Users of commercial FEA and CFD software are provided with a link to download the new release of their software once or twice a year. In more than two decades of supporting analysts, I am frequently asked, “When is the ideal time to upgrade to the latest version?”
Engineers fall into several categories:
“Give it to me now!” – Those who download and install the latest version the day it comes out and are eager to use the latest features.
“If it ain’t broke don’t fix it!” – These engineers don’t like learning new tricks and thus only upgrade when they are forced to because their favorite release will no longer run. In January, 2000, I actually had users who upgraded to the latest version because the Y2K clock change caused the eight-year-old version they were using to stop working.
“I’ll wait for the point release” – Those who wait for the first error correction release before installing the new version. They rely on others to test the new features before making the transition.
While all categories have merit, not taking advantage of the latest software capabilities can often result in a significant waste of engineering resources, as the full power of your software application is not being leveraged. To make the upgrade process easier, here are six rules for the best upgrade:
1. Install the latest version when it’s released, but keep at least two older versions installed, as well.
For most engineering analysis software, there are no limits to the number of versions that can be installed. Licensing software checks only for concurrent licenses in use. Thus, there is no penalty (other than disk space) for leaving multiple versions installed. Typically, the latest license manager will allow access to older software versions but not vice-versa.
You’ll need to be aware that most software is upwardly but not downwardly compatible. Meaning that you can usually import your model from an older version into the newest software version, but you cannot easily convert the model created in the latest version back to any older version. It’s extremely important to remember this point. If you work in a shared file environment, it is critical that all users choose a standard version to avoid compatibility issues.
Also, when installing the new version, to be sure to allocate time for testing new features and comparing solution times in the first couple months. Having multiple versions of the software installed makes for efficient apples-to-apples speed comparisons.
Don’t change versions in the middle of a project or when under pressure to meet deadlines. It is much better to use the latest release when starting new projects, where new features such as contact convergence or a new meshing scheme can be tested.
2. Check your CAD connection software
If you are using a bi-directional CAD interface, make sure that if you upgrade either your CAD or FEA tool, so they remain compatible. CAD compatibility usually is limited to a couple releases, where the FEA tool typically lags behind the CAD software by about six