1 on 1 with: David Heiny

David Heiny is the co-founder and CEO of SimScale. SimScale is a cloud-native simulation platform that empowers every engineer to innovate faster by making engineering simulation technically and economically accessible at any scale.  We caught up with David recently for this Rev-Sim interview.

Thank you for taking a few minutes to share your thoughts on a few simulation-related topics with us. Can you tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today?

I graduated with degrees in Math and Mechanical Engineering from Georgia Tech and the Technical University in Munich. My co-founders and I became familiar with scientific computing software development during our studies and were fascinated by its potential, especially when leveraging the increasing availability of cloud computing. That was the initial spark that led to founding SimScale.

The role of CEO has evolved overtime, as SimScale has grown from a handful of engineers to more than 100 team members, but some things remain the same: We judge ourselves every day by how well we serve our customers and consider their problems as our own.

What are some of the simulation industry’s biggest challenges from the users’ perspective?

My likely biased opinion is that simulation has a much bigger potential to create value than currently realized. In order to reach its full potential, there are many challenges to overcome, which vary depending on whom you talk to—accuracy, capturing more relevant physics, and turnaround time, to name a few. The challenge we consider the biggest at SimScale is accessibility.  We believe that making engineering simulation more accessible can create enormous value for users and in turn their customers. Any time engineers are constrained by the limited availability of hardware and software or by a lack of shared, repeatable simulation workflows, innovation is stifled. As such, we’ve been taking a ‘first principles’ approach to designing and building a simulation stack that allows for simulation to be used earlier, broader, and more intensely in product development processes and beyond.

What about vendors? Where do their challenges lie?

There are many interesting challenges for vendors as well. The one we’re the closest to is the shift from traditional desktop technology, business models, and buyer’s journey to modern SaaS. This shift led to significant disruption and retooling in other software sectors such as CRM or ERP and has yet to happen in engineering simulation software but was dramatically accelerated by the pandemic.

Democratizing Simulation is all about making simulation more accessible for non-experts while allowing companies to fully leverage CAE resources and investments. SimScale has taken a different path from traditional desktop simulation approaches. What are the pluses and minuses of this approach for your customers?

At SimScale, we believe the only way to achieve the level of accessibility required to truly democratize simulation is by vertically integrating the required parts of the whole simulation stack and making it accessible both programmatically and graphically: From the HPC infrastructure layer over data management to numerical methods to physics and applications. Otherwise, the technical complexity, commercial limitations, or lack of properly captured and shared simulation expertise will limit broad adoption of simulation.

Indeed, this is not just an incremental step for customers with existing CAE infrastructure and processes, which is why we often see gradual adoption —moving cohorts of users and use cases gradually to not be too disruptive. The resulting benefits are ultimately shipping better products faster at less cost thanks to the ability to introduce simulation earlier in the R&D cycle, apply it to more applications and explore the design space as needed. All of this without requiring a stellar budget.

What do you see as the primary barrier(s) to democratization of simulation and for simulation adoption/usage in general?

Historically, simulation has been a huge investment for a company, both in terms of computing hardware and simulation software. That’s the reason it was mainly developed and reserved for CAE specialists. We saw the opportunity to make CAE simulation methods accessible to designers and engineers who couldn’t quickly assess their ideas before. Less experienced users can learn from their peers and use existing simulation setups as templates for their own simulation projects.

Is there anything new and exciting in the near term that you’re able to talk about?

I won’t get too specific on this, but so far SimScale was very focused on fluid dynamics (CFD) simulation, which is where we have most customers and solve the broadest set of simulation applications. This was a great initial market for us, since the computational demand in CFD is comparably high and thus, the practically unlimited power offered by the cloud “shines” even more. We will continue to invest in CFD but having built out all fundamental aspects of our product and business model, we’ll ramp up in other physics in 2022 as well. We’ll share more soon.

How essential are democratization and automation to the wider adoption of next-generation simulation uses such as for virtual testing of autonomous vehicles?

There are many very exciting next-generation simulation use cases that require not just broader accessibility and automation of simulation, but likely also new methods and approaches. I believe that the convergence of practically unlimited simulation scalability, machine learning methods, and the growing availability of test and operations data via IoT platforms will bear exciting developments over the next few years.

Why is it important for SimScale to participate in Rev-Sim and how does an organization like ours provide value to the broad simulation community?

To reach its full potential, engineering simulation requires not just new technology but also broader awareness among engineers and their managers. Revolution in Simulation provides guidance and leadership in the movement to make engineering simulation software more accessible —a cause we most definitely want to support!

Thank you for taking some time out of your schedule to talk with us. One final question. Enough about work… tell us a little about yourself. What you enjoy doing in your spare time, interesting hobbies, and so on.

The fact that I have little musical talent doesn’t prevent me from avidly playing all sorts of string instruments—my latest venture is the 5-string banjo. Other than that, I have 2 little daughters that teach me a lot and, hopefully, vice versa