MapleSim 4: High Performance Physical Modeling and Simulation
This latest version of Maplesoft’s drag-and-drop modeling tool has gone through very rapid development of late (as had Maple). This valuable engineering tool employs highly sophisticated symbolic computation techniques to model the simple to the complex, especially the multi-domain systems that are so frequently encountered in the real world.
The software follows this up by quickly generating the system equations, optimizing them, and producing visually impressive 3D simulation of the system in action. MapleSim 4 is actually half of the Maplesoft Engineering Suite as it must run on Maple 14. As with Maple, MapleSim 4 runs on Windows, Macintosh, Solaris, Linux 32- and 64-bit systems.
I have found the electronic module very useful in designing simple circuitry for broader application, then immediately testing them with built in analysis/simulation tools. Rather than lengthy description, the key elements are listed below (direct from those swell company marketing folks!).
MapleSim 4 Key Features
• Using the drag-and-drop physical modeling environment, you
can quickly create a model diagram that maps directly to
your physical system.
• MapleSim comes with over 300 prebuilt components from
11 different domains, including mechanical, electrical,
thermal, signal, and hydraulic, that can be naturally combined in
a model diagram.
• Systems equations are automatically generated from
the system diagram and simplified using lossless symbolic
techniques to produce an optimal set of equations. These
equations can be viewed, manipulated, and analyzed using
natural math notation.
• Equation-based custom components allow you to easily
define custom components from first principles by specifying
the representative mathematical equations.
• Advanced multibody system handling generates optimized
kinematic and dynamic equations for multibody systems.
• A flexible model construction environment supports both
block diagram and 3-D model construction for
multibody systems. During system simulation, realistic
3-D animations allow for full insight and understanding
of the resulting dynamic behavior.
• Built-in analysis tools support parameter optimization,
sensitivity analysis, equation extraction, multibody analysis,
Monte Carlo simulation, and more.
• Units management removes potential conversion and
• Live design documentation allows you to analyze, fine tune,
and document your project and store the information with your
• Full-featured symbolic scripting language provides
programmatic access to mathematical solvers, structures, and
• Symbolic techniques produce efficient, high-fidelity model
equations and optimized code for fast real-time execution,
including hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) applications.
• Models can be deployed to other applications in your
toolchain using the built-in optimized code generation feature
or more directly through connectivity add-ons for popular
platforms from The MathWorks™ and National Instruments™.
Figure 1 MapleSim 4 Main Screen
These are the basics of what MapleSim can do, so what’s new in version 4? The new software now allows you to see 3D construction of complex models in real time. It also
includes new probe management tools allowing for more flexible organization of the probes and easy examination of variables plus the ability to quickly and selectively disable the probes from a central location. The new, expanded solver and component libraries allow for faster computation and simulation of ever more complex models. Finally there is the enhanced work environment which includes an enhanced project manager, subsystem designation abilities, an enhanced document template and, perhaps the most useful, addition of a diagnostics panel which identifies problems with the model and facilitates solutions.
New users will find this software quite intuitive as the developers have used the Maple model of keeping it simple. No weird nomenclature or drilling down 6-8 layers to get to needed actions. The main screen, complete with menu bar, icons, navigator, palettes, workspace, parts description area (called the Inspector) is displayed in Figure 1. Note the scarcity of commands and choices. This is due to Maplesoft’s philosophy of keeping it as straightforward and easy to use as possible, while still providing all of the necessary tools as well as very powerful techniques.
Figure 2 Sliding Table
In figure 2 we see a simple Sliding Table that is constructed in seconds with the standard drag-and-drop operations.
The nifty thing here is that we may quickly generate the governing equations in an analysis template (a portion of which is displayed in Figure 3). My only gripe here is that it takes six mouse clicks in several locations to get at these equations. It would be nice to reduce this to one or two clicks, all in the same spot.
Figure 3 Selected Model Equations for the Sliding Table
This is actually a very simple example as the software is made especially for complex, multi-domain models. Whether we wish to model automotive vehicle dynamics or aerospace properties of the space shuttle, MapleSim 4 can handle it. The palettes contain validated components for thermal, hydraulic, mechanical, electrical, and signal-flow systems, as well as more complex multi-body systems. If custom components are needed, they may be constructed from the basic equations defining the system behavior. The resultant diagrams map directly to the physical system thus ensuring ease of construction and validation. Advanced optimization algorithms will speed the process of model analysis and save the engineer many hours of tedious calculation.
As with previous versions, this is an invaluable tool for academicians, students, and industrial engineers. By downloading a trial version, the novice can assess the flatness of the learning curve and the expert can quickly identify new, useful features. As even the statistician/biologist (your editor!) had no trouble using this software almost immediately, neither should you.
MapleSim 4 $4,595 (single license, commercial), $995 (academic)
615 Kumpf Drive
Canada, N2V 1K8
Phone (Toll Free): 1-800-267-6583
John Wass is a statistician based in Chicago, IL. He may be reached at editor@ScientificComputing.com