ANSYS Technical Support Call… or a Pizza Order

We came in the other day to find this in our ANSYS Technical Support voice mail box:

Tech Support?

Pretty darn funny.  I wonder if he would take one slice if we applied cyclo-symmetric boundary conditions?

Cyclo symmetric pizza slice

Monster in the Closet: PADT Goes Live with 512 Core HVPC CUBE Cluster

imageThere is a closet in the back of PADT’s product development lab. It does not store empty boxes, old files, or obsolete hardware.  Within that closet is a monster.  Not the sort of monster that scares little children at night.  No, this is a monster that puts fear into the heart of those who try to paint high performance computing as a difficult and expensive task only to be undertaking by those who are in the priesthood.  It makes salespeople who earn fat commissions by selling consulting services and unnecessary add-ons quake in fear.

This closet holds PADT’s latest upgrade to our compute infrastructure: a 512 core CUBE HVPC Cluster.  No data center, no special consultants, no expensive add-ons. Just 512 cores chugging away at solving FLUENT and CFX problems, and pumping a large amount of heat up into the ceiling.

Here are the specifics:

CUBE C512 Columbia Class Cluster

  • 512 AMD 2.4GHz Cores (in 8 nodes, 4 sockets per node, 16 cores per socket)
  • 2TB RAM (256 GB per node of DDR3 1600 ECC RAM)
  • Raid Controller Card (1 per node)
  • 24TB Data Disk Space (3TB per node of SAS2 15k drives in RAID0)
  • Infiniband (8 Port switch, 40 Gbps)
  • 52 Port GIGE switch connected to 2 GIGE ports per node
  • 42 U Rack with thermal convection ducting (chimney)
  • Keyboard, monitor, mouse in drawer
  • CENTOS (switching to RedHat soon)

We built this system with CFD simulation in mind.  The original goal was to provide a proof of concept to expand our CUBE HVPC offering, showing that you can create a cluster of this size, with very good speed, for a price that small and medium sized companies can afford.  We also needed a way to run large problems for benchmarks in support of our ANSYS sales efforts and to provide faster technical support our FLUENT and CFX customers.  We already have a growing queue of benchmarks waiting to get into the machine.

The image above is the glamour shot.  Here is what it looks like in the closet:

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Keeping with our theme of High Value Performance Computing we stuck it into this closet that was built for telephone equipment and networking equipment back at the turn of the century when Motorola had this suite.  We were able to fit a modern rack in next to an old rack that was in there. We then used the included duct to push the air up into our ceiling space and moved the A/C ducting to duct right into the front of the units.  We did need to keep the flow going into the rack instead of into the area under the networking and telephone switches, so we used an old video game poster:

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Anyone remember Ratchet and Clank? 
Best PS2 games ever.

It works well and adds a little color to the closet.

So far our testing has shown some great numbers. Not the fastest cluster out there, but if you look at the cost, it offers incredible performance.   You could add a drive array over Infiniband, faster chips, and some redundant power. And it will run faster and more reliably, but it will cost much more.  We are cheap so we like this solution.

Oh yea, with the parts from our old CFD cluster and some new bits, we will be building a smaller mini-cluster using INTEL chips, a GPU or two, and a ton of fast disk and RAM as our FEA cluster.  Look for an update on that in a couple of months.

Interested in getting a cluster like this for you computing pleasure?  A system configured like this one will run about $150,000 (video game poster is extra). Visit our CUBE page to learn more or just shoot an email to sales@padtinc.com.  Don’t worry, we don’t sell these with sales people, someone from IT will get back with you.

The Reality of Simulation Driven Product Development

A note to our regular readers: This is not a normal Focus post. No info on how to use an obscure new ANSYS command. This may be something our regular readers (the people who do simulation) might find useful to share with their management. And maybe a CEO/CTO/COO or two might stumble across it and “see the light” that we have all been working in for years.

I’ve been involved in planning or attending a couple of what we call “C” level visits in the past month or so. A “C” level visit is where we talk with the CEO, CFO, CTO, COO, or some sort of high level executive at a company.  These visits are very different than sitting in a room with a bunch of engineers showing off what ANSYS software can do, or talking about what services PADT can offer.

In the “C” level visits we are there for two reasons. The first is to understand what the high level product development needs are for the company from a business perspective.  Once we know that, we like to articulate how the products we sell or the services we offer can help the company meet those goals faster and with less effort and cost. And when simulation fits into their needs, we talk about Simulation Driven Product Development (SDPD).

Many people in the simulation software business talk about SDPD a lot.  They use SDPD as buzz word and they surround it with buzz words: time to market, rapid product development, stage gates, decision tree, etc…  In such a discussion you talk about the vagaries of “enabling your enterprise” and “collaborative global solutions.”  All of this is oriented towards a single message: buy our tools.

The Real World

PADT is fortunate enough to not only be a company that sells simulation tools, we use them as a service to help our customers drive product development. We also use simulation to drive product development that we do here at PADT. (WAH? PADT does product development? Yes we do. And rapid prototyping. Click the links to learn more.)

Top this off with the technical support and mentoring that we offer our simulation customers and we are able to get a pretty good idea about the reality of SDPD. And that reality is that SDPD really works, it can make a huge difference in many areas.  But the reality is also that SDPD needs to be done correctly to make it effective.

Why SDPD is Effective

To understand the real world impact of SDPD you have to step back and look at what developing a product is about. There are a lot of different processes, and people get all “burn the heretic at the stake” over there particular flavor.  But they all share some common characteristics:

  1. Define what you want the product to do (specifications)
  2. Come up with and capture all of the things that define the product (design)
  3. See if you ideas work (test)
  4. Fix stuff that didn’t work (iterate)
  5. Make it (manufacture)

Every step in the process involves people asking questions and answering them.  How big, how strong, how long, how much this or that?  And each question can be answered in many different ways. Things like experience, calculations, comparison to existing solutions, statistical studies, testing, and many more.  The cost and correctness of how those questions are answered has a direct impact on the cost and speed of a development project.  Also, many studies have shown that the sooner in the schedule that you answer those questions, the more efficient your project is.

What is great about simulation is that it allows you to answer questions quickly and accurately.  Working in a virtual environment on the computer you can combine comparisons, testing, calculations, and statistics in one place with speed and very little capital investment. The fact that you can do it so fast also allows you to avoid making assumptions and simplifications that reduce the accuracy of the answer.

The most comprehensive study on the effectiveness of simulation for driving product development can be found in “The Impact of Strategic Simulation on Product Profitability” from the Aberdeen Group.  It shows that best-in-class companies across industries are companies that use simulation to drive their product development.

The study finds that:

There is no point in the design process where companies do not profit from intelligent decision-making. By integrating simulation analysis from the earliest stages of design, the Best-in-Class are able to make better decisions through the process. This enables these leaders to drive higher quality and lower cost products, as well as deliver the innovations and features that differentiate their products.

Making SDPD Effective for Your Organization

So companies make more money using simulation to drive their product development.  It would be nice if it was true that all companies that use simulation automatically see a benefit.  But we are talking about the reality of SDPD and that reality is you have to have the proper simulation tools, and you have to use them effectively.

The Right Tools

As far as tools go, you should know where I stand.  ANSYS, Inc’s products. If you are reading this you are probably an ANSYS, Inc. product user or you got this posting from someone who is.  Why are these tools the leaders across the industry? Because they have breadth and depth so you are not limited by your simulation tools, they are accurate, and they work together so you do not have to jump through hoops to work as a team.  That is really all there is to it.

If you can not use this tool set for some reason, say your senior manager is married to the competition’s local rep (which is maybe one of the few valid reasons) you still need to make sure you stay high end.  Do not cheap out on a CAD based tool or a low end tool that is “good enough for what we need.”  Anything other than a full function tool suit will limit your ability to get accurate solutions, or to model your product completely.  That $20,000 you saved will get eaten up in about a week of fumbling around trying to get useful information.

Yes these tools cost a lot more than the low cost or CAD based alternatives. But there is a reason for that.  It is the army of developers, support engineers, and product managers that work day in and day out to improve the speed, accuracy, and capability of their simulation tools.  The reality of simulation is having 80% is only good 80% of the time. When you need that extra 20% of functionality, you need it. And when you do not have it, your project bleeds cash.

Effective Application

Deciding to drive you product development with simulation: easy.  Deciding on the right tool set: a bit of work, unless you just go with ANSYS products, then it is easy.  Now you have to make it work.

This is such a big topic that we did a seminar on it about two years ago.  I’ve uploaded a PDF of the presentation if you would like more details.

The gist of it is the following four rules:

  1. Establish goals for SDPD in general and establish goals for each project that uses simulation.  Without goals it is easy to do too much simulation or to do the wrong simulation.
  2. You must have the right type of users doing the right tasks: experts and mainstream users. Also, do not turn good engineers into bad users by violating the other rules.
  3. Use the right tools. Not just the simulation software, we covered that.  You need the right hardware, the right support, and the right utility software to support your efforts.
  4. Design the right flexible process for your team and constantly improve on it.

Mainstream

I have been driving product development with simulation for over 25 years, and many people who read this blog have been doing it for longer. Once a secret of the aerospace and automotive industry, SDPD is now mainstream. We have customers that use it to design ear buds, mining equipment, coolers for organ transplants, and toys.  It is used to make almost every electronic device around us more reliable, cooler, and faster.  And we still have people that use it to design Turbine Engines, space craft, and automotive components.

In fact the industries that are long time users are increasing their seat count and the size of the computing systems.  Many that we know of are making multi-million dollar investments every year and growing that investment year over year for a simple  reason, they see results from driving more and more of their design process with simulation.

If you are not using simulation, or some portion of your company is not using simulation, than something is wrong. You or they are literally leaving money on the table and giving a competitive edge to the competition.  If you would like to learn more about how PADT and many of our customers have been successful with simulation, feel free to contact me. Or just get out there and start evangelizing something that has already been proven to work.

Seven Case Studies on Product and Medical Device Development

This morning we added the seventh case study highlighting some customer stories to PADT’s new website.  These short documents highlight a project that our product and medical device development teams worked on with a variety of customers, from Nissan to a medical device inventor. 

You can view them under the Successes portion of our website, or browse the list below:

Clearview Diagnostic TechnologyTHE WORLD’S FIRST AND ONLY FDA APPROVED TOTAL ARTIFICIAL HEART

SynCardia has chosen to work with PADT based on their ability to develop close personal relationships, to create and implement engineering solutions rapidly, and to support SynCardia’s innovative drive for our life-saving technology” — Douglas A Nutter, COO, SynCardia Systems, Inc.

SynCardia turned to PADT Medical to carry out a comprehensive series of product verification testing within a very challenging timeframe.  Continuous and successful collaboration between PADT and SynCardia professionals guaranteed the program’s success.

READ FULL STORY

Clearview Diagnostic TechnologyCLEARVIEW: A NOVEL MEDICAL MEASUREMENT DEVICE

“For the last 2 years we have worked with PADT to develop our ClearView technology. Their team has helped us with many aspects of product development and commercialization. They have been a very valuable asset and I would highly recommend them to any startup that needs to navigate the pathway to market.”— Tom Blondi, President, EPIC Research & Diagnostics

From 2010 – 2012, PADT worked with EPIC to help them develop their ClearView diagnostic technology. PADT provided engineering, quality, manufacturing, and regulatory support. During this period, EPIC was able to raise over $6 million in private investment, achieve 510(k) submission, conduct a clinical trial at a Johns Hopkins affiliate with devices delivered by PADT, and transfer the product to manufacturing with a local contract manufacturer.

READ FULL STORY

High Pressure Hydrogen Pump A COMPACT HIGH PRESSURE HYDROGEN PUMP

PADT has demonstrated strong concept creation and development testing abilities – and have done so with very short time schedules. PADT was in charge of a key component development for our Fuel Cell System, and accomplished it as planned. Owing to PADT’s challenging spirit, Nissan was able to lease the 2005 model FCV’s to some customers in the early period of 2006. In addition, Nissan has been able to continue the FCV leasing program for five years with PADT’s reliable support.— Arai Takayuki, Senior Manager, EV Systems Laboratory, Nissan Motor Company

PADT worked with Nissan for 4 years to develop a high pressure, high performance hydrogen pump. We have now delivered over 200 working systems and have supported fielded vehicles since 2006.

READ FULL STORY

Germicical Light for Tracheal TubeGERMICIDAL LIGHT FOR ENDOTRACHEAL AND TRACHEOSTOMY TUBES

The PADT experience was a positive one from my first phone conversation with them to the delivery of the end product. The engineers delivered a prototype that was exactly what I envisioned in a short 8 weeks. PADT will be my choice in the future.” — Bob Rife, R.R.T.

In 8 short weeks PADT Medical transformed a recently patented invention into a functional prototype. This novel Endotracheal Tube includes a germicidal light to reduce the risk of pneumonia in patients requiring prolonged airway intubation. This device is a good example of PADT’s ability to quickly convert an inventors ideas into a working, functional prototype.

READ FULL STORY

Portable Fuel Cell Power SupplyPORTABLE FUEL CELL POWER SUPPLY

PADT worked with PolyFuel for 18 months to develop a fuel cell based, laptop power supply that was powered from a methanol fuel stock. We started with a blank sheet and developed a POC system that included the fuel cell stack, all of the custom components and controls, and was hybridized with a Lithium-ion battery pack. During that period Polyfuel was able to raise Venture Capital to develop their product.

READ FULL STORY

Portable Fuel Cell Power SupplyCLINICAL SPECIMEN COLLECTION SYSTEM

The ReadyFreezer will rapidly freeze biospecimens collected from any tissue, using any surgical retrieval device, and in any hospital or clinical setting to preserve key biomarkers.  This project took full advantage of PADT’s internal simulation and analysis capabilities as well as our in-house rapid prototyping services.

READ FULL STORY

Endoscopic Obesity Treatment ToolAN ENDOSCOPIC TOOL FOR THE TREATMENT OF OBESITY

For the last 3 years I have worked with PADT Medical as a physician-inventor of medical devices. Their engineering team is professional, punctual, and responsible. Their management is exemplary. I recommend PADT Medical to any potential Client.— Charles J. Filipi M.D., Medical Director, SafeStitch Medical, Inc.

In 2006, PADT was approached by a physician who had developed intellectual property that centered on endoscopic treatments for obesity and was founding a new company called SafeStich Medical. PADT served as SafeStitch’ engineering team for several years, developed a suite of related products, helped them achieve 510-k status on their first product, and supported their effort to build a permanent engineering organization. In June of 2010, SafeStitch raised $5 Million of capital to help commercialize their technologies.

READ FULL STORY

If you are interested in learning more about our Product Development team or PADT Medical, contact us and we will be more than happy to discuss your needs.

Tags and Filters in ANSYS Mechanical 14.5

imageI have been doing this simulation thing for too long. I actually got giddy when I saw a new icon in 14.5.  That usually is enough to get me going. Then when I saw it allowed me to put tags on items in my model tree, the OCD part of me got very interested. When it became apparent that it all worked with filtering I got down right joyful.  These are the sort of little tools that can make your analysis process a lot more enjoyable and efficient. And to be honest, these are the things that we used to use APDL to control in the old days, and that we have been needing a GUI equivalent for in ANSYS Mechanical.  In this weeks posting we will look at the new tagging, and then take an in-depth look at what you can do with filtering. 

Both of these tools are ways for you to get a handle on larger models.  When you have one or two parts in an assembly, and maybe four or five loads and boundary conditions, you can see all of your model in the tree in one quick glance. But when you are dealing with a big assembly, with dozens if not hundreds of parts, contacts, boundary conditions, etc… it can become overwhelming and you spend all of your time looking through the tree. And thanks to the hard work of the ANSYS development team,  Filters and Tags come to the rescue.

Tags

So the cute new little icon is a picture of a tag, and it is used to tag things. I like it when things are that literal. Do note that it is used to tag items in your model outline, not geometric entities. Why? Because you have named selections for that.  This is for grouping things that are not groupable with named selections.

When you click on the Tag icon it brings up the Tags window.  It looks like the default state for this window is free and floating. I found that it goes nicely under the details window, or as a tab under the model tree itself. If you are not familiar with how to move windows around in ANSYS Mechanical, here is a short video:

When you first bring the window up it will be blank.

image

To create a tag you go to your Outline and select (CTRL-Click to select more than one) the items you want to group. For this first example I am going to put all my size controls in a group:

image

Then go to the Tags window and click Add icon (tag with a green plus) and give it a name:

image

Now you have your first tag:

image

The way tags work is that the checkbox next to the name is there to add an entity to a tag, remove it from a tag, or to show that it is currently part of the tag.  To see this we can click on something that is not in the tag group and note that the check box is un-checked:

image

Then if we click on one of more of the edge sizes, the check box is checked:

image

If I want to remove one or more of the entities from the tag, select them and un-check the box. The same goes if I want to add an entity, click on it, then check the check box.  Easy as can be.

The only other thing you should know is that if you want to delete a tag completely, click on it and RMB->Delete Tag(s) or click on the delete icon (tag with a red minus sign). To rename a tag, click on the rename tag icon, which is just a picture of a tag with now fancy additions. 

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The other interaction you should be aware of is the ability to select items in the tree by Tag.  You can do this with filters, which we will cover next, or by doing a RMB on the tag and choosing “Find Items with selected tag”

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In a huge model, this can really speed up finding things in the tree.

You may have noticed by now that Tags are non-exclusive.  A tag can refer to more than one entity, and a given entity can have more than one tags. Because of this you can get real fancy and select entities that belong to any selected tags, or only those that belong to all the selected tags. In this example I have selected any entities belonging to Sizes2 and TopNSs:

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You can find the union of two or more groups by choosing “Find items with all selected tags”  This can become very handy in complex models.

One thing to remember is to be careful when you are  clicking around in the Tags window. I found that I was checking and unchecking the boxes when I meant to just select a tag in the list.  So my grouping was getting muffed up a bit.

Filtering

The close cousin to tagging for managing a big tree is the ability to filter what is in visible from your tree. Again, if you have a simple model as far as item count goes, you may never need this. But if you have a complicated tree, Filtering can be a life saver.

It exists at the top of the Model Outline window.  You do have to expand the window it sits in a bit more than I normally do to see all the controls. Not a big deal, but be aware of it.

image

The interface is pretty intuitive.  You specify what you want to filter on, choose some sort of filter value, refresh the tree applying the new filter, and clear the filter. The final icon, Expand on Refresh, expands your tree to show every selected entity. On a huge tree you may want to turn this off and manually expand the tree where you need to.

Fort filter types your options are Name, Tag, Type, and State. For Name and Tag, it looks for the string you specify anywhere in the name or tag of each entity.  So you don’t need to use wildcard characters.  “siz” and “size” will both filter any string with size in the name… and any with just siz if you use “siz.”

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If you want to filter on Type the text box turns into a drop down and you have two choices: all or results.  I’m guessing that will expand over time, but right now the way you would use it is to just hide everything in your model tree but your results.  I have often in the past found myself scrolling the tree window to the bottom to get to my results, use the Type = Results to avoid this.

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The State filter can be helpful in checking out or debugging a model.  It can filter on the state of each entity: Suppression, Underdefined, or Not Licensed.

image

As you muck around with a big model you are constantly suppressing and unsupressing things. The icon next to a suppressed item turns into one with a little X next to it, but in a big model these might be hard to spot. Use the “Not suppressed” and “Suppressed” options to find what is and what is not suppressed. On a big model you may surprise yourself and find something suppressed that you thought was active.

The Underdefined is just as useful. In a complicated model you may see the dreaded “underdefined” question mark high up on a branch, but become overwhelmed as you look for the source in a big tree.  The answer is to simply filter and show only Underdefined entities in the tree.

imageThere are two things you should know about when using the Filter options.  The first is that I found that it was really important for me to remember to hit the clear button when I was done doing what I wanted to do with the filter. If I did not, then I would work with a filtered tree and miss important information.  The second is that you

can avoid having to hit the refresh button for filter types Name and Tag by pressing the enter key when you are done typing your string in.  It automatically does a refresh when you do so. It also automatically does a refresh when you choose an item from the drop down for State and Type.

Thoughts

There is not much else to say about these two productivity tools.  They are handy and well thought out.  If you have been using ANSYS Mechanical for a while, you just need to get used to having them by using them as often as possible.  Once you do so, you will find it difficult to work on your models without them.

Retail 3D Printing at the Beginning of 2013

I just came across a posting from Terry Wohlers that he did in December with some interesting observations on the growth of 3D Printing in retail stores:

3D Printing at Retail Stores

I have to agree with Terry’s assessment that these efforts in Africa and Europe to bring this new technology to a mass market through old business models may not click.  Some of the efforts here in the US seem to be a better fit.  Reading the article, and the fact that non-technical people are constantly bringing up 3D Printing around me, got me to thinking about the retail space and where it is headed.

Is Online the Future for Retail 3D Printing?

Shapeways_websiteIn New York, the VC backed experiment at Shapeways seems like a more viable option for mass retail 3D printing.   There was an interesting interview done in December by the Business Insider that sheds some light on how things are going, but does not discuss the business aspect too much.  What I am interested in knowing is what type of margin Shapeways is making on their parts with the prices as low as they are, or are they using their buckets of VC money to build market share in hopes that volume will bring their margins up?  It would be interesting to know.

A French company called Sculpteo has a similar model. I’m sure there are others.

3D Systems, along with buying up as many technologies as they can, has launched their own retail competitor to Shapeways called Cubify.   Their advantage is that they do not have to pay full price for machines or materials.  It is early days and in some ways it looks like a vehicle for promoting their low-end FDM CUBE machines, but the reach of 3D Systems may make a difference.

The Brick and Mortar Store

O

Although these online based models have the advantage of access to the masses to grow their markets, storefront retail outlets for 3D Printing also seem to be taking off.  Makerbot, the kings of getting media attention for low-end 3D printing, has a showcase store now in Manhattan. This store may be more for marketing than a direct revenue generator, but it starts a trend.   A new startup, 3DEA is also in New York City and they are trying to use similar low-end FDM technology to provide 3D printing to the masses through a corner store, literally.

Here at PADT we are aware of several companies starting the same thing in the west and they seem to have good solid business models that will not only go after the art/accessory/gadget market but they are also looking at other more practical retail applications.  We think this broader and more balanced approach has merit.

Is New York the Center of Retail 3D Printing?

Are you seeing a trend here? Retail 3D Printing in the US seems to be focused on New Your City. There is a store in Pasadena called Deezmaker, but it is more hacker-centric selling more kits than home machines or direct to consumer printed objects.

Is this NYC bias because the market for consumer 3D printing is huge there? Or is it the art community? Or is it a tech-infiriority complex with the west coast?  A “we missed all this computer based stuff, so we are going to lead on this 3D printing thing” effect?

I suspect it has more to do with the proximity to Wall Street and the mass media than anything else.  Which may or may not be good for the additive manufacturing business.  It means cash and exposure for something that really captures the imagination of the general public. But is this a bubble that will grow and pop for the full industry? Or will it just be the retail side?  Only time will tell.

FDM Rules, but not Necessarily Good FDM.

One other take away from this retail trend is the dominance of Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) technology that is making much of this possible. Although Shapeways seems to use almost all of the technologies, most of the startups that are trying to get the cost down and the volume up are using some sort of low-cost FDM technology. This is reflected in the lower costs and in the poor finished part quality that is seen on most of the websites. It is too bad more are not looking at technology Stratasys, the originators of FDM and producers of machines that make very high-quality parts.

stratasys_mojoI bring this up not only because PADT is a long time Stratasys reseller, but because the poor part quality might result in a black eye for the industry as a whole.  And the concern is not just about aesthetics, but also about part strength.  There is a lot of excitement over making replacement parts for appliances, toys, and consumer electronics.  Delamination in low-cost FDM parts is a real concern.

I also wonder if the merger of Stratasys and Objet might allow for the development of low cost and reliable 3D Printing based on the Objet inkjet printing approach as a compliment to FDM based systems.

What is the Future?

rasputinAnyone that is in the RP business knows that the use of additive manufacturing for prototyping, tooling, and even production is growing and getting better. Machines are faster, more accurate, and offer much better material choices. And the cost of systems that make strong, high-quality parts is coming down. So the non-retail side of this market should see continued strong growth.

The retail side of things is seeing a lot of buzz, a lot of press, and a lot of interest from average consumers.  As with any new market it is hard to guess where it is going.  But history has shown us that something like this that shows the potential of being a disruptive technology will have a big impact, and the market will whipsaw back and forth a few times before the technology finds its place and becomes mainstream.

For the record, just to see how close I get, I predict the following landscape for retail 3D Printing in five to ten years:

  • Two or three large on-line outlets, focused on art, fashion, and accessories as an outlet for small designers.
  • One or two large business supply/service chains that offer 3D Printing alongside traditional printing and copying using high quality FDM technlogy
  • A variety of specialty local almost neighborhood stores that offer duplication using 3D scanning and printers along with part printing.

Hopefully someone will remind me of this post in the future and we can see how far off I am.

 

 

11411 – Symmetry in Subscribers

Every day we get a little update from Constant Contact on how many people subscribed or unsubscribed from our mailing list.  The number this morning was 11411:

11411_subscribers

I don’t really remember when it got above 10,000, but 11,000 is an impressive number of people who want to be kept informed about various things going on at PADT.  But what struck me for some reason was the symmetry of the number: 11-4-11

Does symmetry in numbers fascinate you?  Or am I just weird   Does posting stuff like this risk a reduction in our subscriber count?

If you want to help us get to 11511, or 12012, subscribe to PADT’s emails on our subscription page.

 

PADT has an Immediate Opening for a CFD Engineer

We just posted a new job opening on our website for an Experienced CFD Analysis Engineer.

The bottom line is that we are looking for someone who really likes variety, who really knows their stuff, and who likes doing both services and support work.  This position will join the rest of PADT’s CFD team in conducting CFD consulting, training, mentoring, support, and application engineering. Lots of fun, very challenging, and rewarding.

If you are interested, or if you know someone that is interested, send a resume to jobs@padtinc.com.  Put [PADTJOB] in the title.

 

Empty High-End Computer Rack, What Should we Fill it With?

Empty high end rack
Empty high end rack

We have a new rack installed in our compute server room (well closet really).  I wonder what we can fill that with? Looks like it can handle a lot of heat, and a lot of units.  We shall see what the week brings.

I smell some new CUBE HVPC hardware in PADT’s future. Stay Tuned.

ICEM CFD as a Data Compliant System in ANSYS Workbench

ICEM CFD is probably the most capable mesher on the planet. Not only do we here at PADT use it as our preferred tool for creating complex hex meshes, it has a whole host of other capabilities and controls that make it the power users choice. But one thing that has been frustrating for some time is that we could not easily add it into a project that automatically updates. At 14.5, ICEM CFD is now data compliant and you can use it in a project with parameters.

ICEM-CFD-System-ANSYS-Workbench

If you know ICEM CFD well you know that there are many aspects of it that do not fit into a project flow, but the most commonly used capabilities do: read in geometry, mesh it, output nodes and elements into a solver or node/element based pre-processor. Because it is node/element based it does not work with ANSYS Mechanical or other tools that require surface or solid geometry, but it does work with FLUENT, CFX, ANSYS Mechanical APDL (MAPDL) and Polyflow, the ANSYS solvers that can work directly with nodes and meshes. Once put into your system, you can modify geometry or ICEM CFD parameters and then update your system to get a new solution.

In this article we will focus on using ICEM CFD with ANSYS MAPDL. That is because 1) most of our readers are ANSYS Mechanical/MAPDL users and 2) it is what I know best. But most everything we are talking about will work with FLUENT, CFX, and Polyflow.

Why is this a Big Deal?

For the vast majority of users, this is not such a big deal because they can do all their meshing with ANSYS MAPDL, ANSYS Mechanical, ANSYS Meshing, or FLUENT (with TGrid meshing). But if you can not, then this is an awesome new capability. This is especially true if you need to use the blocking based hex meshing built into ICEM CFD.

Getting Started and Things to Know

Frist thing we recommend you do is read the help on the ICEM CFD System:

Workbench User Guide // User’s Guide // Systems // Component Systems

Click on ANSYS ICEM CFD and read the whole thing. There are lots of little details that you should be aware of.

The first thing you should note is that if you want to use it with Mechanical APDL you need to turn on Beta Features: Tools>Options>Appearance scroll down and check “Beta Options” to be on.

The next thing is to realize that from a project standpoint, you can feed an ICEM CFD system with any system that has a geometry module. Although ICEM CFD will read a mesh in and use the external surface of that mesh as geometry, that capability is not currently implemented in Workbench. This means if the source mesh changes, you can not automatically update your mesh if the “geometry” mesh changes. See below for a work around.

You do need to make sure that your ICEM CFD model is setup to output to your solver type. Make sure you check this when you are setting up your mesh.

If you have worked in Workbench with legacy mesh you know that named selections can be very important. I did not have enough time to play with all the different options, but it looks like named selections come in from DesignModeler, and if they define a solid, the resulting nodes that are in that solid get written as a component that goes to the MAPDL solver. However, surface, edge, and vertex named selections do not seem to get passed over at this time. I am contacting ANSYS, Inc. to see if there is a way to turn that on.

It also looks like if you are using blocking only the solid elements are written, and no corner, edge, or surface elements are output. I will also be checking on this.

The last, and most important thing to know, is that your ICEM CFD model needs to be robust. Anyone that spends a lot of time in ICEM CFD already knows this. If you make a change to geometry or a parameter, then it needs to update reliably. The key to success with this is to just do your meshing with updates in mind and make it as simple and flexible as possible, especially if you are blocking with HEXA.

A Simple Example

I made a very silly model, because these Focus articles are always about silly models, that sort of shows the process you can use. It is not a flat plate with a hole in it, but it is a block with a cylinder on top.

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Nothing too fancy. I made the block dimensions, the cylinder diameter, and its offset parameters.

This system feeds the ICEM CFD system where it comes in as points, lines, and surfaces.

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I then blocked it out:

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And specified meshing sizes:

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And generated the mesh:

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Like I said, a simple model.

Parameters are supported for meshing controls, any user parameters you want to make that you will use in Tcl scripts, or meshing diagnostics.

I made the number of nodes across the width a parameter:

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Values that you can make into parameters have little white boxes next to them. To make them workbench parameters click on the box and you get the “Blue P” that everyone should know and love from all of the other ANSYS, Inc. applications.

I also wanted mesh parameters so I went to Settings->Workbench Parameters->Workbench Output Parameters and set some of those:

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Now when I go back to my project and check out the parameters for my ICEM CFD system I get:

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Now it is time to add the ANSYS Mechanical APDL system. You will want to write a macro that defines material properties, constraints, and loads. Mine also has some output parameters and makes some PNG plots.

This is the mesh I get in MAPDL:

dp0_000

and here are the results. Exciting:

dp0_001

To try the whole thing out I made a design study:

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Everything updated just fine and I got all my output parameters and my plots in my MAPDL directory for each design point (remember to tell it to save all the design points or it deletes them, or use a macro like the one discussed in the bonus article from this posting).

I made an animated GIF of the different meshes for fun:

DesignPoints_ICEM-CFD-1

Here is a link to an archive of the project I used:  ICEM-wb-1.wbpz

Doing more with ICEM CFD in a Project

This was a basic example. But the cool thing about the implementation is that it will do much more. If there is a replay file, it will execute the file and run whatever scripts you specify in the file. This is how you can get it to work with existing meshes as geometry. And you can do whatever else you want to do.

On an update ICEM CFD does the following:

  1. Update geometry if Tetin file changed
  2. Runs tetra default meshing, if no blocking file and no replay file
  3. If a replay file, run the replay file
  4. Runs Hexa default meshing if a Blocking file exists
  5. Convert any blocked mesh to unstructured mesh file
  6. Convert unstructured mesh file to solver input file
  7. Save the project

So you just need to be aware of this order and plan accordingly. There really is no limit to what you can do.

Next Steps

If there was ever a place to use Crawl-Walk-Run this is it. Make yourself a very simple model and get a feel for things. Then work with your real geometry doing some simple meshing, maybe just blowing a TET mesh on it, then set up you full run. Also, keep the simple model around to try stuff out when you are working with the big model.

The help was very helpful, I recommend that you read it once then reread it after you have played around with this feature a bit.

Saving Mechanical APDL Plots in a Design Study

One of the cool features in the ANSYS Workbench is the ability to set up a design study and kick off a bunch of runs that bring back key parameters.  This is great for a design exploration but sometimes you actually would like a result plot, or maybe the info in a text file as well.  When a design study is done, unless you tell Workbench to save all your run files, it deletes all the files.

To do the posting on ICEM CFD in the workbench project page, I needed to do just that, so I thought I would share my method in case others want to use it.

The way I do it is pretty simple:

  • Use a /INQUIRE to get the directory the run is running in
  • Use some string functions to get the name of the design point from the directory name
  • Temporarily change the jobname
  • Save my plots
  • Change the jobname back to file
  • Copy the files to the User_Files directory.

Here is what it looks like:

   1: /post1

   2: set,last

   3: finish

   4: /inquire,aa,directory

   5: ii = strpos(aa(1),'\dp')

   6: ij = strpos(aa(ii+1),'\')-1

   7: dpn = strsub(aa(1),ii+1,ij)

   8: dpn = strcat(dpn,'_')

   9: /file,dpn

  10: /post1

  11: /view,1,1,1,1

  12: /vup,1,z

  13: /show,png

  14: eplot

  15: plnsol,u,sum

  16: /show,close

  17: /sys,copy *.png ..\..\..\user_files

  18: finish

  19: /file,file

See how it uses /inquire to get the directory, then strpos(), strsub(), and strcat() to get the design point name.  Then it simply changes the file name, does a /show,png and plots. The results are copied using a system command.

Two important things to note:

  1. You have to do the set command before you change the jobname, otherwise your RST files will not work
  2. This version is written for windows, you need to use forward slashes and cp for Linux.

You can attach this to a MAPDL system or as a code snippet.

Startup Lesson Learned 3: Be Honest and Open about your Strengths and Weaknesses

10_Tech_Startup_Lessons_Learned-1_thAbout the Series “10 Tech Startup Lessons Learned”
PADT is a company focused on helping companies bring their physical products to market. As “We Make Innovation Work” for our customers, we learn a lot about what does and does not work in technology startup companies. In addition, we were once a startup ourselves and we now participate in Angel investing.  All of this has taught us a lot of valuable lessons.
In this series we will share some of those lessons learned and explore the basic concepts and ideas that will help startups overcome the odds and become successful.

This posting is the second installment for our series. The previous postings were: “If You Build It, They Will Not Come” and “Stay Focused, Be Flexible, Set and Use Goals.”

We hope that you find it useful and we look forward to sharing our thoughts on this topic with you.

If you spend time around startups you have seen it before.  Someone comes up with a great idea and they have the technical understanding, the connections, the money, or the drive that allows them to start a business around the idea.  But then the business fails because some important skill or capability was missing and the founders could not, or would not, recognize and deal with the need. On the other side of things, we have all seen a company stumble because they spent a large amount of time and money trying to accomplish something using expensive outside resources that the founders could have easily done themselves.

Both of these situations stem from the inability of people who start a technical company to be honest and open about their own strengths and weaknesses.  They end up not doing what they can do, and doing what they should not be doing.  Both can waste time and money and even bring the company down.

The Technologist Trap

BearTrap_Active_TexturedSpotlightThe most common manifestation of this problem, so much so that it is has become a stereotype, is the technologist that tries and fails to start a company because they did not understand business, sales, marketing, or manufacturing.  It is an unfortunate reality that the capabilities that make a person a great innovator are not the same capabilities that make someone a great CEO or even a good manager.  There are exceptions to this, but more often then not if you look at successful technology startups there is usually the “the technology person” and “the business person” Only rarely are they the same person.

What does this mean, because this certainly does not apply to you? It is your idea, your understanding of the science behind the idea, your intimate knowledge of the market that created the company.  Doing that other stuff required to get things off the ground is simple by comparison.  But the hard reality is that a technically capable person usually does not have the skills, experience, knowledge, or desire to do that other stuff. And even if they do, they usually do not have the bandwidth to get it done. And that other stuff is required to build a company.

To deal with this trap, the best place to begin is with the assumption that the you, the technical innovator, should start in the founder and chief technologist role. Just plan for that when you start a company.  It is much easier on everyone involved for you to add roles then for you to have to give them up.  Stepping forward is much more pleasant than stepping back.  And it is much easier to be honest about what you are good at when you are looking at it as adding responsibility, rather than giving it up. Human nature, no matter how hard you try, will always tint your self-view when you have to admit to others that you can not do something.

Even if you retain control of your company, delegate as much decision making responsibility as possible to those who are best suited to make the decisions. 

Taking Advice

adviceSo far I have been focusing on skills and capabilities. But another area where the founders of a startup have to be brutally honest with themselves is in taking advice from others.  This is not the same thing as just doing what others tell you. It is about being able to put your preconceived ideas aside, leave your pride at home, and really listen to what other people are advising you. 

If you have ever spent time around a great leader you will notice that they are masters at soliciting input from others, reviewing it, and turning it into the right decisions.  As a leader in a technology startup, you have to also grow this ability to first actually listen, then make honest and accurate assessments of the advice.  The first step in doing so is letting go of ownership on ideas. 

When you internally claim ownership of an idea it is hard to accept that someone else’s ideas might be better, because that implies that yours is wrong. So start off by letting go of the ownership and evaluate each idea on its own merit and not based on who it came from. Learn to be honest with yourself about the fact that your ideas may not always be the best and that in most cases, a combination of multiple ideas from multiple sources is the best solution.

Confidence, Not Arrogance

self-confidence-300x300To be successful in a small business you must be confident. Without significant confidence you can never survive all of the obstacles that face you.  But if you are not honest in your view of yourself, that confidence can turn to arrogance, and arrogance leads to making bad decisions that can ruin your company.  Confidence is telling yourself “yes, I can make this happen.”  Arrogance is telling yourself “yes, I am always right.”  A confident leader in a technology startup knows that they can make the journey to success regardless of where the path leads, the arrogant leader thinks that they already know the path to success.

The way to avoid slipping into an arrogant stance is to really be honest and look at how you make decisions.  Are your decisions based on the facts you have in hand and maybe some intuition, or are you making decisions based upon what you want the answer to be, or how the decisions make you look?  You should be using facts and intuition.

We have actually had situations where we have told customers that their idea has a significant problem that needs to be dealt with. And their response was “I don’t want to hear negative information.”  That is taking confidence into arrogance if not just plane crazy.  A confident leader will take in the information and say “what do we need to solve this problem, I know we can overcome this obstacle.”

Being Honest is also about Strengths

strengthAnecdotes about startups that failed because the owners just did not listen to others, or tried to do things they were not qualified to do only show part of the story. Being honest about your abilities is a two edged sword.  Not leveraging your strengths can be just as deadly for a startup, especially if a founder considers themselves too much of a nerd or a “techie” to do non-technical things.  Or if they lack the confidence to assert their point of view when they should.

Many innovators are multi-talented and they may have chosen a technical path for their education or career.  This does not automatically disqualify them from being a successful business person, it just requires that they follow the advice above and work to have an honest understanding of what their skills and abilities are, and work to make the right choices in filling in the missing pieces. 

Look in the Mirror

dog-mirror1Let’s be honest, it is very hard to be honest with yourself.  Your thought process on which accounting package to use probably has more to do with the way your mother responded to the finger-painting you brought home from kindergarten then any of us want to admit.  We are complex creatures with conflicting emotions, memories, and desires. And they are very hard to see from inside, and even harder to adapt to.  Most of the time this does not matter, but when you are trying to do something as hard as start a technology company, it is a big deal.

The best way to deal with this honesty stuff is to learn to really look at yourself in the mirror, make it part of your normal process. When you are making a big decision, ask yourself why you decided to go a certain way. When you take on a task, look at yourself in that mirror and ask if you are the right person for the job.  When you are looking to bring in an outside expert, make sure you really need them.

Just be honest with yourself, and success will be a lot easier to find. 

 

[A Note on the cheesy images: 
Sorry. I know they kind of suck but I’ve taken it as a mission to find the most stereotypical business images to highlight the message of each paragraph. Hopefully you will find them somewhat funny… or at least not too annoying…]

Suite Available in PADT’s Building at the ASU Research Park

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We have a suite opening up on May 1, 2013 in the PADT Innovation Center at the ASU Research Park in Tempe.  Everyone drives through this business park and says to themselves “I’d really like to locate here some day.”  Well now is your chance.

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Located just off Elliot and the 101, the suite is just a hair under 7,000 square feet.  It is a good mix of office and lab space and is fully air conditioned with a lot of amenities that are perfect for a high-tech company. The previous tenant designed and tested high-end smart meters from this facility.  So if you make electro-mechanical type stuff, or are a medical device company, this suite would probably be perfect. Another advantage is that PADT is one of your neighbors, and your landlord.

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If you are interested, or if you know of someone that is interested, give Scott Rand a call at 480.813.4884 or drop him an email at scott.rand@padtinc.com.  He would be more than happy to show it to you and show you around.

Stratasys and Objet Merger Complete

Stratasys

It is now official. Stratasys and Object have completed their merger to form a company worth over $3.0 Billion.  Actually, as we prepare this update it is up to $3.37B.  Obviously the markets thing this merger is a good thing.

And now Stratasys has a new logo and what we think is a great slogan: “For a 3D World”

You can read the press release here.

As a long time Stratasys distributor and a user of Objet’s and Stratasys systems in our rapid prototyping services business, we are very familiar with both product lines and look forward to the synergy of the merger.  These are two truly complimentary product lines.

Right now this merger will have no impact on how we do business with our existing customers for any of the product sales or services we offer, including sales of new systems, maintenance of existing machines, material ordering, or prototyping services with either FDM or PolyJet.  As the two companies combine organizationally we will keep everyone informed.

Learn more about the Stratasys line of Mojo, uPrint SE, Dimension, and FORTUS 3D Printers here.

Writeup on PADT Customer Ulthera in BizJournal

We just noticed a nice write-up in the Phoenix Business Journal on one of PADT Medical’s customers: Ulthera.

We are pleased to see them get the recognition they deserve for the success they have worked so hard to obtain.