COMSOL Multiphysics is a finite element analysis, solver and simulation software / FEA software package for various physics and electronic applications, especially coupled phenomena, or multiphysics. The packages are cross-platform (Windows, Mac, Linux). In addition to conventional physics-based user interfaces, COMSOL Multiphysics also allows for entering coupled systems of partial differential equations (PDEs).
Vineet Dravid, managing director, COMSOL Multiphysics Pvt. Ltd. spoke to Dilin Anand of EFY regarding the evolution of the simulation domain.
Could you start off by giving us an idea about the various verticals that COMSOL Multiphysics provides solutions for? What is the biggest takeaway for an engineer using multiphysics simulation?
As the name suggests, it can be used for multiple purposes in various industries. Some examples would be the electronics industry, the automotive industry, the nuclear industry, manufacturing, and so on.
Whenever you are designing new products, you can, as is the norm, come up with different prototypes and test them and see if they are suitable for a real world application. But, this is often very expensive. COMSOL gives you the ability to simulate your product on the computer and see how it would behave in a real life situation by allowing you to model different physics and coupling them simultaneously to see what happens, how the product behaves.
Since the same tool is being used in various industries, what changes would I have to implement, to utilise this tool for the electronics industry?
At the core of it, it’s the same tool. Having said that, we also have a lot of different models because we understand that when you are working on a product, you don’t want to spend a lot of time learning new software and making sure what you’ve built in your software is accurate vis-a-vis accuracy and validation. So, we have a lot of add-on modules where we do all the customisation for our customers and then they can use these models and very quickly come up with solutions, which they are looking for. Hence, at the core, it is the same thing but we have certain add-ons which are need-specific.
What are the major industry challenges that this simulation software can help solve for chip-design firms?
Whenever you are developing an electronics device, one of the biggest concerns is cooling. You do not want the device to over heat. That is one area where we help a lot. With our product, you can see exactly how each component heats up and also what might happen when such over heating occurs including development of stress points resulting in eventual breakdown. It can also help in identifying accurate ways of cooling down the system. It can tell you if you need forced convection or if you need some novel methods to reach the same purpose like phase change materials.
It can also help a lot in the field of electromagnetics. Sometimes, when you have several components on your device, there might be resultant interference on your system. Or, you may even want to check the system components for compatibility. These issues can be tackled with the same tool. We work across the entire electromagnetic range; right from electrostatics to DC applications to HF applications like RF, optical modelling or tera-Hertz applications can be performed.
It can also be used by chip design engineers. We can model the spatial flow of current through a chip. We can also model induction effects, eddy-current effects and other spatial phenomena to find out how it can affect, both, the component and the device.
What do you suggest is the optimum integration of simulation for the development process? Are there any drawbacks to be aware of?
Ideally, of course, right from the beginning. As soon as you come up with an idea, if you can start integrating your modelling tool into the design process, then it is obviously going to help you in the long run. Of course, we realise there are constraints. It is not easy to integrate the tool right from the beginning and there is a lot of legacy to think of too. But speaking from an ideal situation point of view, simulation should be integrated right from the start.
Since simulation is majorly based on assumptions, what kind of accuracy can an engineer expect from COMSOL?
Well, COMSOL is a first principle-based modelling tool. The only assumption made is the continuum assumption — we assume that we are in the continuum domain (which we all are). So, the solution you get out of COMSOL is a highly accurate one because it’s based on laws that exist in physics. It is seen when you look at how people use COMSOL. We have our annual conferences where people present their work (done using COMSOL) and most often they have validated it with experiments or analytical approaches and so on. You always see that the validation is very good. In that sense, as far as the physical phenomena is concerned, there are no real assumptions because if the process is a continuum process, then it will be accurately modelled by COMSOL.
How has the tool evolved in recent years? What exciting features have been added?
We have a well developed GUI for different applications. The way we have evolved is that we have come up with lots of application-specific models because we realised that this is what is needed for faster product development; modules which are closer to the applications. In the past year, we have come up with several new models. In 2012 itself, more than 6 or 7 products have been released by us. This is one way we are evolving.
Apart from that, even the way we partner with other products, we do realise how important it is to have a strong link with other CAD and modelling related products. So, the links that we are developing are strengthening day-by-day.
What are these other modelling tools that COMSOL is currently linked with?
We have a very strong connection with MATLAB so you can closely link MATLAB with COMSOL; you can run one within the other. We also have an ECAD module for electronics and electrical engineers where they can import their layouts into COMSOL and they can create 3-D geometries from the ECAD layouts. We also have several MCAD products, which can directly import your MCAD geometries into COMSOL and optimise them and so on. We recently released a live link with Excel and now you can use COMSOL within Excel.
Do you feel that Indian industries are receptive to scientific modelling?
Like I said earlier, India is one of our most robust markets. An example of that would be the attendance you saw at the COMSOL conference today. It was a very vibrant, young and keen audience. The COMSOL users are growing by leaps and bounds every year. We foresee the same pattern for the near future as well. It’s definitely a growing market and we see that the industry is being very receptive to modelling.
More and more people from the Indian industry realise that research is essential for future product growth and they are adopting new technologies very well. The service industry is also looking a lot at engineering services because they realise that the value that they can provide by giving engineering services is much better and will help them sustain their growth over a long period of time. So, there are different areas in which India is growing like research and services among countless others. All I would say is, the future for India industries looks very bright.