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Luminary Cloud’s simulator utilizes GPUs to accelerate product design

Simulations are a crucial component of physical product engineering. They let engineers develop prototypes and predict their real-world performance by considering aspects like aerodynamic drag, air and water fluxes, pressure, and temperature distributions.

Jason Lango, the CEO of Luminary Cloud, said that current engineering simulations are sluggish and challenging to expand.

“Many engineers utilize outdated software that operates on on-site infrastructure, leading to a sluggish design process where each simulation requires days or weeks,” Lango said during an interview. The legacy software, which has been around for decades, has not been updated to be compatible with cloud computing and GPUs.

Luminary, a company developing a platform for engineering simulations, utilizes cloud computing and Nvidia GPU clusters, according to Lango. Luminary’s simulation tools are used by businesses such as Puma golf brand Cobra Golf and Joby Aviation, the air taxi company. This technology allows engineers to test engineering scenarios and refine their product designs more quickly than traditional software solutions.

“Luminary’s real-time engineering approach enables engineering teams to conduct product simulation and analysis cycles in minutes instead of weeks,” Lango said. These lead to enhanced speed in bringing products to market, quicker understanding of data, superior design outputs, heightened team efficiency, and more effective use of resources for physical prototyping.

Luminary is not the first company to provide a cloud-based engineering simulation tool. Siemens, Dassault Systèmes, PhysicsX, Simscale, Flexcompute, and Ansys are some of Synopsys’ rivals; the latter was most recently acquired by Synopsys for $35 billion.

Luminary stands out due to its focus on artificial intelligence, according to Lango.

The platform provides an AI helper named Lumi AI, which autonomously manages activities such as mesh creation. Mesh generation is a crucial step in the simulation process when an object or scene is divided into tiny, distinct cells or pieces known as meshes, as described by Lango.

“Luminary is currently a simulation and analysis company, but our future direction will lead us to transition into a data company,” he said. The platform, equipped with AI and machine learning, can offer suggestions for enhancing designs and optimizing them. It can also improve simulation setup, solving, and visualization, making it easier for users to gain valuable insights.

Luminary stands out by not requiring a license or membership fee, unlike some of its competitors. Customers are charged according to the amount of time they use the GPU for simulation and analysis, calculated in USD per minute.

Lango argues that a brief conceptual design simulation of an airplane may run for a few minutes and cost about $90. Customers doing extensive, high-quality simulations or many simulations to test various design options would benefit from prepaid capacity reductions based on volume.

Genesis and proliferation
Lango established Luminary in 2019 with Juan Alonso, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics at Stanford. Before Luminary, Lango had experience at Silicon Graphics, NetApp, and Cisco, while Alonso oversaw NASA’s Fundamental Aeronautics Program, focusing on supersonic research.

Lango and Alonso crossed paths in the summer of 2019 at Sutter Hill Ventures, a private equity company, where Lango held the position of entrepreneur in residence. Doug Mohr, managing director at Sutter Hill, invited Alonso, who was his squash partner at the time, to meet Lango at the company’s Palo Alto headquarters, anticipating a strong commercial partnership between Alonso and Lango.

Lango and Alonso connected. Through many discussions, they improved the concept for the platform that eventually became Luminary.

Sutter Hill is optimistic about Luminary’s future, given the startup’s growing client base of over 33 firms in the automotive, aerospace, military, and industrial equipment industries.

Luminary announced today that it secured $15 million in equity and $100 million in debt from Sutter Hill. The firm intends to use this funding to enhance its sales organization and product features.

Mike Speiser, managing director at Sutter Hill, said in an email that Jason and Juan are combining the capabilities of GPUs with the flexibility of cloud computing for a very intricate engineering task. “Luminary Cloud has the potential to revolutionize the costly and challenging process of product development.”

Luminary, headquartered in San Francisco, now employs 73 employees and plans to increase that number to 80 by the end of the year.

“Luminary’s capacity consumption model, which is on-demand and prepaid, offers a mutually beneficial solution for forecasted volume and discounts,” Lango said. Customers of any size may begin an on-demand engagement with no initial cost. Since our clientele consists of industrial R&D and engineering organizations that are still investing in their product development, the IT industry downturn has not had an impact on our revenues.

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