SOLIDWORKS Simulation 2021 Solver Performance Improvements

Article by Scott Durksen, CSWE updated January 19, 2021


SOLIDWORKS Simulation 2021 has made significant improvements to solver performance that can reduce the solution times of some studies.  The improvements are focused on studies with a large amount of surface-to-surface contact elements.

There are three default solvers available: FFEPlus, Intel Direct Sparse, and Direct Sparse

SOLIDWORKS Simulation 2021 Default Solvers

SOLIDWORKS Simulation 2021 Default Solvers

The Automatic option will choose between FFEPlus or Intel Direct Sparse based on an algorithm.  Factors for the selection include: number of equations, load cases, mesh type, geometric features, contact and connector features, and available system memory.

Within each study, you can manually change solvers under the Properties.  The two listed will be FFEPlus and Intel Direct Sparse.  Other solvers are listed within the ‘More Solvers’ dropdown.

SOLIDWORKS Simulation More Solvers

SOLIDWORKS Simulation More Solvers

I’ve run a few tests on a simple study with two parts coming in contact using a Global Contact interaction (formerly No Penetration).  This will use Surface-to-Surface contact.

SOLIDWORKS Simulation in Contact

SOLIDWORKS Simulation in Contact

FFEPlus Solver

The solution time for the FFEPlus solver is improved due to parallel multicore processing.  The reduced solve times are more pronounced with studies that have at least 10% contact elements of the total elements.

The nature of the improvements do have limitations.  The new processing method is not implemented for studies that contain the following:

  • Connectors: spring, bearing, bolt and rigid connector
  • Node-to-surface contact, virtual wall contact, cyclic symmetry, remote load with rigid connection, beams acting as stiffeners

In this example, I applied a very refined mesh to exaggerate the solve time.  SOLIDWORKS 2020 took 7min 48s to solve with FFEPlus.  Running the exact same setup in SOLIDWORKS 2021 took 6min 5s.

SOLIDWORKS Simulation 2020 – FFEPlus Solver

SOLIDWORKS Simulation 2021 FFEPlus Solver

SOLIDWORKS Simulation 2021 – FFEPlus Solver

Intel Direct Sparse Solver

Studies with a large number of contacts were typically more stable with the Direct Sparse solvers.

The Intel Direct Sparse solver improvements are geared more towards the ability to handle large studies.  Previously multi-million degree of freedom studies would fail with either the Direct Sparse or Intel Direct Sparse solver.  It would either fail or prompt to switch to the Large Problem Direct Sparse solver which is easier on memory but much slower as it makes use of virtual memory.

When this study was run with the Intel Direct Sparse solver in SOLIDWORKS Simulation 2020, it fails completely.

SOLIDWORKS Simulation 2020 – Intel Direct Sparse Solver

With SOLIDWORKS Simulation 2021, the Intel Direct Sparse solver can now make use of all available memory.  If it exceeds the amount of memory available, disk space is used to complete the analysis.  This is referred to as an out-of-core solution and will be take longer since disk storage is much slower than memory storage.  The solver can now run linear static and nonlinear studies with more than 4 million elements.

With SOLIDWORKS Simulation 2021, this study does solve with Intel Direct Sparse.  In my test case the large number of degrees of freedom required 46,920 extra MB of RAM to solve directly.  Therefore it went out of core and took longer.  However in some scenarios where the FFEPlus solver fails, we can now solve with the Intel Direct Sparse solver.

SOLIDWORKS Simulation 2021 Intel Direct Sparse Solver

SOLIDWORKS Simulation 2021 – Intel Direct Sparse Solver

SOLIDWORKS Simulation Licenses

The greatest performance improvements will be found with SOLIDWORKS Simulation Professional and SOLIDWORKS Simulation Premium licenses.  These licenses have no limit on the number of physical cores used.

SOLIDWORKS Premium and SOLIDWORKS Simulation Standard licenses will still benefit from the performance improvements however these are limited to a maximum of 8 physical cores.

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Scott Durksen, CSWE

Scott is a SOLIDWORKS Elite Applications Engineer and is based in our Dartmouth, Nova Scotia office.