SSA Case Study: improving product design with engineering simulation
So Graeme, what does SSA do?
SSA is entirely focussed on engineering simulation tools. We don’t undertake any product design directly, but help people make better products by using simulation tools to build virtual prototypes which can be subjected to loading to find out how they respond, cutting down on the amount for physical testing needed. This usually takes for form of numerical models to find out how stiff or strong a structure is, or how fluid flows around or though the design.
The company is a partner of Dassault Systemes. So, in addition to simulation consultancy projects we are also a reseller for the simulation software products, and run a support desk and training courses to support this too. The technical team, in which I work, deliver the consultancy service, which covers all industries from large oil and gas structures to tiny biomedical devices, additive manufacturing, helicopters ditching…. and everything in between. It keeps us on our toes!
What is current scale of SSA operations then?
Turnover last year was around £4m. The main office in located in leafy Oxfordshire where around 10 people are based, the office here in Future Space where we have 3 people currently and there are a few other dotted around further afield - including a joint-venture company in Holland with another 3 people… which leads to some interesting conversations about Brexit!
So I hear there has been some big news recently (no not related to Brexit)?
Yes, the big news recently is that SSA was acquired by the Addnode Group, who are HQ’d in Sweden, at the end of last year to slot into its Technia brand of engineering companies. As a result, we’ve gone from being a team of around 20 to part of a multinational organisation overnight! Over time, the SSA name will be replaced by Technia - that includes the name on the office at Future Space so expect to see new branding but familiar faces from our corner of the building.
Addnode’s motivation for the purchase was SSA’s breadth of capability and (good!) reputation within the industry: SSA has been tasked with forming the core of a ‘Simulation Centre of Excellence’ within Technia and rolling out what we do worldwide. Exciting times!
So what are the main reasons for locating yourselves at Future Space?
First and foremost, everyone is extremely friendly, and people go out their way to help you. Also, the facilities themselves are professional, yet relaxed and we always get a positive response from visitors. Geographically speaking, it’s strategic for us. Its position in north Bristol, surrounded by many innovative engineering and design businesses – of all scales – means it’s a great place to be with a lot of opportunities for simulation to be used.
The business support is one of the unforeseen benefits of being here. The collaboration amongst the community that the Innovation team help to foster is fantastic, and the practical workshops and the one to one advice has been invaluable.
So what exciting projects are you working on at the moment?
What I love about our job is that we work on everything under the sun, pretty much! This can range from structures as large as oil rigs, through to optimising the shape of chocolate bars (yes, really – and we did get some samples at the end of the project), all using the power of numerical simulation.
Currently on my desk (well, screen) is a project for a medical company, using simulation tools to automatically determine the optimal shape of a key component in an implant delivery system. It’s quite challenging, but the simulation tools are really helping in coming up with some creative solutions.
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