CES Selector – two decades of progress, with more to come

John Downing

Technical Marketing Communications Specialist

polymide-thumbnail“I was looking at every material possible, calling suppliers, trying to get hold of materials and price lists. With CES Selector, I could have saved months and months of work!”

That is what Dr Charlie Bream told me about several materials selection projects in his 14-year career prior to joining Granta in 2007, developing aerospace, automotive and consumer products – he had never used CES Selector until that point, now he is the Product Manager.

It is 22 years since Granta was founded as a Cambridge University spinout and every year since has brought new features and enhancements to CES Selector, Granta’s PC software for smart materials decisions. Its genesis was a decade earlier in Prof Mike Ashby’s ground-breaking idea for an application to find, explore and plot materials data. That evolved into CES EduPack, a standard teaching tool in universities for a generation of undergraduate materials students, many of whom now use CES Selector in industry and research.

Early CES Selector graphic

A graphic from an earlier version of the CES software, from the 1990s.

CES Selector 2016 graphic

Showing how far the software has come: The charting and annotation tools in CES Selector 2016 enable users to create informative charts that help to understand and communicate the benefits of material choices.

In 2007, Charlie says CES EduPack and CES Selector had the same functionality and, while they retain common features, they have developed separately, but in parallel, to meet different user requirements. Charlie says: “With CES EduPack, the emphasis is on making students think so that they understand the underlying principles, rather than giving them direct links to the answers. In industry, where people are using the product on a daily basis, they don’t want to derive things from first principles every time – they need tools that quickly provide the information they need.”

The evolution of CES Selector is driven by responding to customers’ needs. The Favourite Materials option originated from one firm’s request to flag up their most commonly used materials in their database. Other notable enhancements that Charlie mentions include improved reporting and charting, ever-expanding data sets, the Custom Subsets that enable users to focus studies on particular materials of interest, and the Performance Index Finder, which makes it quick and easy for the user to specify their engineering application during materials selection. The Find Similar Tool has been met with very positive feedback, allowing users to find a drop-in replacement to meet their constraints, or find similar grades of materials – particularly when you have material supply issues and need to find alternative with the same performance and processing characteristics.

One example of adding functionality is the Engineering Solver, which ‘speaks the language of engineers’. Charlie says: “Many engineers think in terms of geometry and load conditions rather than material properties – this tool converts these engineering properties into material properties, enabling them to readily search for appropriate materials.”

This tool, and Find Similar, are examples of how Granta is extending the capability to cover a wider range of scenarios and use cases. It is quick and easy to do a ‘what if’ scenario check, and the Comparison Table offers what Charlie calls a ‘sanity check’ to answer the question: “What have I forgotten?” He says: “It is the things that you have overlooked that are most likely to cause you a problem as you take the product forward to production.”

CES Selector provides an evidence base that gives users confidence in their materials choices, and they also have the tools and information to communicate their decisions to colleagues. Charlie says future developments will focus on adding more ‘material intelligence’, outputting more information about the impact a material choice has on the design – for example, how the required wall thickness changes with material, or for a fixed design, how the mass, cost and natural resonance varies with material. Charlie says: “These are all things that a designer/engineer needs to know when considering new materials.”

CES Selector has come a long way since 1994 but Granta is always listening to users and thinking of how to make it even better.

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