Driving the Design of Small Modular Nuclear Reactors with Flownex

Flownex-Logo-2015-250wThe development of small modular nuclear reactors, or SMR’s, is a complex task that involves balancing the thermodynamic performance of the entire system. Flownex is the ideal tool for modeling  pressure drop [flow] and heat transfer [temperature] for the connected components of a complete system in steady state and transient, sizing and optimizing pumps or compressors, pipes, valves, tanks, and heat exchangers.

To highlight this power and capability,  PADT and Flownex will be exhibiting at the 2016 SMR conference in Atlanta where we will be available to discuss exciting new Flownex developments in system and subsystem simulations of SMRs.  If you are attending this year’s event, please stop by the Flownex booth and say hello to experts from M-Tech and PADT.

If you are not able to make the conference or if you want to know more now, you can view more information from the new Flownex SMR brochure or this video:

Why is Flownex a Great Tool for SMR Design and Simulation?

These developments offer greatly reduced times for performing typical design tasks required for Small Modular Nuclear Reactor (SMR) projects including sizing of major components, calculating overall plant efficiency, and design for controllability

This task involves typical components like the reactor primary loop, intermediate loops, heat exchangers or steam generators and the power generation cycle. Flownex provides for various reactor fuel geometries, various reactor coolant types and various types of power cycles.

Flownex can also be used for determining plant control philosophy. By using a plant simulation model, users can determine the transient response of sensed parameters to changes in input parameters and based on that, set up appropriate pairings for control loops.

For passive safety system design Flownex can be used to optimize the natural circulation loops.  The program can calculate the dynamic plant-wide temperatures and pressures in response to various accident scenarios, taking into account decay heat generation, multiple natural circulation loops, transient energy storage and rejection to ambient conditions.


Learn more at www.padtinc.com/flownex, give us a call at 480.813.4884 or email brian.duncan@padtinc.com.


PADT Events – April 2016

This is the first of what we hope to be a monthly posting here on our blog, reviewing PADT events happening in the next 5 or 6 weeks and reviewing activities over the previous month.

Upcoming Events, Seminars, and Gatherings

amug_logo_lgApril 5-7: AMUG Annual Meeting
St. Luis, MO

This annual meeting of the Additive Manufacturing Users Group has been a long time favorite of PADT.  Everyone involved in making and running industrial 3D Printers will be in St. Luis this year.  PADT’s Dhruv Bhate will be given two presentations and we will be hanging out in the exhibit hall. Look for anyone in a PADT shirt and say hi!


April 7: Seminar: Additive Manufacturing and the Navy SBIR Program With RevAZ/AZ Commerce
PADT Tempe, AZ

Learn more about the Navy Sea SBIR Program from Jonathan Leggett, the NAVSEA SBIR Program Manager, about how AZ Manufacturers can use SBIR Grants to assist in funding R&D early stage innovation. Jonathan will also review the Navy’s roadmap on additive manufacturing and 3D printing.


32nd_space_symposium_logo2April 11-14: Space Symposium
Colorado Springs, CO

This premier event for the entire Space industry is a favorite of PADT’s  We will be there in force in our own both, and with Stratasys, talking about how Additive Manufacturing is changing many aspects of space hardware. Look for Mario, Norm, Anthony, James, and Renee.  We expect to catch up with our customers and if we don’t know you, stop by and introduce yourself.

AZTC-logoApril 13, 11:30 – 1:00: AZTC Lunch-n-Learn
Innovation is easier said than done: Why skipping product simulation is no longer an option
Tucson, AZ

PADT will be presenting results from a recently released study on how the use of simulation has a significant and measurable impact on top line revenue for companies who make products. Lunch is included in this free event. Come back for a link in a day or so.

smr-2016April 14-15: International SMR and
Advanced Reactor Summit
Atlanta, GA

Flownex and PADT will be attending this meeting, the premier event for Small Modular and Advanced Reactor design.  Flownex is the leading tool for modeling fluid flow in and around reactors of all types, and is helping to drive the development of this new generation of nuclear power.  Look for us in the Flownex booth.

iPantherPrideLogoApril 18: “Thoughts on Being an Engineer”
a Presentation at Peoria High School
Peoria, AZ

PADT’s Dhruv Bhate will be discussing his career as an Engineer with High School students. He will also share with them his latest career change in to the exciting world of 3D Printing.


azbio-logo-1April 21: AZBio Expo 2016
Phoenix, AZ

PADT will be attending this key Bioscience industry event with a booth and by attending sessions.  Stop by and learn the latest about how PADT helps medical device companies make their innovation work. We will of course be talking about 3D Printing and simulation as well.

imi11May 12, 2016: Design for 3D Printing
Talk at Digital Manufacturing 2016 Conference
Scottsdale, AZ

This conference is focused on 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing with a focus on inkjet technologies.  PADT’s Eric Miller will be sharing his thoughts on design considerations for those who wish to use 3D Printing to manufacture their parts.

rapid-logo-100May 16-19: RAPID Show
Orlando, FL

The other big Additive Manufacturing show in the US is Rapid, held in Orlando, FL this year. PADT will be presenting at least one, and perhaps two times at this event. We will also be hanging out with Stratasys and other partners in the exhibit area.

March Events in Review

March was a busy month for events, with a couple of special opportunities to reach new audiences and learn more.

padt-additive-mfg-aztc-aerospace2016We started with the 2016 Aerospace, Defence, and Manufacturing Conference put on by the Arizona Technology Council on March 3rd.  Dhruv Bhate gave a talk about Additive Manufacturing in the state and made a call to action for more cooperation.  Our booth was well attended.

ati-logo-1The quarterly meeting of the Arizona Technology Investor group was March 10th.  We had four outstanding presentations from credible companies looking for angel investing.

padt-semi-breakfast-march-2016March 23rd was a busy day, with the SEMI Arizona presentation of the GPEC study: “Microelectronics: An Economic Pillar for Arizona” at breakfast.  We learned a ton about the importance of this sector to the state and where it is headed. This was followed by a sad event, a going away party for Jeff Saville as he departs CEI and spends some time in industry.

Sampe-2016-2Meanwhile, up in Utah, our team was at the Wasatch Front Materials Expo. This event has always been well attended and a chance for us to meet with existing customers and get in front of others who are interested in ANSYS and Stratasys.

chandler-innovationsThe next night saw a well attended event at The Perch in Chandler for the Chandler Innovations Connector.  The east valley tech startup community is booming and we were able to visit with many entrepreneurs and mentors.

flinn-foundation-logoOn March 29th PADT’s Eric Miller was invited to be on a panel to discuss innovation in the Bioscience industry in Arizona. The event focused on an update for the Flinn Foundation’s Bioscience Roadmap project. What an amazing panel and it was good to see the progress, and work still to be done, to build more momentum around this critical industry.

PADT-hillafb-2016Three events in support of government R&D finished up the last week of the month.  The Utah crew attended the Hill Air Force Base Technology Expo on March 30th, an annual event where vendors can share how they help the research going on at the base.

padt-optimization-seminarMeanwhile, we were holding a seminar at Los Alamos National Labs on Optimization with ANSYS products and how it can drive the use of Additive Manufacturing. That same presentation was repeated at Sandia National Labs on the 31st.

nmtc-new-mexico-tech-council-1The final event of the month was a fantastic presentation on Infrared sensors in Albuquerque, NM.  This was the first event that we have attended put on by the New Mexico Technology Council, or NMTC.  Made some great connection and we are looking forward to more interaction with them.

New Tricks for an Old Dog: Eric Learns ANSYS SpaceClaim – Post 3

Adding Complexity and Moving

This post is the third in a series on learning ANSYS SpaceClaim. After over 31 years of CAD use, it has become difficult for me to learn new tools. In this series I will share my experience as I explore and learn how to use this fantastic tool.
If you have not read the previous post, start here.  A table of contents is here.

After playing with that block it seems like it may be time to try a more complex geometry.  For business banking, I’ve got this key fob that generates a number every thirty seconds that I use for security when I log in.  Might as well sort of model that.


So the first thing I do is start up a new model and orient myself on to the sketch plane:


Then I use the line and arc tools to create the basic shape. Play around a bit. I found that a lot of things I had to constrain in other packages are just assumed when you define the geometry.  A nice thing is that as you create geometry, it locks to the grid and to other geometry. ANSYS-SpaceClaim-Learning-03-02

I dragged around and typed in values for dimensions to get the shape I wanted. As I was doing it I realized I was in metric. I’m old, I don’t do metric. So I went in to File and selected SpaceClaim options from the bottom of the window.  I used the Units screen to set things to Imperial.


This is the shape I ended up with:


I took this and pulled it up and added a couple of radii:


But if I look at the real object, the flat end needs to be round.  In another tool, I’d go back to the sketch, modify that line to be an arc, and regen.  Well in SpaceClaim you don’t have the sketch, it is gone.    Ahhh. Panic. I’ve been doing it that way for 25 some years.  OK. Deep breath, just sketch the geometry I need. Click on the three point arc tool, drag over the surface, then click on the first corner, the second, and a third point to define the arc:


Then us pull to drag it down, using the Up to icon to lock it to the bottom of the object.


Then I clicked on the edges and pulled some rounds on there:


OK, so the next step in SolidEdge would be to do a thin wall.  I don’t see a thin wall right off the top, but shell looks like what I want, under the Create group on the Design tab.  So I spinned my model around, clicked on the bottom surface I want to have open and I have a shell.  A thickness of 0.035″ looks good:


My next feature will be the cutout for the view window.   What I have not figured out yet is how to lock an object to be symmetrical. Here is why. I sketch my cutout as such, not really paying attention to where it is located.  Now I want to move it so that it is centred on the circle.


Instead of specifying constraints, you move the rectangle to be centered.  To do that I drag to select the rectangle then click Move. By default it puts the nice Move tool in the middle of the geometry.  If I drag on the X direction (Red) you can see it shows the distance from my start.


So I have a couple of options, to center it. The easiest is to use Up To and click the X axis for the model and it will snap right there.  The key thing I learned was I had to select the red move arrow or it would also center horizontally where I clicked.

If I want to specify how far away the edge is from the center of the circle, the way I did it is kind of cool.  I selected my rectangle, then clicked move. Then I clicked on the yellow move ball followed by a click on the left line, this snapped the move tool to that line. Next I clicked the little dimension Icon to get a ruller, and a small yellow ball showed up. I clicked on this and dragged it to the center of my circle, now I had a dimension from the circle specified that I could type in.ANSYS-SpaceClaim-Learning-03-13

After playing around a bit, if found a second, maybe more general way to do this.  I clicked on the line I want to position.  One of the icons over on the left of my screen is the Move Dimension Base Point icon. If you click on that you get another one of those small yellow balls you can move. I dragged it over to the center of the circle and clicked. then I can specify the distance as 0.75″


I’ve got the shape I want, so I pull, using the minus icon to subtract, and I get my cutout:


If you look closely,you will notice I put rounds on the corners of the cutout as well, I used Pull again.

The last thing I want to do is create the cutout for where the bank logo goes. It is a concentric circle with an arc on the right side.  Saddly, this is the most complex thing I’ve ever sketched in SpaceClaim so I was a bit afraid. It was actually easy.  I made a circle, clicking on the center of the outside arc to make them concentric. The diameter was 1″. Then I made another circle of 2″ centered on the right.  To get the shape I wanted, I used the Trim Away command and clicked on the curves I don’t want. The final image is my cutout.


Now I can do the same thing, subtract it out, put in some rounds, and whalla:


Oh, and I used the built in rendering tool to quickly make this image. I’ll have to dedicate a whole posting to that.

But now that I have my part, it is time to play with move in 3D.

Moving in 3D

Tyler, who is one of our in-house SpaceClaim experts (and younger) pointed out that I need to start thinking about editing the 3D geometry instead of being obsessed with controlling my sketches. So here goes.

If I wanted to change the size of the rectangular cutout in a traditional CAD tool, I’d go edit the sketch. There is no sketch to edit! Fear. Unknown. Change.

So the first thing I’ll do is just move it around. Grab one of the faces and see happens.


It moves back and forth, pretty simple.  The same tools for specifying the start and stop points are available. Now, if I ctrl-click on all four surfaces the whole thing moves. That is pretty cool.


Note: I’m using the undo all the time to go back to my un-moved geometry.

Another Note:  As you select faces, you have to spin the model around a lot. I use the middle mouse button to do this rather than clicking on the spin Icon and then having to unclick it.

Play with it some more. I was able to put draft by using the arcs on the Move gizmo, and if you pull far enough it adds material.ANSYS-SpaceClaim-Learning-03-19

That is enough for this post. More soon.




New Tricks for an Old Dog: Eric Learns ANSYS SpaceClaim – Post 2

Learning More About Pulling

This post is the second in a series on learning ANSYS SpaceClaim. After over 31 years of CAD use, it has become difficult for me to learn new tools. In this series I will share my experience as I explore and learn how to use this fantastic tool.
If you have not read the previous post, start here.  A table of contents is here.

As I explored ANSYS SpaceClaim in my first try, it became obvious that a lot of capabilities that are in multiple operations in most CAD systems, are all combined in Pull for SpaceClaim.  In this posting I feel like it would be a really good idea for me to really understand all the things Pull can do.

Start with the Manual

Not very exciting or adventurous. But there is so much in this operation that I feel like I will miss something critical if I don’t read up first.   It states:

“Use the Pull tool to offset, extrude, revolve, sweep, and draft faces; use it to round, chamfer, extrude, copy, or pivot edges. You can also drag a point with the Pull tool to draw a line on a sketch plane.”

Let’s think about that for a second.  What it is basically saying is if I pull on an object of a given dimension, it creates an object that is one higher dimension. Point pulls to a curve, a curve pulls to a face, and a face pulls to a solid. Kind of cool. The big surprise for me is that there is no round or fillet command. To make a round you pull on an edge. This is change.

Pull some Stuff

I started by reading my block with a hole back in.


This fillet pull thing scares me so I thought I’d confront it first. So selecte Pull, and selected an edge:


Then I dragged it away from the block. Nothing. You can’t create a surface that way. Then I dragged in towards the center. A round was created.


If anything, too simple. Back in my day, adding a round to an edge took skill and experience!

So next I think I want to try and change the size of something. Maybe the diameter of the hole. So I select the cylinder’s face. Is shows the current radius. I could just change that value:


Instead I drag, and while I do that I noticed that there are two numbers, the current radius and the change to the radius!  Kind of cool. No, really useful.


You use tab to go between them. So I hit tab once, typed 3 then tab again (or return) and I get a 8 mm diameter.  I like the visual feedback as well as the ability to enter a specific change number.

Next thing that I felt like doing was rounding a corner. Put a 5mm round on the corner facing out:


So I grabbed the point and dragged, and got a line.



Remember, it only goes up one entity type – point to curve. Not point to surface. So I ctrl-clicked (that is how you select multiple entities) on the three curves that intersect at the corner:


Then I dragged and got my round.


Pulling Along or Around Something

This are all sort of dragging straight. After looking at the manual text it seems I can revolve and sweep as well with the Pull operation.  Cool. But what do I revolve or sweep around and along?  Looking at the manual (and it turns out the prompt on the screen) I use Alt-Clicking to define these control curves.  Let’s try it out by revolving something about that line I mistakenly made.

I click on one of the curves on the round. then Alt-Click the line – It turns blue. So there is a nice visual clue that it is different than the source curve.  Now I’ve also got spinny icons around the curve rather than pull icons.


So I drag and… funky revolved surface shows up. I had to spin the model to see it clearly:


Let me stop and share something special about this. In most other CAD tools, this would have involved multiple clicks, maybe even multiple windows. In SpaceClaim, it was Click, Alt-Click, Drag.  Nice.

Using the Pop=up Icons

As you play with the model you may start seeing some popup icons near the mouse when you select geometry while using pull. The compound round on the block is complicated, so I spun it around and grabbed just one edge and pulled it in to be a round.  Then I clicked on it and got this:


Not only can I put a value in there, I can drop ones I use a lot. I can also change my round to a chamfer, or I can change it to a variable radius. This is worth noting. In most other CAD tools you pick what type of thing you want to do to the edge. Here we start by dragging a round, then specify if it is a chamfer or a variable.

The variable radius is worth digging more in to.  I clicked on it and it was not intuitive as to what I should do. Let’s try help. Search on Variable Radius… duh. Click on the arrow that shows up and drag that. There are three arrows. The one in the middle scales both ends the same, the one on either end, well it sets the radius for either end.

ANSYS-SpaceClaim-Learning-02-13Reading more I see if I hold down the CTRL key and click on the arrow, I can drag a new control point along the edge. I can type in a percentage as well.  Very useful.


Clicking on a control point and hitting delete, gets rid of them.

That’s just one icon that pops up.  Playing some more it seems the other icons control how it handles corners and multiple fillets merging… something to look at as I do more complex parts.

The other popup I want to look at is the Up To one.  It looks like an arrow on a surface.  In other tools I extrude, cut, revolve all the time to some other piece of geometry.  This is the way to do it in Space Claim.  Let’s say I want to pull a feature to the middle of my hole. First I sketch the outline on a face:ANSYS-SpaceClaim-Learning-02-15

Then I select the outline, and get a popup. First thing I want to do is click on the + sign, because I want to add, not cut, then I click on the Up To and then select the axis of the hole:  ANSYS-SpaceClaim-Learning-02-16

That is enough for pulling and for today.  In the next session it may be time to explore the Move command.










New Tricks for an Old Dog: Eric Learns ANSYS SpaceClaim – Table of Contents

ANSYS-SpaceClaim-Learning-00-00This post is a table of contents to a series about ANSYS SpaceClaim. After over 31 years of CAD use, it has become difficult for me to learn new tools. In this series I will share my experience as I explore and learn how to use this fantastic tool.

  1. Introduction, Getting Started, The Interface, A Block with a Hole in It
  2. Learning More About Pulling
  3. Adding Complexity and Moving

Phoenix Business Journal: Best way to stay science educated – Podcasts

pbj-phoenix-business-journal-logoIf you are like me, you are in a tech business because you love science.  But who has time to learn about all the new an exciting discoveries out there. Even reading is something we often don’t have time for.  So I’ve started listening to science podcasts and it has been a fantastic way to stay on top of things, and get reminded about the things I’ve forgotten.

In “Best way to stay science educated: Podcasts” I go over the three that are worth following regularly and talk about more about why it is important.

Phoenix Business Journal: ​How I learned to love inbound marketing

pbj-phoenix-business-journal-logoMarketing is one of those things that we engineers struggle with, and when “inbound marketing” became a thing, we thought it was a just another buzzword. But, after giving it a try, we are fans “​How I learned to love inbound marketing” goes over why we think it is a great tool for generating business.

Introducing Design Days: Free engineering consultation for Startups

PADT_StartUpLabs-1PADT and CEI are teaming up to answer any startup’s questions about engineering and manufacturing for their physical product. Over the years we have found lots of early stage companies who benefited from spending a little bit of time with an experienced product development engineer. Finding time for them to stop by PADT was always difficult to schedule and never seemed worked out. Or we would meet people at events and try and talk in a corner, still not good.cei_logo

So last month during Phoenix StartupWeek CEI and PADT tried having some time where people could stop by and talk. It went really well for everyone involved, so Design Days was born.

Our first one will be held on April 14, 2016 at CEI’s offices in Phoenix.  The idea is simple, you get one hour with an experienced mechanical engineer to talk about whatever you want. We can spend the time talking about:

  • Suggestions for how to properly design your product
  • Get contacts at local resources that can help you
  • Brainstorm solutions to technical problems
  • Discuss the weather (it’s your hour)
  • Get an idea of what it would take to design and prototype your product
  • Answer questions about software and hardware tools you may need
  • Bounce ideas off someone new
  • Review manufacturing options
  • Get advice on the next steps you should be taking
  • Or whatever else you want to discuss

You don’t have to be an existing CEI client, a new company or an old one. You just need to want to talk to our engineers.


Sign up for one of the available one hour slots here.   Our plan is to do this once a month, and if it works, try some other incubators as well.

Here is some basic information you should be aware of:

  • Do not ask for Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). PADT engineers operate under a strict company code of ethics; therefore no additional NDA is required.
  • This is meant for companies developing physical products, not software.
  • It is open to companies at ANY stage of development, not just startups. Entrepreneurs of any age, including students, are also welcome.
  • This is not a discussion about funding nor is it a sales pitch (from either side)
  • Do not expect a functioning prototype or design nor will PADT engineers solve your technical problems. To fully engage in PADT’s design, prototyping and simulation services, there will be a cost involved to be agreed upon by both parties.

    Our impromptu trial “Design Days” session during Phoenix StartupWeek.

Additive Manufacturing and the Navy SBIR Program – brought to you by RevAZ, AZ Commerce Authority, and PADT


Learn more about the Navy Sea SBIR Program from Jonathan Leggett, the NAVSEA SBIR Program Manager, about how AZ Manufacturers can use SBIR Grants to assist in funding R&D early stage innovation.  Jonathan will also review the Navy’s roadmap on additive manufacturing and 3D printing.  There will be 15 minute one-on-one sessions from 1:30 – 4:00 to answer your specific questions with:

  • Jonathan Leggett, NAVSEA SBIR Outreach Program Manager
  • Dave Garafano, ACA Executive Director of RevAZ
  • Jill HowardAllen, ACA Manger of Technology Commercialization & SBIR Programming

Register Now!

Who Should Attend?

  • Small to Medium Sized Businesses – (500 or less)manufacturers interested in learning how the SBIR/STTR program may assist them in commercializing their early stage innovation.
  • Large & Medium Sized Businesses and/or 3rd Party Investors – Those seeking to partners with the SBIR/STTR small businesses to (a) establish the requirements and specification for the proposed outcomes; and (b) provide financial resources and collaboration for commercializing the results
  • University/Institute Faculty and Staff – Those seeking consulting and partnering opportunities with the small business on the SBIR/STTR grant

When: April 7
10:00-12:00 – Navy SBIR Overview & Navy
Additive Manufacturing Technology Roadmap
1:30- 4:00 – 15 Minute 1:1 Sessions with Jonathan Leggett

Where: PADT
7755 S Research Dr.
Suite 120
Tempe, AZ 85284

Please Register to Reserve your Spot!

Direct any questions to Jill HowardAllen at JillH@azcommerce.com or call 602 845 1291.

PADT is honored to be hosting the event and taking part in the training.

Ovid: A Teaching Tool for 3D Printing

ovid-1-1Meet Ovid.  He is a very simple character that we use to explain 3D Printing to kids. Explaining how 3D Printing works to anyone without a technical background can be tough. To help out PADT has created a collection of resources that shows how it is done, including a hands on model for younger kids, that feature Ovid as the object being printed.

Let’s start by getting technical.  3D Printing is a common term for a class of manufacturing methods referred to as Additive Manufacturing.  In 3D Printing you take a computer model and you print it out to get a real world three dimensional object. The way we do it is that we slice the computer model into thin layers, then build up material in the 3D printer one layer at a time.  Here is a simple GIF showing the most common process:


This is Fused Deposition Modeling, or FDM. If a classroom has a 3D Printer it is most likely an FDM printer.

The idea behind these resources is to show the process:

  1. Start with a 3D Computer model
  2. Slice it
  3. Build it one layer at a time

The materials below can be used by parents or teachers to explain things to kids, K-8. Please use freely and share!


This PowerPoint has slides that explain the 3D Printing process and the video is of the slides being presented, with our narration.

PowerPoint: Ovid-Presentation-3D_Printing

Making a Hands-On Ovid

ovid-model-3Our fun little plexiglass model of Ovid is an example of a manual 3D printing process. Students can stack up the layers to “3D Print” their own Ovid by hand, reinforcing the layered manufacturing process.

We did everything the same as a real 3D Printer, but instead of automatically stacking the layers, we cut each layer on a laser cutter and the students do the cutting.

Here is a video showing the laser cutting.

And this is a zip file containing the geometry we used to make Ovid in STEP, IGES, Parasolid, and SAT.

To put it all together we created a triangular rod with a base and height that are identical.  Figure out the size you need once you have scaled the geometry for your version of Ovid. we glued the rod to a base.

ovid-model-1 ovid-model-4 ovid-model-2

Files for 3D Printing and Other Information

If you have access to a 3D Printer, you can print your own Ovid.  Here is an STL and a Parasolid: Ovid-PADT-3D_Printing-1

We also have a video showing how the software for the printer slices the geometry and makes the tool path for each layer:

And to round things out, here is a few minutes of Ovid being made in one of our Stratasys FDM printers:

MD+DI: 3-D Printing Applications Changing Healthcare

md+di-logo-13-D Printing is having a significant impact on healthcare technology. In “3-D Printing Applications Changing Healthcare” PADT’s Dhruv Bhate gives real world examples of how this technology is enabling never-before-seen breakthroughs.


Phoenix Business Journal: 5 reasons why nerds celebrate Pi Day


Have you heard? It’s Pi Day! This post, “5 reasons why nerds celebrate Pi Day” shares the reasons why those of us in the know like Pi day so much.

New Tricks for an Old Dog: Eric Learns ANSYS SpaceClaim – Post 1

ANSYS-SpaceClaim-Learning-00-00Thirty-one.  That is the number of years that I have been using CAD software. CADAM was the tool, 1985 was the year.  As some of our engineers like to point out, they were not even born then.

Twenty-one. that is the number of years that I have been using SolidEdge.  This classifies me as an old dog, a very old dog. As PADT has grown the amount of CAD I do has gone way down, but every once in a while I need to get in there and make some geometry happen. I’m usually in a hurry so I just pop in to SolidEdge and without really thinking, I get things done.

Then ANSYS, Inc. had to go and buy SpaceClaim. It rocks.  It is not just another solid modeler, it is a better way to create, repair, and modify CAD.  I watch our engineers and customers do some amazing things with it. I’m still faster in SolidEdge because I have more years of practice than they have been adults. But this voice in my head has been whispering “think how fast you would be in SpaceClaim if you took the time to learn it.” Then that other voice (I have several) would say “you’re too old to learn something new, stick with what you know. You might break your hip”

I had used SpaceClaim a bit when they created a version that worked with ANSYS Mechanical four or five years ago, but nothing serious.  Last month I attended some webinars on R17 and saw how great the tool is, and had to accept that it was time.  That other voice be damned – this old dog needs to get comfortable and learn this tool.  And while I’m at it, it seemed like a good idea to bring some others along with me.

These posts will be a tutorial for others who want to learn SpaceClaim.  Unlike those older tools, it does not require five days of structured training with workshops.  The program comes with teaching material and tutorials.  The goal is to guide the reader through the process, pointing out things I learned along the way, as I learn them.

A link to the table of contents is here.

Getting Started

The product I’m learning is ANSYS SpaceClaim Direct Modeler, a version of SpaceClaim that is built into the ANSYS simulation product suite. There is a stand alone SpaceClaim product but since most of our readers are ANSYS users, I’m going to stick with this version of the tool.

This is what you see when you start it up:


I’ve been using the same basic layout for 20 years, so this is a bit daunting for me. I like to start on a new program by getting to know what different areas of the user interface do. The “Welcome to ANSYS SCDM” kind of anticipates that and gives me some options.

Under “Getting Started” you will see a Quick Reference Card, Introduction, and Tutorials. Open up the Quick Reference and print it out. Don’t bother with it right now, but it will come in handy, especially if you are not going to use SpaceClaim every day.

The Introduction button is a video that gets you oriented with the GUI. Just what we need. It is a lot of information presented fast, so you are not going to learn everything the first viewing, but it will get you familiar with things.

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Here I am watching the video.  Notice how attentive I am.

Once that is done you should sort of know the basic lay of the land. Kind of like walking into a room and looking around. You know where the couch is, the window, and the shelf on one wall.  Now it is time to explore the room.

It is kind of old school, but I like user guides.  You can open the SpaceClaim User Guide from the Help line in the “Welcome” window.  I leave it open and use it as a reference.

The Interface

The best place to learn where things are in the interface is to look at the interface section in the manual. It has this great graphic:


The top bit is pretty standard, MS office like. You have your application menu, quick access toolbar, and Ribbon Bar.  The Ribbon Bar is where all the operations sit.  We used to call these commands but in an object oriented world, they are more properly referred to as operations – do something to objects, operate on them.  I’ll come back and explore those later. Over on the left there are panels, the thing we need to explore first because they are a view into our model just like the graphics window.


The Structure Panel is key.  This is where your model is shown in tree form, just like in most ANSYS products.  In SpaceClaim your model is collection of objects, and they are shown in the tree in the order you added them. You can turn visibility on and off, select objects, and act on objects (using the right mouse button) using the tree. At this point I just had one solid, so pretty boring.  I’m sure it will do more later.

Take a look at the bottom of the Structure Panel and you will find some tabs. These give access to Layers, Selection, Groups, and Views.  All handy ways to organize and interact with your model.  I felt like I needed to come back to these later when I had something to interact with.

TIP: If you are like me, you probably tried to drag these panels around and hosed up your interface. Go to File > SpaceClaim Options (button at the bottom) > Appearance and click the “Reset Docking Layout” button in the upper right of the window.  Back to normal. 

The options panel changes dynamically as you choose things from the ribbon. If you click on the Design > Line you get this:


And if you click on Pull you get this:


Keeps the clutter down and makes the commands much more capable.

Below that is the Properties Panel.  If the Options panel is how you control an operation, then the Properties panel is how you view and control an object in your model.  No point in exploring that till we have objects to play with.  It does have an appearance tab as well, and this controls your graphics window.

At the bottom is the Status Bar. Now I’m a big believer in status bars, and SpaceClaim uses theirs well.  It tells you what is going on and/or what to do next.  It also has info on what you have selected and short cut icons for selection and graphics tools. Force yourself to read and use the status bar, big time saver.

The last area of the interface is the graphics window. It of course shows you your geometry, your model.  In addition there are floating tools that show up in the graphics window based upon what you are doing.  Grrr. #olddogproblem_1.  I’m not a fan of these, cluttering up my graphics. But almost all modern interfaces work this way now and I will have to overcome my anger and learn to deal.

Make Something

For most of the 30+ years that I’ve been doing this CAD thing, I’ve always started with the same object: A block with a hole in it.  So that is what we will do next.  I have to admit I’m a little nervous.

I’m nervous because I’m a history based guy.  If you have used most CAD tools like SolidWorks or ANSYS DesignModeler you know what history based modeling is like. You make a sketch then you add or subtract material and it keeps track of your operations. SpaceClaim is not history based. You operate on objects and it doesn’t track the steps, it just modifies your objects.  SolidEdge has done this for over ten years, but I never got up the nerve to learn how to use it.  So here goes, new territory.

Things start the same way. But instead of a sketch you make some curves.  The screen looks like this when you start:


The default plane is good enough, so I’ll make my curves on that. Under Design>Sketch click on the Rectangle icon then move your mouse on to the grid. You will notice it snaps to the grid. Click in the Upper Left and the Lower Right to make a rectangle then enter 25mm in to each text box, making a 25 x 25 square:


Next we want to make our block.  In most tools you would find an extrude operation. But in SpaceClaim they have combined the huge multitude of operations into a few operation types, and then use context or options to give you the functionality you want. That is why the next thing we want to do is click on Pull on the Edit group.

But first, notice something important. If you look at the model tree you will notice that you have only one object in your design, Curves. When you click Pull it gets out of sketch mode and into 3D mode. It also automatically turns your curves into a surface. Look at the tree again.

ANSYS-SpaceClaim-Learning-01-09    ANSYS-SpaceClaim-Learning-01-10

This is typical of SpaceClaim and why it can be so efficient. It knows what you need to do and does it for you.

Move you mouse over your newly created surface and notice that it will show arrows. Move around and put it over a line, it shows what object will be selected if you click.  Go to the inside of your surface and click. It selects the surface and shows you some options right there.


Drag your mouse over the popup menu and you can see that you can set options like add material, subtract material, turn off merging (it will make a separate solid instead of combining with any existing ones), pull both directions, get a ruler, or specify that you are going to pull up to something.  For now, we are just going to take the default and pull up.

As you do this the program tells you how far you are pulling. You can type in a value if you want.  I decided to be boring and I put in 25 mm.  Geometry has been created, no one has been hurt, and I have not lost feeling in any limbs. Yay.


On the status bar, click on the little menu next to the magnifying glass and choose Zoom Extents.  That centers the block. Whew. That makes me feel better.

Now for the hole. It is the same process except simpler than in most tools.  Click on the circle tool in Sketch. The grid comes back and you can use that to sketch, or you can just click on the top of the block. Let’s do that. The grid snaps up there.  To make the circle click in the middle of the grid and drag it out.  Put 10 in for the diameter. A circle is born.

Take a look at your tree. You have a solid and a set of curves.  ANSYS-SpaceClaim-Learning-01-13

Now choose Pull from the Edit section. There is only a Solid now?


SpaceClaim went ahead and split that top surface into two surfaces. Saving a step again.

Click on the circle surface and drag it up and down. If you go up, it adds a cylinder, if you go down, it automatically subtracts.  Go ahead and pull it down and through the block and let go. Done.  Standard first part created. Use the File>Save command to save your awesome geometry.


That is it for the getting started part.  In the next post we will use this geometry to explore SpaceClaim more, now that we have an object to work on.  As you were building this you probably saw lots of options and input and maybe even played with some of it. This is just a first look at the power inside SpaceClaim.

Click here for Post 2 where the Pull command is explored.

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