In an Open Call from 30 April to 25 June, another ten manufacturing, engineering or software companies will be selected for participation in the EU project CloudSME. The goal of the project is the implementation of a European Cloud Simulation Platform that makes simulation (as used, for example, in CAE/CAM) much more affordable for small and medium-sized companies.
Imagine you would like to implement a new business idea or launch a new product, but don't want to take a financial risk? Or you want to improve the capability of your production process, but you have no idea where there is potential for further development? With the help of simulation software, companies can pre-test diverse business processes or products under realistic conditions, enabling them to make informed decisions, based on the results. While to many people simulation is best known in areas such as driving or flight simulation, today's simulation software can do much more, and is used by many industries to solve industrial problems and boost innovation.
Innovation through simulation
Today's CAE/CAM software enables the pre-design of products on the computer screen and their flexible adaption to customer needs. 3D objects possessing the same physical characteristics as the real product can also be pre-tested under different circumstances. This not only shortens the development process, because there's no need for building different physical prototypes, but also dramatically speeds up the time to market and saves development costs, because failures and weaknesses of a product can be detected and avoided in advance.
Moreover, simulation software can be used by almost any company to make many of their workflows more efficient. Discrete event simulation for example, enables the visualisation of almost any kind of business process, such as assembly lines, logistics chains or even the daily customer flow in a bank. By changing different variables (rates, events, etc.), different scenarios can be run through, in order to find potential sources of design error.
Maybe you're now led to believe that simulation means cost savings and an increased innovative and competitive capability for everyone? Unfortunately there is still an issue for small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) in most cases because the use of simulation software is still quite expensive. While simulation technology is widely and successfully used by big players in the market, SMEs often simply cannot afford the cost of the software, the required IT resources and the ongoing maintenance.
Fortunately, help comes from the cloud and the European Commission! Cloud technologies enable the outsourcing of whole business functions by just leasing the required software or IT resources (termed respectively Software-as-a-Service and Infrastructure-as-a-Service).
Thus the European Commission is funding the implementation of a European Cloud Simulation platform (CAE/CAM) through the CloudSME project (www.cloudsme.eu), which will notably support small and medium-sized companies, to access state of the art simulation technology under competitive conditions.
The project aims to ensure that users of the platform won't need to develop further technical skills related to cloud computing, but can solely focus on their business tasks, accessing the software via their web browser and just pay for their actual use. For software vendors the CloudSME platform provides the opportunity to offer their software solution on a long term basis in the CloudSME app store.
Which software solutions have been implemented on the platform?
The current 16 project partners from Great Britain, Hungary, Spain, France, Germany and Switzerland are responsible for the realisation of the project and the implementation of the platform. To demonstrate its later scope of functionalities, four simulation use cases - each between one software vendor and one or more end-user companies - have so far been implemented. Further simulation applications will be realized on the platform from January 2015 onward, by the newly-joined partners. Currently available applications on the platform include computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulation and big data analysis for aircraft maintenance. The latter enables the analysis of large data sets such as those contained in flight recorders or other recording for example, to gain understanding of components' flight behavior in order to optimize their maintenance. CFD simulation is used in a wide spectrum of industries to simulate the interaction of fluids, such as air, water, oil or blood, with solid surfaces and boundaries. Car manufacturers or automotive suppliers, for instance, use this method to test the aerodynamic properties of components. Oil manufacturers may simulate the velocity of sinking oil into water for instance; or a manufacturer of medical devices could use the approach to invent a cleaning procedure for their products. These are just a few of the possible applications. Beyond that, there are many other conceivable possibilities, using simulation.
Further experiments on the platform include 3D modeling of orthopaedic insoles, adapted to customer's needs, and applications of discrete event simulation. In this regard, a range of specific templates for different industry sectors will be developed, that can be easily tailored to the needs of for example logistics companies, oil/gas component manufacturers or even banks and breweries.
The Open Call - another ten companies shall be found to benefit from simulation
Before the platform is made available for use by potential customers, another ten manufacturing, engineering or software companies will be found for the implementation of new use cases on the platform from January 2015 onward. A software vendor can apply to the Open Call as part of a mini-consortium, incorporating at least one end-user company. An end-user company can apply either to join one of the existing use cases or, more simply, to propose their own use case, based on their particular simulation need, with a view to being matched with an appropriate software vendor. Applications should be submitted to the Open Call between 30 April and 25 June by email to email@example.com.