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MultiMechanics lets engineers prototype virtually and save millions

Leandro Castro always loved thinking about the way things move, work and break. He also had a love for computers.

As a kid in Brazil, he messed around in both areas, dabbling since the age of 12. After attending college in his home country, Castro studied abroad at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he got his Ph.D. in engineering mechanics.

That’s where he met his wife. He also met his co-founder for a startup launched in 2010 that combined his passions for computer science and physics. MultiMechanics R&D‘s software allows companies to know if their product will be durable before they even build a prototype. 

Now, he has a new life in Nebraska growing MultiMechanics. In 2013, he joined the regional mentorship program, Pipeline.

Wednesday, he shared his story at 1 Million Cups in Omaha. 

“One experiment can cost millions”

“Think of what we could be building if we didn’t have engineers spending so much time testing products rather than building new ones and innovating,” he said.

Product development and testing — seeing how durable something is, if it will break or how long it will last — is one of the most expensive budget lines in most products, he said. 

“One experiment can cost millions, depending on the product,” Castro (right) said. “Boeing breaks $300 million planes during testing. Ford destroys thousands of cars a year for testing.

And sometimes you have to do it hundreds of times to make sure it works.

“Imagine if we could get there faster through drastically reduced cost and testing time.”

Castro said they can do that with less real-life testing and more virtual testing. Granted, there’s always a need for real-life testing, but MultiMechanics’ simulation software allows companies to shift from physical to virtual prototyping and testing of novel materials and structures, thereby drastically reducing the cost and time associated with product development.

Like cake, before you bake

He compared the process like testing the ingredients of a cake before baking it.

“You take a look at a cake and it has a series of ingredients that come together in a proven way. If you over mix it or bake it too long, it’s a bad cake,” he said. “So for composites, we test each part of the composite’s recipe and see how it behaves as a part and whole.”

The software tests micro-level composite materials, things like carbon fiber, plastics and other composites used in cars, planes and ships. MultiMechanics has studied things from phone cases to satellite parts. 

They don’t analyze whole products, like a plane, but rather the materials used to make them.

“We’re like a virtual microscope for an engineer,” Castro said. “Using our software, it speeds up the process six times faster than the usual gold standard for analysis.”

He can input a 3D sample material and virtually apply different loads on the item to see where there is stress on the microscopic fiber level and on the material as a whole. He can switch out materials or fiber patterns to see what would work best.

The software runs on Windows and Linux and is licensed to companies for thousands each year.

They’ve had an easy enough time getting customers through a nationwide partnership with HyperWorks Partner Alliance, another computer-aided engineering software suite. 

But they do need to grow with talent. Castro said he hopes to hire a mechanical engineer and software developer soon. Although most of his clients are out of state, he hopes to stay in Nebraska.

“I want people to advocate for Nebraska as a great place to do a startup,” he said, “because it is.”