Help! My New HPC System is not High Performance!

It is an all too common feeling, that sinking feeling that leads to the phrase “Oh Crap” being muttered under your breath. You just spent almost a year getting management to pay for a new compute workstation, server or cluster. You did the ROI and showed an eight-month payback because of how much faster your team’s runs will be. But now you have the benchmark data on real models, and they are not good. “Oh Crap”

Although a frequent problem, and the root causes are often the same, the solutions can very. In this posting I will try and share with you what our IT and ANSYS technical support staff here at PADT have learned.

Hopefully this article can help you learn what to do to avoid or circumvent any future or current pitfalls if you order an HPC system. PADT loves numerical simulation, we have been doing this for twenty years now. We enjoy helping, and if you are stuck in this situation let us know.

Wall Clock Time

It is very easy to get excited about clock speeds, bus bandwidth, and disk access latency. But if you are solving large FEA or CFD models you really only care about one thing. Wall Clock Time. We cannot tell you how many times we have worked with customers, hardware vendors, and sometimes developers, who get all wrapped up in the optimization of one little aspect of the solving process. The problem with this is that high performance computing is about working in a system, and the system is only as good as its weakest link.

We see people spend thousands on disk drives and high speed disk controllers but come to discover that their solves are CPU bound, adding better disk drives makes no difference. We also see people blow their budget on the very best CPU’s but don’t invest in enough memory to solve their problems in-core. This often happens because when they look at benchmark data they look at one small portion and maximize that measurement, when that measurement often doesn’t really matter.

The fundamental thing that you need to keep in mind while ordering or fixing an HPC system for numerical simulation is this: all that matters is how long it takes in the real world from when you click “Solve” till your job is finished. I bring this up first because it is so fundamental, and so often ignored.

The Causes

As mentioned above, an HPC server or cluster is a system made up of hardware, software, and people who support it. And it is only as good as its weakest link. The key to designing or fixing your HPC system is to look at it as a system, find the weakest links, and improve that links performance. (OK, who remembers the “Weakest Link” lady? You know you kind of miss her…)

In our experience we have found that the cause for most poorly performing systems can be grouped into one of these categories:

  • Unbalanced System for the Problems Being Solved:

    One of the components in the system cannot keep up with the others. This can be hardware or software. More often than not it is the hardware being used. Let’s take a quick look at several gotchas in a misconfigured numerical simulation machine.

  • I/O is a Bottleneck
    Number crunching, memory, and storage are only as fast as the devices that transfer data between them.
  • Configured Wrong

    Out of simple lack of experience the wrong hardware is used, the OS settings are wrong, or drivers are not configured properly.

  • Unnecessary Stuff Added out of Fear

    People tend to overcompensate out of fear that something bad might happen, so they burden a system with software and redundant hardware to avoid a one in a hundred chance of failure, and slow down the other ninety-nine runs in the process.

Avoiding an Expensive Medium Performance Computing (MPC) System

The key to avoiding these situations is to work with an expert who knows the hardware AND the software, or become that expert yourself. That starts with reading the ANSYS documentation, which is fairly complete and detailed.

Often times your hardware provider will present themselves as the expert, and their heart may be in the right place. But only a handful of hardware providers really understand HPC for simulation. Most simply try and sell you the “best” configuration you can afford and don’t understand the causes of poor performance listed above. More often than we like, they sell a system that is great for databases, web serving, or virtual machines. That is not what you need.

A true numerical simulation hardware or software expert should ask you questions about the following, if they don’t, you should move on:

  • What solver will you use the most?
  • What is more important, cost or performance? Or better: Where do you want to be on the cost vs. performance curve?
  • How much scratch space do you need during a solve? How much storage do you need for the files you keep from a run?
  • How will you be accessing the systems, sending data back and forth, and managing your runs?

Another good test of an expert is if you have both FEA and CFD needs, they should not recommend a single system for you. You may be constrained by budget, but an expert should know the difference between the two solvers vis-à-vis HPC and design separate solutions for each.

If they push virtual machines on you, show them the door.

The next thing you should do is step back and take the advice of writing instructors. Start cutting stuff. (I know, if you have read my blog posts for a while, you know I’m not practicing what I preach. But you should see the first drafts…) You really don’t need huge costly UPS’, the expensive archival backup system, or some arctic chill bubbling liquid nitrogen cooling system. Think of it as a race car, if it doesn’t make the car go faster or keep the driver safe, you don’t need it.

A hard but important step in cutting things down to the basics is to try and let go of the emotional aspect. It is in many ways like picking out a car and the truth is, the red paint job doesn’t make it go any faster, and the fancy tail pipes will look good, but also don’t help. Don’t design for the worst-case model either. If 90% of your models run in 32GB or RAM, don’t do a 128GB system for that one run you need to do a year that is that big. Suffer a slow solve on that one and use the money to get a faster CPU, a better disk array, or maybe a second box.

Pull back, be an engineer, and just get what you need. Tape robots look cool, blinky lights and flashy plastic case covers even cooler. Do you really need that? Most of time the numerical simulation cruncher is locked up in a cold dark room. Having an intern move data to USB drives once a month may be a more practical solution.

Another aspect of cutting back is dealing with that fear thing. The most common mistake we see is people using RAID configurations for storing redundant data, not read/write speed. Turn off that redundant writing and dump across as many drives as you can in parallel, RAID 0. Yes you may lose a drive. Yes that means you lose a run. But if that happens once every six months, which is very unlikely, the lost productivity from those lost runs is small compared to the lost productivity of solving all those other runs on a slow disk array.

Intel-AMD-Flunet-Part2-Chart2Lastly, benchmark. This is obvious but often hard to do right. The key is to find real problems that represent a spectrum of the runs you plan on doing. Often different runs, even within the same solver, have different HPC needs. It is a good idea to understand which are more common and bias your design to those. Do not benchmark with standard benchmarks, use industry accepted benchmarks for numerical simulation. Yes it’s an amazing feeling knowing that your new cluster is number 500 on the Top 500 list. However if it is number 5000 on the ANSYS Numerical simulation benchmark list nobody wins.

Fixing the System You Have

As of late we have started tearing down clusters in numerous companies around the US. Of course we would love to sell you new hardware however at PADT, as mentioned before, we love numerical simulation. Fixing your current system may allow you to stretch that investment another year or more. As a co-owner of a twenty year old company, this makes me feel good about that initial investment. When we sick our IT team on extending the life of one of our systems, I start thinking about and planning for that next $150k investment we will need to do in a year or more.

Breathing new life into your existing hardware basically requires almost the same steps as avoiding a bad system in the first place. PADT has sent our team around the country helping companies breath new life into their existing infrastructure. The steps they use are the same but instead of designing stuff, we change things. Work with an expert, start cutting stuff out, breath new life into the growing old hardware, avoid fear and “cool factor” based choices, and verify everything.

Take a look and understand the output from your solvers, there is a lot of data in there. As an example, here is an article we wrote describing some of those hidden gems within your numerical simulation outputs. http://www.padtinc.com/blog/the-focus/ansys-mechanical-io-bound-cpu-bound

Play with things, see what helps and what hurts. It may be time to bring in an outside expert to look at things with fresh eyes.

Do not be afraid to push back against what IT is suggesting, unless you are very fortunate, they probably don’t have the same understanding as you do when it comes to numerical simulation computing. They care about security and minimizing the cost of maintaining systems. They may not be risk takers and they don’t like non-standard solutions. All of these can often result in a system that is configured for IT, and not fast numerical simulation solves. You may have to bring in senior management to solve this issue.

PADT is Here to Help

Cube_Logo_Target1The easiest way to avoid all of this is to simply purchase your HPC hardware from PADT.  We know simulation, we know HPC, and we can translate between engineers and IT.  This is simply because simulation is what we do, and have done since 1994.   We can configure the right system to meet your needs, at that point on the price performance curve you want.  Our CUBE systems also come preloaded and tested with your simulation software, so you don’t have to worry about getting things to work once the hardware shows up.

If you already have a system or are locked in to a provider, we are still here to help.  Our system architects can consult over the phone or in person, bringing their expertise to the table on fixing existing systems or spec’ing new ones.  In fact, the idea for this article came when our IT manager was reconfiguring a customer’s “name brand” cluster here in Phoenix, and he got a call from a user in the Midwest that had the exact same problem.  Lots of expensive hardware, and disappointing performance. They both had the wrong hardware for their problems, system bottlenecks, and configuration issues.

Learn more on our HPC Server and Cluster Performance Tuning page, or by contacting us. We would love to help out. It is what we like to do and we are good at it.

ANSYS & 3D Printing: Converting your ANSYS Mechanical or MAPDL Model into an STL File

image3D printing is all the rage these days.  PADT has been involved in what should be called Additive Manufacturing since our founding twenty years ago.  So people in the ANSYS world often come to us for advice on things 3D Printer’ish.  And last week we got an email asking if we had a way to convert a deformed mesh into a STL file that can be used to print that deformed geometry.  This email caused neurons to fire that had not fired in some time. I remembered writing something but it was a long time ago.

Fortunately I have Google Desktop on my computer so I searched for ans2stl, knowing that I always called my translators ans2nnn of some kind. There it was.  Last updated in 2001, written in maybe 1995. C.  I guess I shouldn’t complain, it could have been FORTRAN. The notes say that the program has been successfully tested on Windows NT. That was a long time ago.

So I dusted it off and present it here as a way to get results from your ANSYS Mechanical or ANSYS Mechanical APDL model as a deformed STL file.

UPDATE – 7/8/2014

Since this article was written, we have done some more work with STL files. This Macro works fine on a tetrahedral mesh, but if you have hex elements, it won’t work – it assumes triangles on the face.  It also requires a macro and some ‘C’ code, which is an extra pain. So we wrote a more generic macro that works with Hex or Tet meshes, and writes the file directly. It can be a bit slow but no annoyingly slow.  We recommend you use this method instead of the ones outlined below.

Here is the macro:  writstl.zip

The Process

An STL file is basically a faceted representation of geometry. Triangles on the surface of your model. So to get an STL file of an FEA model, you simply need to generate triangles on your mesh face, write them out to a file, and convert them to an STL format.  If you want deformed geometry, simply use the UPGEOM command to move your nodes to the deformed position.

The Program

Here is the source code for the windows version of the program:

/*
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

 PADT--------------------------------------------------- Phoenix Analysis &
                                                        Design Technologies

---------------------------------------------------------------------------
                             www.padtinc.com
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

       Package: ans2stl

          File: ans2stl.c
          Args: rootname
        Author: Eric Miller, PADT
		(480) 813-4884 
		eric.miller@padtinc.com

	Simple program that takes the nodes and elements from the
	surface of an ANSYS FE model and converts it to a binary
	STL file.

	USAGE:
		Create and ANSYS surface mesh one of two ways:
			1: amesh the surface with triangles
			2: esurf an existing mesh with triangles
         	Write the triangle surface mesh out with nwrite/ewrite
		Run ans2stl with the rootname of the *.node and *.elem files
		   as the only argument
		This should create a binary STL file

	ASSUMPTIONS:
		The ANSYS elements are 4 noded shells (MESH200 is suggested)
		in triangular format (nodes 3 and 4 the same)

		This code has been succesfully compiled and tested
		on WindowsNT

		NOTE: There is a known issue on UNIX with byte order
				Please contact me if you need a UNIX version

	COMPILE:
		gcc -o ans2stl_win ans2stl_win.c

       10/31/01:       Cleaned up for release to XANSYS and such
       1/13/2014:	Yikes, its been 12+ years. A little update 
       			and publish on The Focus blog
			Checked it to see if it works with Windows 7. 
			It still compiles with GCC just fine.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------
PADT, Inc. provides this software to the general public as a curtesy.
Neither the company or its employees are responsible for the use or
accuracy of this software.  In short, it is free, and you get what
you pay for.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
*/
/*======================================================

   SAMPLE ANSYS INPUT DECK THAT SHOWS USAGE

finish
/clear
/file,a2stest
/PREP7  
!----------
! Build silly geometry
BLC4,-0.6,0.35,1,-0.75,0.55 
SPH4,-0.8,-0.4,0.45 
CON4,-0.15,-0.55,0.05,0.35,0.55 
VADD,all
!------------------------
! Mesh surface with non-solved (MESH200) triangles
et,1,200,4
MSHAPE,1,2D   ! Use triangles for Areas
MSHKEY,0      ! Free mesh
SMRTSIZE,,,,,5
AMESH,all
!----------------------
! Write out nodes and elements
nwrite,a2stest,node
ewrite,a2stest,elem
!--------------------
! Execute the ans2stl program
/sys,ans2stl_win.exe a2stest

======================================================= */

#include 
#include 
#include 

typedef struct vertStruct *vert;
typedef struct facetStruct *facets;
typedef struct facetListStruct *facetList;

        int     ie[8][999999];
        float   coord[3][999999];
        int	np[999999];

struct vertStruct {
  float	x,y,z;
  float	nx,ny,nz;
  int  ivrt;
  facetList	firstFacet;
};

struct facetListStruct {
  facets	facet;
  facetList	next;
};

struct facetStruct {
  float	xn,yn,zn;
  vert	v1,v2,v3;
};

facets	theFacets;
vert	theVerts;

char	stlInpFile[80];
float	xmin,xmax,ymin,ymax,zmin,zmax;
float   ftrAngle;
int	nf,nv;  

void swapit();
void readBin();
void getnorm();
long readnodes();
long readelems();

/*--------------------------------*/
main(argc,argv)
     int argc;
     char *argv[];
{
  char nfname[255];
  char efname[255];
  char sfname[255];
  char s4[4];
  FILE	*sfile;
  int	nnode,nelem,i,i1,i2,i3;
  float	xn,yn,zn;

  if(argc <= 1){
        puts("Usage:  ans2stl file_root");
        exit(1);
  }
  sprintf(nfname,"%s.node",argv[1]);
  sprintf(efname,"%s.elem",argv[1]);
  sprintf(sfname,"%s.stl",argv[1]);

  nnode = readnodes(nfname);
  nelem = readelems(efname);
  nf = nelem;

  sfile = fopen(sfname,"wb");
  fwrite("PADT STL File, Solid Binary",80,1,sfile);
  swapit(&nelem,s4);    fwrite(s4,4,1,sfile);

  for(i=0;i<nelem;i++){ 
      i1 = np[ie[0][i]];
      i2 = np[ie[1][i]];
      i3 = np[ie[2][i]];
      getnorm(&xn,&yn,&zn,i1,i2,i3);

      swapit(&xn,s4);	fwrite(s4,4,1,sfile);
      swapit(&yn,s4);	fwrite(s4,4,1,sfile);
      swapit(&zn,s4);	fwrite(s4,4,1,sfile);

      swapit(&coord[0][i1],s4);	fwrite(s4,4,1,sfile);
      swapit(&coord[1][i1],s4);	fwrite(s4,4,1,sfile);
      swapit(&coord[2][i1],s4);	fwrite(s4,4,1,sfile);

      swapit(&coord[0][i2],s4);	fwrite(s4,4,1,sfile);
      swapit(&coord[1][i2],s4);	fwrite(s4,4,1,sfile);
      swapit(&coord[2][i2],s4);	fwrite(s4,4,1,sfile);

      swapit(&coord[0][i3],s4);	fwrite(s4,4,1,sfile);
      swapit(&coord[1][i3],s4);	fwrite(s4,4,1,sfile);
      swapit(&coord[2][i3],s4);	fwrite(s4,4,1,sfile);
      fwrite(s4,2,1,sfile);
  }
  fclose(sfile);
    puts(" ");
  printf("  STL Data Written to %s.stl \n",argv[1]);
    puts("  Done!!!!!!!!!");
  exit(0);
}

void  getnorm(xn,yn,zn,i1,i2,i3)
	float	*xn,*yn,*zn;
	int	i1,i2,i3;
{
	float	v1[3],v2[3];
	int	i;

        for(i=0;i<3;i++){
	  v1[i] = coord[i][i3] - coord[i][i2];
	  v2[i] = coord[i][i1] - coord[i][i2];
	}

	*xn = (v1[1]*v2[2]) - (v1[2]*v2[1]);
	*yn = (v1[2]*v2[0]) - (v1[0]*v2[2]);
	*zn = (v1[0]*v2[1]) - (v1[1]*v2[0]);
}
long readelems(fname)
        char    *fname;
{
        long num,i;
        FILE *nfile;
        char    string[256],s1[7];

        num = 0;
        nfile = fopen(fname,"r");
		if(!nfile){
			puts(" error on element file open, bye!");
			exit(1);
		}
        while(fgets(string,86,nfile)){
          for(i=0;i<8;i++){
            strncpy(s1,&string[6*i],6);
            s1[6] = '\0';
            sscanf(s1,"%d",&ie[i][num]);
          }
          num++;
        }

        printf("Number of element read: %d\n",num);
        return(num);
}

long readnodes(fname)
        char	*fname;
{
        FILE    *nfile;
        long     num,typeflag,nval,ifoo;
        char    string[256];

        num = 0;
        nfile = fopen(fname,"r");
		if(!nfile){
			puts(" error on node file open, bye!");
			exit(1);

		}
        while(fgets(string,100,nfile)){
          sscanf(string,"%d ",&nval);
          switch(nval){
            case(-888):
                typeflag = 1;
            break;
            case(-999):
                typeflag = 0;
            break;
            default:
                np[nval] = num;
                if(typeflag){
                        sscanf(string,"%d %g %g %g",
                           &ifoo,&coord[0][num],&coord[1][num],&coord[2][num]);
                }else{
                        sscanf(string,"%d %g %g %g",
                           &ifoo,&coord[0][num],&coord[1][num],&coord[2][num]);
                        fgets(string,81,nfile);
                }
num++;
            break;
        }

        }
        printf("Number of nodes read %d\n",num);
        return(num);

}

/* A Little ditty to swap the byte order, STL files are for DOS */
void swapit(s1,s2)
     char s1[4],s2[4];
{
  s2[0] = s1[0];
  s2[1] = s1[1];
  s2[2] = s1[2];
  s2[3] = s1[3];
}

ans2stl_win_2014_01_28.zip

Creating the Nodes and Elements

I’ve created a little example macro that can be used to make an STL of deformed geometry.  If you do not want the deformed geometry, simply remove or comment out the UPGEOM command.  This macro is good for MAPDL or ANSYS Mechanical, just comment out the last line  to use it with MAPDL:

et,999,200,4

type,999

esurf,all

finish ! exit whatever preprocessor your in

! move the RST file to a temp file for the UPCOORD. Comment out if you want

! the original geometry

/copy,file,rst,,stl_temp,rst

/prep7 ! Go in to PREP7

et,999,200,4 ! Create a dummy triangle element type, non-solved (200)

type,999 ! Make it the active type

esurf,all ! Surface mesh your model

!

! Update the geometry to the deformed shape

! The first argument is the scale factor, adjust to the appropriate level

! Comment this line out if you don’t want deformed geometry

upgeom,1000,,,stl_temp,rst

!

esel,type,999 ! Select those new elements

nelem ! Select the nodes associated with them

nwrite,stl_temp,node ! write the node file

ewrite,stl_temp,elem ! Write the element file

! Run the program to convert

! This assumes your executable in in c:\temp. If not, change to the proper

! location

/sys,c:\temp\ans2stl_win.exe stl_temp

! If this is a ANSYS Mechanical code snippet, then copy the resulting STL file up to

! the root directory for the project

! For MAPDL, Comment this line out.

/copy,stl_temp,stl,,stl_temp,stl,..\..

An Example

To prove this out using modern computing technology (remember, last time I used this was in 2001) I brought up my trusty valve body model and slammed 5000 lbs on one end, holding it on the top flange.  I then inserted the Commands object into the post processing branch:

image

When the model is solved, that command object will get executed after ANSYS is done doing all of its post processing, creating an STL of the deformed geometry. Here is what it looks like in the output file. You can see what it looks like when APDL executes the various commands:

/COPY FILE FROM FILE= file.rst

TO FILE= stl_temp.rst

FILE file.rst COPIED TO stl_temp.rst

1

***** ANSYS – ENGINEERING ANALYSIS SYSTEM RELEASE 15.0 *****

ANSYS Multiphysics

65420042 VERSION=WINDOWS x64 08:39:44 JAN 14, 2014 CP= 22.074

valve_stl–Static Structural (A5)

Note – This ANSYS version was linked by Licensee

***** ANSYS ANALYSIS DEFINITION (PREP7) *****

ELEMENT TYPE 999 IS MESH200 3-NODE TRIA MESHING FACET

KEYOPT( 1- 6)= 4 0 0 0 0 0

KEYOPT( 7-12)= 0 0 0 0 0 0

KEYOPT(13-18)= 0 0 0 0 0 0

CURRENT NODAL DOF SET IS UX UY UZ

THREE-DIMENSIONAL MODEL

ELEMENT TYPE SET TO 999

GENERATE ELEMENTS ON SURFACE DEFINED BY SELECTED NODES

TYPE= 999 REAL= 1 MATERIAL= 1 ESYS= 0

NUMBER OF ELEMENTS GENERATED= 13648

USING FILE stl_temp.rst

THE SCALE FACTOR HAS BEEN SET TO 1000.0

USING FILE stl_temp.rst

ESEL FOR LABEL= TYPE FROM 999 TO 999 BY 1

13648 ELEMENTS (OF 43707 DEFINED) SELECTED BY ESEL COMMAND.

SELECT ALL NODES HAVING ANY ELEMENT IN ELEMENT SET.

6814 NODES (OF 53895 DEFINED) SELECTED FROM

13648 SELECTED ELEMENTS BY NELE COMMAND.

WRITE ALL SELECTED NODES TO THE NODES FILE.

START WRITING AT THE BEGINNING OF FILE stl_temp.node

6814 NODES WERE WRITTEN TO FILE= stl_temp.node

WRITE ALL SELECTED ELEMENTS TO THE ELEMENT FILE.

START WRITTING AT THE BEGINNING OF FILE stl_temp.elem

Using Format = 14(I6)

13648 ELEMENTS WERE WRITTEN TO FILE= stl_temp.elem

SYSTEM=

c:\temp\ans2stl_win.exe stl_temp

Number of nodes read 6814

Number of element read: 13648

STL Data Written to stl_temp.stl

Done!!!!!!!!!

/COPY FILE FROM FILE= stl_temp.stl

TO FILE= ..\..\stl_temp.stl

FILE stl_temp.stl COPIED TO ..\..\stl_temp.stl

image

The resulting STL file looks great:

image

I use MeshLab to view my STL files because… well it is free.  Do note that the mesh looks coarser.  This is because the ANSYS mesh uses TETS with midside nodes.  When those faces get converted to triangles those midside nodes are removed, so you do get a coarser looking model.

And after getting bumped from the queue a couple of times by “paying” jobs, our RP group printed up a nice FDM version for me on one of our Stratasys uPrint Plus machines:

image

It’s kind of hard to see, so I went out to the parking lot and recorded a short video of the part, twisting it around a bit:

Here is the ANSYS Mechanical project archive if you want to play with it yourself.

Other Things to Consider

Using FE Modeler

You can use FE Modeler in a couple of different ways with STL files. First off, you can read an STL file made using the method above. If you don’t have an STL preview tool, it is an easy way to check your distorted mesh.  Just chose STL as the input file format:

image

You get this:

image

If you look back up at the open dialog you will notice that it reads a bunch of mesh formats. So one thing you could do instead of using my little program, is use FE Modeler to make your STL.  Instead of executing the program with a /SYS command, simply use a CDWRITE,DB command and then read the resulting *.CDB file into FE Modeler.  To write out the STL, just set the “Target System” to STL and then click “Write Solver File”

image

You may know, or may have noticed in the image above, that FE Modeler can read other FEA meshes.  So if you are using some other FEA package, which you should not, then you can make an STL file in FE Modeler as well.

Color Contours

The next obvious question is how do I get my color contours on the plot. Right now we don’t have that type of printer here at PADT, but I believe that the dominant 3D Color printer out, the former Z-Corp and now 3D Systems machines, will read ANSYS results files. Stratasys JUST announced a new color 3D Printer that makes usable parts. Right now they don’t have a way to do contours, but as soon as they do we will publish something.

Another option is to use a /SHOW,vrml option and then convert that to STL with the color information.

Scaling

Scaling is something you should think about. Not only the scaling on your deformed geometry, but the scaling on your model for printing.  Units can be tricky with STL files so make sure you check your model size before you print.

Smoother STL Surfaces

Your FEA mesh may be kind of coarse and the resulting STL file is even coarser because of the whole midside node thing.  Most of the smoothing tools out there will also get rid of sharp edges, so you don’t want those. Your best best is to refine your mesh or using a tool like Geomagic.

Making a CAD Model from my Deformed Mesh

Perhaps you stumbled on this posting not wanting to print your model. Maybe you want a CAD model of your deformed geometry.  You would use the same process, and then use Geomagic Studio.  It actually works very well and give you a usable CAD model when you are done.

Microloaning with Kiva

kiva_121x64

We just updated our loans on www.KIVA.com, a microloan website that PADT has been a member of since 2007.

Kiva-loans-2014_01_29

Kiva takes very small loans from people, pools them together, and makes  small loans to entrepreneurs around the world.  It is a great way to make a big difference in someones life with a small donation.

You know how much we love numbers here at PADT, so here are some about our Kiva loan activity:

Attention: The internal data of table “1” is corrupted!

It is interesting to read the little loan pages and understand a bit about what the applicants are trying to do and where they are coming from. You can see our loans on our lending page:

www.kiva.org/lender/padtinc

At first $1,500 seemed like a lot of money, but over the years it has gone a long way.  Who would have thought we would be involved in pig farming in the Philippines, a Peruvian Beauty Parlor, or a Cafe in Albania?

If you want to try it, make a loan through this invitation link.  When you make a loan, $25 gets added to PADT’s loan pool.

www.kiva.org/invitedby/padtinc

 

PADT Hosts Lunch and Learn: Living in an Engineered World

PADT was pleased to host an Arizona Technology Council (AZTC) Lunch and Learn today.

EngineeringWorldTalk

The topic, “Living in an Engineered World: A look at the Impact of the Engineering Process on all Aspects of Business and How to Take Advantage of It,” attracted a diverse crowd of business owners, educators, salespeople, and others.

The gist of the talk was presented by Eric Miller, one of PADT’s owners,  advanced the theory that humans live in a world that is engineered by humans, and that one can benefit by viewing most aspects of business and life from an engineering frame of reference. It also stressed the importance of process and process optimization in today’s world, as well as the need to understand how people make decisions based on their value propositions.

The talk was followed by a lively question and answer sessions that was in some ways more thought provoking than the presentation.

a3 a2 a1

If you would like to learn more, contact eric.miller@padtinc.com.

Usable Color 3D Printed Parts Now Available with Stratasys Objet500 Connex3

We have been waiting for this day for a long time.  There have been 3D Printers out there that do multiple colors, but let’s be frank, the parts were not very strong.  Nice to look at, but not much else.

This weekend Stratasys announced the Objet500 Connex3 machine.  Based on the proven Object500 Connex this multi-material platform allows the user to use three materials, giving you a choice of 46 colors for each build.  That includes transparent material with color tinting!  You can also still mix rubber and ABS like materials.

Objet 500 machine with man and multi material 3D printed shoes

We will have more to report on this in the coming weeks, but we just wanted to get the word out: Usable Color Prototyping is here and it is bright.

If you have an immediate need, or just want to learn more, contact PADT at 480.813.4884 or shoot an email to sales@padtinc.com.

Blue glasses with tinted lenses and black rubber parts Untitled-1

PADT’s team was able to see parts made on the new device at a recent Stratasys gathering. Then they had to keep their mouths shut for two weeks.  That was hard. These parts are high-quality prototypes like you would expect from the Objet technology. But now in color.  Bright brilliant color on strong parts.  This is what many of us have been waiting for.

Here are some links to get your appetite whetted:

(Yes to our ANSYS readers. We are working on a way to get this to print results)

Customers in the News: Space Data Corp Demonstrates Communications Balloon at Near Space Alliance

CaptureIt is always great to see PADT customers in the news.  This past weekend, January 25, 2014, our long time customer Space Data Corp. launched “a 15-foot latex balloon to carry communications equipment aloft to above 65,000 feet to relay voice and data over a 600-mile range.”  This was at a meeting of the Arizona Near Space Technology Alliance, an organization we suspect may have more PADT customers as members.

Read about it here, or watch the video.

space-data-baloon

The article also points out the two of our local US Representatives, Kyrsten Sinema (D) and Matt Salmon (R) were there.  It was great to see actual bi-partisan support for local business and technology.

PADT has been providing Space Data with design, simulation, prototyping, and manufacturing consulting help since about the time the company was founded.  The company was an early adopter of the extensive use of rapid prototyping in the design and test of their systems, long before it was considered cool and called 3D Printing.

Every time we see one of their balloons go up, we feel proud to have contributed to their growth and success.

 

Press Release: PADT and M-Tech Industries to Highlight Fluid-Thermal System Modeling for Mining with Flownex at 2014 SME Annual Meeting and Exhibit

987786-Flownex-SME-2014_Mine-Simulation-3We are very excited about the upcoming 2014 SME Annual Meeting and Exhibit in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Not only is this in our very own back yard (or is it our front or side yard?) it is a great place for us to show off Flownex Simulation Environment and how useful it is for simulation mining systems. Besides promoting Flownex, we will hae a booth in the exhibit area and we will be presenting a paper on some work we did with ANSYS software for mining.  Last years show in Denver was a great experience and we know this years will be as well.

To promote the event and Flownex usage in the industry, we just published the following press release:

image

The release is accompanied by two great videos that Stephen did showing the usage of Flownex on some real mining problems.

Part 1

Part 2

Also, don’t forget that we still have room in our free Denver, Colorado Introduction to Flownex Class.

As always with Flownex, contact Roy Haynie (roy.haynie@padtinc.com) to learn more.

Submit your Video Response to “What does PADT Mean to Me?”

PADt-20-Logo-Rect-500wWhen you have been doing something for 20 years, you sometimes loose track of the impact your efforts have on others.  So we came up with the idea that we should ask our customers, employees, vendors, family, friends, etc… to give us their response to the question: “What does PADT Mean to Me?”

We have prepared a very short, and somewhat silly, video explaining the concept:

Please email your submission to info@padtinc.com.  It does not have to be fancy, we just need to hear you clearly.  Please let us know what name you want us to use with your clip and if we can mention your company.  We would like to have all submissions by March 14, so that give everyone plenty of time to come up with something fun/creative/meaningful.

We will share the results at our 20th Anniversary party and on YouTube.  If we get enough early entries, we will put together a sample video to hopefully inspire others, so don’t wait to get yours submitted.

We will be posting more information on our Anniversary here in this blog.  You can find all of them by searching for #padt20.

#padt20

20th Anniversary Comments on PADT

PADt-20-Logo-Rect-500wWe are creating this blog posting for one simple reason:  As we reflect and celebrate twenty years of being in business, we want to hear from our customers, vendors, partners, and friends.

What would you like to share with the world about PADT?  A story?  An observation?  Even a criticism. We want to know what people think about this company with the funny FLA name.

Please leave your thoughts in the comments below, we can’t wait to hear from everyone.

This is the first of many blog/social media posts that we will be sending out as we reflect and celebrate the past 20 years. All will be tagged with #padt20.

Wohlers Associates Lists Top 3D Printing News of 2013

Wohlers Associates just blogged their list of the top news stories for 2013 in 3D Printing.  It is worth a read to look beyond the hype we have seen this year and focus on the stories that will be having an impact in the future:

http://wohlersassociates.com/blog/2014/01/top-3d-printing-developments-in-2013/

As a Stratasys distributor and provider of additive manufacturing services, PADT can attest to the importance of the stories listed.  The first one, the GE Fuel Nozzle, had an especially significant impact on the world of commercial additive manufacturing, especially with the Aerospace customers we work with.  In many ways, GE’s move was the tipping point for metal additive manufacturing and for companies to really look at AM as an end part manufacturing solution.

2014 is already shaping up to be a big year.  We expect to see consolidation and a weeding out in the consumer and prosumer 3D printer market, better material options across all of the technologies, and more adoption of the technology in new industries and applications.

Wholers Associates has been consulting in additive manufacturing for over 27 years and is PADT’s go-to resource for what is really going on in the AM world.

Two New Job Openings at PADT: Utah Sales and IT Engineer

SONY DSCWE ARE HIRING!

PADT is starting 2014 off strong with lots of work ahead  of us.  One manifestation of this is that we are hiring for four positions, including two new positions that we just opened up this week.  Please take a look at our openings and see if they are a good fit for you, or someone you know. We have posted them in the usual places but some of our best employees have been found by word of mouth and recommendations. You can find all of our openings at any time on our website at: www.padtinc.com/about/careers.html

IT Support Engineer

CUBE-HVPC-512-core-service1-1000h_thumb.jpg

As a company focused on computer aided engineering, PADT has significant computer and network infrastructure.  With the recent growth in sales of our line of CUBE HVPC computers for simulation users, growth in business across our company, and a new initiative that we will announce this spring, our IT staff is stretched thin. Read the job description to learn more and apply yourself, or please pass this along to anyone you think might be a good fit.  This is a great chance for an experienced and talented IT professional who may be at a large company, to move to a small company environment but still work on leading edge technology.

Sales Executive, Additive Manufacturing, Utah

Stratasys_eden350_350wWe are in need of a new salesperson to represent Stratasys additive manufacturing (3D Printing) systems in Utah.  PADT has been laying the foundation for success in the state for a few years now and we are seeing strong potential sales for 2014, we just need to right person to keep growing the territory and to close the existing pipeline.  Learn more about becoming part of this revolutionary change in manufacturing by learning about the job here.

And don’t forget that we still have two other openings from the end of last year.  We have some good prospects on both but we were so busy that we did not have time to really act on them.  So there is still time to get new resumes submitted:

Experienced CFD Analysis Engineer
Electrical Engineer/Project Lead 

PADT’s Arizona Holiday Party: Celebrating 2013 and Looking Forward to 2014

photo 3Another year is winding down to a close and PADT’s Arizona staff gathered in Chandler for our annual holiday party. It is always nice to step outside of the cubical and talk with co-worker’s spouses, employees you don’t get to talk with at work, and even with the people you do spend all day with, but in a festive setting. We had already had dinners in Albuquerque and Denver, so it was now time for the bulk of the company to celebrate and reflect.

12191318392013 has been a great year for PADT.  We saw good growth across all of our businesses, doing more business with existing customers and adding a number of new customers.  Our core Simulation, Product Development, and Rapid Manufacturing business all so new and exciting growth. Some highlights include:

  • Growing sales of Flownex for thermal-fluid simulation and CUBE systems for HPC
  • Several key new ANSYS, Inc. product customers have joined our user community
  • An explosion in interest in 3D Printing and the line of systems that PADT sells that resulted in a record number of new customers.
  • We saw significant growth in Product development with several large jobs started and a few others completed.  A typical project was the SPOT Gen3 Satellite GPS Messenger.
  • The recent merger between Stratasys and Objet enabled PADT to begin offering PolyJet additive manufacturing systems.
  • We opened an office in Albuquerque, New Mexico, our second satellite office. We also moved into a larger facility in Littleton, Colorado.

After dinner we read this years gift exchange story… which maybe went a little long. But everyone ended up with something new and exciting to take home (and perhaps re-gift). The evening of great food and conversation was topped off with a little Info about Leicester race course and some recreational gambling. It turns out that some of us are luckier than others… and most of us still don’t really know how to play craps.

photo 1

As we cashed in our chips (those that still had chips) and gathered our gift-exchange presents (a talking Sheldon doll was this years big hit) many of us commented on how excited we are about 2014. Many of the investments that PADT has made in the past are starting to pay off and 2014 is looking to be a fantastic experience.

We wish all of you reading this a very Joyous Holiday Season and a peaceful and profitable 2014!

Christmas Right–Left Gift Exchange Story: SciFi Style

For our Christmas parties at PADT we generally have over 40 employees so a traditional secret Santa gift exchange takes to long. So a couple of years ago we downloaded a right-left gift exchange story from the internet and it was a big hit. We ran out of stories on the internet, so we started writing our own, usually in some sort of over-the-top style.  This year we may have gone way over the top with a SciFi story that involves an alien scouting party visiting  a new planet.  I got a little carried away and it is a bit long.

If you have never played this game before it is simple. Everyone gets their gift and forms a big circle in the middle of the room.  Someone with a strong voice reads the story and every the world LEFT is read, everyone passes the package they have to the left. Every time the world RIGHT is read, everyone passes the package they have to their right.  You should pause a bit at each LEFT/RIGHT to give people a chance to pass.  This year I also added a twist.  When you use the word TURN, everyone needs to spin 180 degrees.  Added complexity can make it more fun… or not.

We hope you get as many laughs out of it as we did.

You can find our Film Noir style story from last year here and a trashy Romance style story here.

BookCover

 

Winter’s Night Rediscovered

Left to their own devices, the Zalaks will in general, wonder right around the galaxy.  Captain F’Tool G’K’Right and his right hand man, and nestmate, leftenent P’Turn N’Tuk were lucky enough to have a job where they were paid to wonder around the galaxy.  It left them both with a sense of true satisfaction and a feeling that could only rightly be described as joy.

“P’Turn, where are we Right now?” asked captain G’K’Right. “Right now… let me see” muttered N’Tuk as he stared as his navigation console.  “We are approaching an inhabited planet referred to as Earth in the dominant language.”

G’K’Right asked: “Technological Status?”

“They appear to be right in the middle of the standard computational revolution, having just left a short nuclear period wherein the majority of the planet appears to have been left untouched by thermonuclear conflict” answered leftenent N’Tuk.  “Where should we land for our initial investigation?”

Captain G’K’Right tapped his right temple with his right foreclaw.  “hmmm…. This should not be left to chance, I think we should land in an uninhabited spot, right here” he said pointing at the nav screen with the same right foreclaw “right on top of the planet on this ice cap.”

“Right sir!” responded N’Tuk.  “Turning on landing engines, setting course left 237, right 124”

The ship shook violently, left to right, forward to aft, as it descended through the atmosphere of the planet.  Soon the ship slowed and stopped right above a huge ice ridge, looking down into a valley that should have been just snow. The crew looked at the right view screen, which showed sensor data.  It registered the expected uninhabited snow covered valley. But right there in front of them, on the left view screen, which showed a visual image, they were left with no doubt. The valley was filled, from left to right,  with a sprawling village.

The view left the captain stunned.  “Turn off the landing engines and set down right here. Leftenent N’Tuk, we are left with no choice but to go out and explore this anomaly with our left, right, and center eyes!”

A short time later the landing party stood in a large open square.  Their initial exploration had left them with the impression that the village had recently been abandoned.  They had also discovered that right beneath their tentacles was a huge industrial complex that was capable of manufacturing a staggering amount and variety of items.  It too had been recently left abandoned.

Captain G’K’Right looked around the square.  In the center a tall pole stood, stretch right up to the bottom of the clouds, wrapped in red and green stripes arranged in a right-handed spiral.  To the left of the pole, someone had left a pile of boxes wrapped in colorful paper. On the right of the pole was a giant green plant of some type that formed a cone shape and it had green and red decorations hanging from its branches.  As G’K’Right stared at it he realized it leaned a little to the right, the imperfection of which seemed someone how right.

“Right!” said the captain “Before we turn around and get back on our ship I want to understand why our sensors still read snow but we can see and touch a complete village and a gigantic manufacturing facility.”

Leftenent N’Tuk looked up from his portable sensor array, gazed left, gazed right, then gazed left again and said “Captain, I am left with no doubt.  It turns out that this whole area has a temporal damping field that obscures all non-biological sensing.  It is as if the sensors see what was right here about 3000 orbits of this planet around the sun ago.  But what we see and touch is what is here right now. The technology required has left me amazed.  The temporal generator appears to be right there on top of that pole”

The captain was about to order the disassembly of the pole when, on the horizon to the right, he saw a bright red light.  “Set up a defensive perimeter, right now!” he ordered.

The landing team formed an arc on the left of the square behind a low wall.  As they watched, the red light got brighter and what appeared to be 9 fur covered animals pulled a large red vehicle right across the sky.  Once again the captain was amazed.

The train of animals pulling the vehicle landed right in front of them in the square, where they realized that the red light was actually coming from an organ on the very tip of the lead animals head.  Soon, a door on the right side of the red vehicle opened and out streamed bipedal creatures dressed from head to toe in green. The creatures formed a lines that stretched from the left to the… other side of the square.  When several thousand had left the vehicle, a much larger, and rounder, bipedal creature came out of the opening and strode right up to the landing party.

He began to speak and the team’s universal translator translating what it heard into an earpiece they wore in their right ears:

“Hoo Hoo Hoo. Welcome my friends to the North Pole!  I’m sorry we left no one here to great you, but right now is the only night of the year where we are not home! Ho Ho Ho!  Your timing has left us un-prepared. Ho ho ho.”

Captain F’Tool G’K’Right strode forward to greet the large but friendly alien.  And then he stopped. A memory had popped right into his head that left him wondering.  He turned to and asked his right hand man, ” P’Turn, do you think, that this might possibly… , no it can’t be right. But the more I think the more I’m left without a doubt.  Could this be S’ta C’las?” As the captain looked at his childhood nest-friend, he remembered rushing with P’Turn into the nursery room on Winter’s Night to find gifts scattered under the Winters’ Night Mushroom… and a tear of joy formed in his right eye.

He turned just in time to see the bi-pedal alien morph before his eyes and become S’ta C’las.  In the Zelak language he heard S’Ta C’las say “N’ka, N’ka, N’ka. Merry Winter’s Night to you!  F’Tool G’K’Right, you have been a good little Zelak, N’ka, N’ka, N’ka,  and I welcome you to my home, right here on earth.  I of course knew you were coming so we left you and your crew something here, right beneath this tree.”

As the landing party rejoiced and rushed forward to put their tentacle right around S’ta C’las the captain realized, with a mystical and magical creature like this for every planet left with a civilization on its surface, no matter where his travels left him, he know that in the end, no matter how bleak the situation, no matter how difficult the challenges, no matter how deep the sadness, everything would turn out… right.

A Word on Files and Evil Missing Files in ANSYS Workbench Projects

image_232A while back I did a webinar on POST26 in ANSYS Mechanical APDL and using it with ANSYS Mechanical.  You know it was a while ago because… well… it was a webinar and I have not had time to do one of those for a long chunk of time now. Anyway, as usual the files used were placed on the blog in a posting.

Last night I got an email from a student in Australia who tried to use the file and found a problem with it.  Now this was cool for a couple of reasons: 1) anytime someone from the opposite side of the earth reaches out to communicate, that is just makes my day, and 2) someone not only read the posting, but they tried to use it. Sometimes the only way we know people are using the content we create is when the find a problem.  I’ll take it.

In figuring out what was wrong I figured it might be a good time to point out some things about the file manager in ANSYS Workbench, and how using it, you can fix the problem that this project had.

Projects – A Big Directory Tree of Folders and Files

ansys-workbench-project-filesIf you ever looked at the directory your project is stored in you will see a big old tree of folders and files.  All of the info needed or created for your project are stored in this directory tree. Why? Because the briliant thing about the project page is that it is designed to take all these different programs like ANSYS Mechanical, ICEM CFD, FLUENT, CFX, etc… and allow you to interact between them in a single tool set.  In that each program was written by a different group of developers, and most of them when those developers worked at different companies, each one has its own unique file structure, files that it needs, and way of organization them.   By giving each tool its own directory in the project, you can have the legacy data structure you need, but still keep all your files in one place where the project page actually knows where to find the information it needs.

Looking at your Files

This is done with the Files View in the Workbench Project page. By default it is hidden. Just go to View on the menu and click Files so it has a check next to it:

turn-on-files-ansys-workbench

We did a post in the past explaining all the things this view does for you.  Read it here.

Fixing a Missing File

If you should get the type of error message that our Australian friend got, you can easily remedy it with the files view.   If it is missing it will show up with a big red X next to it instead of its normal icon. The whole line will in fact be red.

If you Right Mouse Button on it you will see a couple of options:

  1. Repair “filename”:  This allows you to hunt and find the missing file. It should say “Identify Missing File” or some such, but repair works too.  Click on that, find your missing file, and you are good.
  2. Remove “filename” is what you use if you don’t need the file, it is gone, and you want to get on with your life.
  3. Open Containing Folder is nice because it will take you to the folder that the file is supposed to be in. You might poke around in there and figure out what is going on.

fix-file-ansys-workbench

 

That is it.  Hopefully I made a mistake somewhere and someone from Argentina will email letting us know. I don’t believe we have been contacted by a user in Argentina.

‘Tis the Season: PADT Holiday Dinners for New Mexico and Colorado Offices

albq-xmas-13One of the best parts of having other offices is that we get to visit during the Holiday Season and have small dinners with the employees, families. (And even a lapsed employee and spouse sneak in now and then) This year we enjoyed dinner in Old Town Albuquerque with the New Mexico Staff and their Significant Others, then headed up to Denver for dinner with the Colorado Staff and family. It kind of reminds us of what it was like in the early days of PADT when we could all sit around one table. We had a great year with good growth in both states, and hope to see more people around the tables next year!

denver-xmas-13