Modelica is an open language for (lumped parameter) modeling and simulation and is generating a growing following, especially in Europe. Modelica is also at the heart of simulation tools like MapleSim. We are generally not making a big deal of that fact and as a result we have a regular stream of actual and potential customers asking us why we are not more vocal about our use of Modelica. Do we not believe in open standards? Do we think Modelica is not that important after all?
Before returning to those questions, here are some of my thoughts on where the value of Modelica lies.
1. An open model exchange format
The need for being able to exchange simulation models is indisputable. Part suppliers need to share models with OEMs. Consultants reuse and resell component libraries that they have created as part of an engagement. Reference models from industry form the basis for academic research. Sharing of such models using a proprietary format results in lock-in to a particular software tool vendor. Rising prices and other anti-competitive behavior is the consequence. Using Modelica ensures that users have the choice of tools for generating as well as consuming simulation models.
2. An ecosystem for component models
This point is related to the first one above but it is a different point nonetheless. Modelica allows for easy, tool-agnostic model interchange. In addition, the Modelica language allows for the specification of large component model libraries using an object-oriented approach. Combined, these two features have resulted in the availability of a large set of model libraries, some free and some commercial. Most well-known among these is probably the Modelica Standard Library, which is being developed under the stewardship of the Modelica Association, the same non-profit organization that also directs the development of the Modelica language (disclosure: Maplesoft is a member of the Modelica Association).
There are other benefits, of course, some of which I have discussed before but the ones above stand out because they can be realized only with an open standard like Modelica.
So then, why is it that we have not made as much noise about the usage of Modelica within MapleSim? Well, our initial focus has been on giving engineers an easy to use tool for doing their plant modeling. Most of the complexity of Modelica is kept behind the scenes. As MapleSim evolves, this strategy will be refined. You'll be able to use hand-coded Modelica libraries. Modelica experts will be able to use MapleSim to develop libraries using the Modelica language. Yet, we will always focus on allowing our users to do simple things in an easy and straight-forward manner.
Modelica definitely matters and you'll be hearing a lot more from us on this topic.