas (access to holes etc.) where no material should be in the final design. 

Clearance Region

The clearance region tool does the opposite of the machining allowance tool. It ensures that gaps are provided as defined, i.e. that no material should be left in these areas. It's is simply an easier method to define non-design space areas as a function of distance from existing features.

Command line

When studying the effect of certain parameters or setting up a batch of simulations to run, using the command line is much more efficient than setting up an analysis in the user interface (UI) and waiting for each analysis to finish. The section in the documentation about Command line optimization explains where and how to easily create variations of scenarios with a text editor and how to submit them for analysis without even opening the MSC Apex UI.
For this and more, reference the online documentation of MSC Apex GD. 
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