Phoenix Business Journal: Exploring Easy – The frustrating difficulty of displacing what works with newer and better technology

After seeing several startup companies that looked fantastic not take off, I started to look the fact that just doing something better was no indicator of success. In “Exploring Easy: The frustrating difficulty of displacing what works with newer and better technology” I look at how making a task or process easier may not be better enough to be successful.

Getting to Know PADT: 3D Printing Services

This post is the sixth installment in our review of all the different products and services PADT offers our customers. As we add more, they will be available here.  As always, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to reach out to info@padtinc.com or give us a call at 1-800-293-PADT.

If there is one service that most people connect PADT with it is our 3D Printing Services.  We have been making prototypes for companies using this ever-advancing technology since we started the company in 1994. As 3D Printing has become more popular and entered the mainstream even beyond engineering, what 3D Printing means to people has changed as well. Along with that, people’s understanding of exactly what it is we do in this area has drifted a little from what goes on. In this month’s installment of our “Getting to Know PADT” series, we will work to provide insight into what 3D Printing Services are and how they can benefit your company.

What is “3D Printing” and “3D Printing Services?”

To start, it should be called “Additive and Advanced Manufacturing and Prototyping Services, ” but people search for “3D Printing” so that is what we call it.  3D Printing is the common name for what is technically referred to as Additive Manufacturing, or AM.  Most physical parts are made (manufactured) by casting or shaping material into a shape you want, removing material from stock to get the shapes you want, and/or combining physical parts you get by the other two methods. Instead of these well-proven methods, AM creates a part by building up material one layer at a time.  That is why it is called additive – it adds layers of material to get a shape. Here is an older blog article showing the most common technologies used in AM.

The advantage of this approach is that you just need one machine to make a part, you can go straight from a computer model to that part, and you are not held back by the physical constraints of traditional processes. These features allow anyone to make a part and to make shapes we just could not create before.  At first, we only used it for prototypes before parts were made. Then we started to make tools to make final products, and now 3D Printing is employed to manufacturing end-use parts.

In the world of mechanical engineering, where 3D Printing is heavily used, we call companies that use additive manufacturing to make parts for others 3D Printing Service Bureaus or 3D Printing Service Providers. Therefore, the full process of doing manufacturing using the technology is called: 3D Printing Services.

The critical word in that last sentence is “full.”  Sending a computer model to a 3D Printer is just one of many steps involved in Additive Manufacturing.  When the service is employed correctly, it includes identifying the right type of additive manufacturing to use, preparing the geometry, setting parameters on the machine, printing the parts, removing supports, cleaning the parts, sanding, applying a surface finish treatment, and then inspection and shipping.  Anyone can send a part to a printer; the other steps are what make the difference between simply printing a part, and producing a great part.

What Services does PADT Offer?

Additive Manufacturing covers a wide range of technologies that create parts one layer at a time, using a variety of approaches. Some extrude, some harden, some use an inkjet print head, and still others melt material.  What they have in common is creating solid geometry one layer at a time. Each technology has its own unique set of advantages, and that is why PADT offers so many different 3D Printing technologies for our customers.  Each of these approaches has unique part preparations, machine parameters, and post-printing processes. Each with a unique set of advantages.  The key to success is knowing which technology is best for each part and then executing it correctly.

Currently, PADT’s 3D Printing Services Group makes parts for customers using the following technologies.  Each one listed has a brief description of its advantages.  See our website for more details.

Technology

Abbrv.

Advantages

Fused
Deposition Modeling

FDM

Strong parts

Easy operation

Reliability of systems

Broad material choice

Water soluble supports

Fast

Cost

Polyjet

PolyJet

Multiple materials in a single build

Broad material choices

Custom material choices

Multiple colors in single build

Water soluble supports

Accuracy

Stereolithography

SLA

Part quality

Material options

Speed

Speed

Material properties

Self supporting

Selective
Laser Sintering

SLS

Digital
Light Synthesis

DLS

Speed

Production capable

Surface Finish

Material Choices

Material properties

Orthotropic properties

Direct
Laser Melting (Metal)

DLM

Fully dense metal parts

Accuracy

Speed

Part strength

As a proud reseller for Stratasys systems, we feel strongly that the two primary technologies from Stratasys, FDM and Polyjet, are the best for customers who want to do Additive Manufacturing in-house or as a service provider. When customers need something different, they can come to PADT to take advantage of the unique capabilities found in each technology.

How is 3D Printing with PADT Better?

The difference is in what we know and how to execute the complete process.  As a provider of 3D Printing services for over 23 years, very few people in the industry even come close to the amount of experience that we bring to the table.  We also know product development and traditional manufacturing, so when a customer comes to us with a need, we understand what they are asking to do and why. That helps us make the right recommendation on process, material, and post-processing.

A few differentiators are:

  • We know our machines
  • We know our materials
  • We offer a wide range of plastic and metal materials
  • We understand post-processing
  • We understand support removal (we manufacture the leading support removal system)
  • We understand design and manufacturing
  • In-house machining, painting, and part finishing
  • In-house inspection and quality
  • Employees who are enthusiastic and dedicated to providing the right solution.

In addition to all of these things, PADT also offers On-Demand Manufacturing as a Carbon Production Partner. We combine Carbon’s DLS technology with our existing and proven manufacturing processes to provide low volume manufacturing solutions for plastic components.

We are also always looking at the latest technologies and adding what our customers need.  You can see this with the recent addition of systems from ConceptLaser, Carbon and Desktop Metal systems.

 

Next Steps and Where to Learn More

The very best way to learn more about PADT’s 3D Printing services is to have us print a part. The full experience and the final product will explain why, with so many choices, so many companies large and small count on us for their Additive Manufacturing. If you need to learn more, you can also contact us at 480.813.4884 or rp@padtinc.com.

Here are some links that you may find useful:

 

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PADT Triples 3D Printing Capacity with New Large Stereolithography System

The addition of a new UnionTech RSPro 450 further establishes PADT as the leader in Additive Manufacturing technology in the Southwestern US. With a build volume of 17.7 x 17.7 x 15.75 inches, this state of the art Stereolithography(SLA) machine will triple the company’s capacity to 3D Print with SLA technology at this Las Vegas print shop. It not only allows the printing of larger parts, it can also create multiple smaller parts in less time.  It will join PADT’s two existing SLA machines along with the Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), PolyJet, and Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) solutions currently producing parts daily for their customers across the country.

“When we started the company in 1994, one of our first purchases was an SLA machine.  It started our 3D Printing services business, and the technology is still heavily used today.” Said Rey Chu, a co-owner of PADT and the leader for PADT’s Advanced Manufacturing efforts.  “This new system gives us added capacity in size, speed, and material choices. We looked at a wide range of SLA systems and felt that UnionTech provided the quality and robustness we need to keep our customers happy.”

The new system was delivered the second week of October and will be calibrated and producing customer parts by the end of the month.  One of the advantages of the machine is the easy setup and strong calibration capabilities.  The team will be able to produce parts that are about 75% larger than they can currently.  The additional volume and speed will allow for three times as many parts to be printed in a given week than is possible with the current two smaller and older machines.  Initially, a new rigid ABS-like material will be used that produces very strong and precise parts with white plastic.  PADT’s existing pre- and post-processing tools will be applied to this process with little change.

The UnionTech RSPRO 450 SLA System

UnionTech systems are the most popular machines for SLA Additive Manufacturing outside of the United States. They have proven to be reliable, easy-to-use, accurate, and fast.  They are also an open system, allowing users to use any SLA compatible resin that can usually be acquired at a more affordable price than proprietary material solutions.

Stereolithography is the oldest commercial 3D Printing process. It uses photo-curable liquid resins to build parts one layer at a time.  A vat in the machine is filled with liquid material, and a plate is placed just under the surface. Then an ultraviolet laser draws on the very top layer of the liquid, and all of wherever the laser traces, the liquid turns to a solid.  The plate is lowered, a new layer of liquid is spread on top, and the laser creates a new layer. The process repeats until the part or parts are made.

The UnionTech machine is a refined and proven application of this technology that was a perfect match for PADT’s current needs.  Also, the company itself was great to work with, and the local sales and support team have been outstanding.  As the team learns the system, they are finding it to be easy to use as well as simple to maintain and calibrate.  The initial quality of parts has been outstanding.

PADT’s 3D Printing Services

PADT has been the Southwest’s leading provider of 3D Printing services since the company was started over 23 years ago.  The company has survived industry consolidation and a vastly changing landscape by focusing on providing high-quality 3D Printed parts to customers using Fused Deposition Modeling, Polyjet Printing, Selective Laser Sintering, and Stereolithography systems combined with one of the most experienced and knowledgeable teams in the Additive Manufacturing space.

Located in the ASU Research Park in Tempe, Arizona, PADT’s advanced manufacturing facility currently features ten machines dedicated to printing parts for customers.  The lab includes a full machine shop, part finishing facilities, and an advanced scanning and inspection capability.

This added capability is yet another reason why so many companies large and small count on PADT for their 3D Printing needs.

Contact us today to learn more about our 3D Printing Services or:

 

PADT Partners with 3D Printing Disruptor Carbon to Offer Production Part Manufacturing to the Southwest

The long-term promise of 3D Printing has always been using the technology to replace traditional manufacturing as a way to make production parts.  The various technologies that are considered Additive Manufacturing have been fantastic for prototyping and making tools that are used to manufacturing end-use parts, but rarely work well for production.  Carbon is literally turning the 3D printing world upside down by introducing real production capabilities with their systems. And now that PADT has joined Carbon’s Production Partner Program, on-demand manufacturing using 3D Printing is now a reality in the Southwestern US.

The Production Partner program establishes vetted service providers with 3D Printing and manufacturing experience as manufacturing centers. This allows customers who are early adopters of CARBON’s exciting technology, to find a trusted source for their production parts.  PADT was chosen to participate because of our twenty-plus years of experience as a 3D Printing service provider and more than $5,000,000 in injection molding projects, along with in-house product development, scanning, simulation, and inspection.

PADT will be adding three Carbon M2 printers to our existing 3D Printing facility at our main office in the ASU Research Park in Tempe, Arizona. The first two machines will be available for production in early 2018, and the third machine will be online by early summer.  Customers will then be able to order production quality parts in volume and receive them within a week. PADT’s investment and this partnership make the dream of On Demand manufacturing of complex plastic components a reality.

“We have been looking for a low volume plastic manufacturing solution that uses 3D Printing for some time.” Said Rey Chu, co-owner of PADT “Since we started the company we have been providing soft tooling and rapid injection molding.  Once we saw the Carbon DLS technology in action, we knew we found our solution.  The part quality and material properties are as close to injection molded as we have ever seen.”

About Carbon’s Disruptive Technology

Carbon has introduced a revolutionary way to 3D Print plastic components called Digital Light Synthesis, or DLS.  It combines their proprietary continuous printing technology with programmable liquid resins to create parts with the same strength and surface finish of injection molded parts.  The part creation is fast because it is a continuous process, whereas most 3D Printing machines build up one layer at a time with pauses in-between.  This continuous process is not only fast, but it also avoids the stair-steps created with layered methods. This results in textured surfaces and a surface finish that no other process can approach.

Programmable materials are the other technology that enables production quality parts.  This unique approach joins two liquid resins as the build material; one that hardens with light and the other with heat. The 3D Printer creates the desired geometry of the part by using light to shape the first material. Then a second step uses an oven to harden the heat activated resin, resulting in engineering-grade mechanical properties.  Moreover, since the strength comes from a heat cured resin, the properties are the same in every direction. Most 3D Printed parts that use a layered approach are weaker in the build direction.  The other significant advantage of including heat activated resins is that they offer a much broader material selection than light activated resins.

PADT’s On-Demand Manufacturing Service

In the past, when PADT’s customers needed parts manufactured with production quality, surface finish, and strength we had to use soft tooling or low-volume injection molding. Both are expensive and take time to make tools.  3D printing is leveraged to make those tools faster, but it still takes time and labor. Production manufacturing could benefit from going directly from a computer model to a finished part, as we do with prototyping.  When we first saw an early Carbon sample part we knew that this was a technology we needed to watch.  As the technology matured further, it became obvious that this was the process PADT was looking for – this was the type of end-use part our customers were requesting.  Then, when the Production Partner program was introduced, we knew we needed to take part.

Our On-Demand Manufacturing service will be built around the Carbon Digital Light Synthesis process. Initially, we will use three Carbon M2 systems, a cleaning station, and a curing oven.  This will be placed in the middle of our existing advanced manufacturing facility, allowing us to add machining, hand finishing, painting, and other post-processing steps into each production process as needed.

What sets PADT’s offering apart from other providers of production manufacturing with 3D Printing is that we also provide full product development, simulation, and part scanning services to help customers make sure their designs are correct. Before parts are made, we can use our simulation and design knowledge to make sure everything is correct before production begins. And when the parts are completed, we can use our advanced scanning to inspect and our product development testing to verify performance.  By adapting our proven quality to this new technology, we can ensure that every step is done correctly and traceability exists.

Next Steps

You do not have to wait till our production line is up and running.  We can start working with customers now on getting their parts ready for manufacturing with Carbon’s breakthrough Digital Light Synthesis. Our experienced staff can evaluate your components and find the best fit, recommend design changes, and work with Carbon to produce samples. And when our line is up, you can hit the ground running and obtain your parts on-demand, when you need them.

Take part in the transition of manufacturing to faster, better, and on demand by contacting PADT today to learn more.

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Phoenix Business Journal: Debbie Harry sang to me at grocery store about pop culture impacting business

When you find yourself humming to a pop song from your youth while in the grocery store, you may just keep humming. I start thinking about marketing and the ways to leverage pop culture to reinforce your brand and connect with customers. Take a look at “Debbie Harry sang to me at grocery store about pop culture impacting business” to see what conclusions I came to before I got to the produce section.

Phoenix Business Journal: That feeling when what you are selling is working

Nothing makes what you do as a value-added reseller and service provider into focus like a visit to a customer.  A recent trip was a real eye-opener into how our engineers and the products we represent are used in a positive way every day. Take some time to read “That feeling when what you are selling is working” and then take some more time to go visit some customers.

Why I keep toys on my desk, Phoenix Business Journal

I have a lot of toys in my office and on my desk.  Some might consider it unprofessional or even childish.  I don’t disagree. What they are missing is the power of toys and the power of play.  I explore this idea in “Why I keep toys on my desk.”  Also for those of you who are readers of the PADT blog, I’ve included below some images of my favorite ones.

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Phoenix Business Journal: ​When social media is used for evil, does the tech industry have a responsibility?

Social media has changed the world we live in.  It is an extremely powerful way to connect people and share information.  As with any powerful new tool, it can be used for evil along with good.  Which begs the question: ​”When social media is used for evil, does the tech industry have a responsibility?

AZBigMedia.com: The do’s and don’ts of pitching a startup

One of the coolest things I get to do often is to listen to startups pitch their companies. Every single one is an educational experience where I also get to feed off of the passion and drive of entrepreneurs. The problem is, more than half of the pitches I hear are bad. Sometimes it is the delivery, but public speaking is hard for most people, and I can go beyond that. What gets to me is when the speakers just make silly mistakes in what should be a very simple task. After a couple of recent discussions with others who hear many pitches, I have come up with a list of The Do’s and Don’ts of pitching a startup.

Phoenix Business Journal: ​A few thoughts after 100 blog posts

The post “A few thoughts after 100 blog posts” is my 100th guest blog article for the Phoenix Business Journal. That is a lot of 500 or so word rants and missives. Because I like round numbers, and I did write a lot of posts, I figured it would be ok to be a little self-indulgent and go introspective on the whole experience, and talk directly to you, my occasional reader.

Getting to Know PADT: Our Offices in Four Other States

This is the fourth installment in our review of all the different products and services PADT offers our customers. As we add more, they will be available here.  As always, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to reach out to info@padtinc.com or give us a call at 1-800-293-PADT.

Updated on 4/6/2018: Added a paragraph on our efforts in Austin, Texas and modified California to reflect our growth there. 

Based in the ASU Research Park in Tempe Arizona, PADT has thrived and grown in the technologically oriented East Valley of the Phoenix Metro area. When people think about the company, they think about Phoenix and Arizona. Phoenix is even in the company name. What many people do not realize is that PADT has thriving sales and support offices in four other states. If we updated our name, it would be Southwest Simulation, Design, and Additive Technologies. However, SWSDAT is even worse than PADT! Worse yet, people might think we are from Switzerland.

As the company has grown so has our sales and support territory for the products we sell. And the best way to provide outstanding support to their high-technology customers is to be part of the local technology community. So starting with Colorado in 2010, the company has been investing in the communities that are allowing it to grow. Below is a brief overview of each office and what makes them unique.

PADT Colorado

Arizona and Colorado are like siblings, so alike in some ways, totally different in others. The Rocky Mountain state was the first state that saw significant growth for PADT outside of Arizona, so it was an obvious place to start growing. The bulk of our business there is around selling and supporting Stratasys Additive Manufacturing equipment. And to be blunt, it has been a great location for our engineering staff who literally could not take the heat of Arizona. Located in Littleton just south of Denver, we are close to our large Aerospace customers, and a quick drive to Boulder, Fort Collins, Colorado Springs, and Golden where we also have clusters of customers.

The high-tech nature of the industry in the state fit perfectly with PADT’s strengths. From launch vehicles to mining, to cell phone cases, we have fit right in with our growing customer base. And part of our fitting there is the fantastic location on Littleton Blvd right next to the Arapahoe County courthouse. We rent a suite on the second floor a cool mid-century building that is walking distance from light rail and restaurants – a great location. If you ever visit, ask to see the bathroom and kitchen, both are a blast from the past.

PADT New Mexico

Our largest customer outside of the Phoenix area is the combined Sandia National Lab, and Los Alamos National Lab, and Kirtland’s Air Force Research Lab. All are located in New Mexico and are a major focus for us for Additive Manufacturing and ANSYS sales and support. That is why our New Mexico office is so important. It is located in the Sandia Research Park, right outside the Eubank entrance to Sandia National Lab.

The office provides a nice space for training as well as a location to hold office hours and meet with users who may be in locations we are not authorized to visit. Many of our non-lab customers are in that same park or nearby. This office has been a great base of operations for our continued growth in the state. This office may have the best views of any in the PADT family. Many of us also feel it also offers the best Mexican food options.

PADT Utah

Utah has a small but very active technology community, and PADT’s presence in the state is growing quickly. Our office in Murray at the I-15 and 5300S is only 9 miles due south of downtown Salt Lake City. If you have not visited, the space is actually one of our more enjoyable offices to work in. One large room houses the sales and engineering team as well as a host of 3D Printers, supplies for maintenance, and a cool sitting area.

Working with so many customers in Utah leads to a lot of driving, tech companies seem to be evenly distributed along the I-15 corridor, so the local team does a lot of driving. However, the office is a great central location for meeting with customers and seminars and as a starting point for those drives to Provo, Park City, and Ogden as well as destinations in-between. As our business in Utah continues to grow, we may soon have to expand this office.

PADT California

Our newest second most recent location is in Southern California, Torrance in particular. If New Mexico has the best views, this one probably has the worst… unless you like refineries. However, it is a central location that has served us well for almost two years now. Just down the street from our largest customer, Honeywell Aerospace, it is the ultimate home base for such a freeway dominated territory. Our local staff can get there fairly easily from their homes, and when the rest of us visit, its location near LAX is very convenient.

Our focus in that office right now is Simulation. Particularly ANSYS sales and support. Our SoCal customers like to drop by when they are in the neighborhood, and the PADT team there is constantly on the road out visiting them. It works great for our customers nearby, but since that office covers from San Diego North to San Luis Obispo, a random collection of coffee shops serve as an office for SoCal almost as much as our Torrance base.

Our growth in the region is quick, and we look forward to opening more satellite offices across an area that is larger in population and real estate than some countries.

Since publishing this article, we have added two new sales people to PADT California that will be working from home offices as well as dropping into Torrance as needed.  They are based in Pasadena and San Diego, giving us better coverage of the South and North part of the region.

PADT Texas

When people look at PADT and where we are located, they almost always say “You should open an office in Austin, the tech community there is a perfect fit for your skills and culture.” We finally listened and are proud to announce that our newest location is in Austin Texas. This new office will be initially focused on ANSYS Sales and Support across the great state of Texas. We have had customers for other products and services in the state for decades and are pleased to have a permanent local presence now.

We have hit the ground running.and have a growing group of customers who are now enjoying PADT’s famous support. We hope to add engineers and more salespeople as we increase our efforts in Texas.  Right now we are trying to get them to understand that Arizona Cowboys are real cowboys.

 

Serving our Customers Better

Sometimes technology allows people to connect fairly well. However, nothing beats being local. The best way for PADT to support our customers is to not just be there for them technically, but also to be part of the communities they reside in. And that community spreads across the Southwestern United States, and we are proud to be members of the Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Southern California technical communities. People innovate everywhere, so we are there, local, to make innovation work for them.

Phoenix Business Journal: ​While AI, IoT, and automation are taking over we forgot about genetic engineering

The big technologies right now are Artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and the automation of everything from manufacturing to our automobiles. These advanced technologies will transform how we live our lives.  But ” While AI, IoT, and automation are taking over we forgot about genetic engineering.”  This is something everyone, especially those in tech, need to stay on top of.

Phoenix Business Journal: On 9/11, we’re reminded that the unthinkable can happen

Lots of things come to mind on September 11th. The bravery of the first responders, the way the country came together after the attacks, the changes in how we live our lives every day now because of what happened. The most important lesson that we learned was that “On 9/11, we’re reminded that the unthinkable can happen.

ANSYS Discovery Live: Observations on What it Is and Suggestions for Trying it Out

Yesterday ANSYS, Inc. did a webinar about a technology that was going to “Change the way simulation is done.”  If you have been around the world of FEA and CFD for the 30+ years I have you have heard that statement before.  And rarely does the actual product change match the hype.  Not true for ANSYS Discovery Live.  If anything, I think they are holding back.  This is disruptive, this is a tool that will change how people do simulation.  In this post I’ll share my thoughts on what it is and why I think it is so transformative, and then in the second half (go ahead, if you don’t want to listen to me go on and on about how much I like this tool, skip ahead) there are some tips on how to get your hands on it to see for yourself.

What is ANSYS Discovery Live?

ANSYS Discovery Live is a new multiple physics simulation platform that combines several key ingredients to produce a software tool that engineers can use to do almost instantaneous virtual prototypes of the behavior of their designs directly from their solid models. The developers at ANSYS, Inc. have combined their knowledge of advanced solver technology, making solvers parallel for Graphical Processor Units (GPUs, high-end graphics cards), direct solid modeling (SpaceClaim), and some advanced stuff on the discretization side I don’t think I can talk about. All of those things embedded inside SpaceClaim make ANSYS Discovery Live.

Once you have a solid model in the tool, you simply define what physics you want to solve and some boundary conditions, then it solves.  In almost real time. Right there in front of you. The equivalent steps of meshing, building the model, solving it, extracting results, and displaying the results are done automatically. It may iterate a few times to converge on a solution, but in a few seconds, you will have a good enough answer to give you insight into your design.

And that is the key point. This is not a replacement for ANSYS Mechanical, FLUENT, or HFSS. It is a tool for exploring your designs and gaining insight into their behavior. It allows the design engineer, with very little training or expertise, to exercise their design and see what happens.

The product lives inside ANSYS Spaceclaim and can be installed on its own.  It runs on Windows and requires a NVidia graphics card with a newer GPU (see below for more on that).  Right now the product is in pre-release mode and anyone, yes anyone, can go to www.ansys.com/discovery and download it and try it out. And please, share your feedback.  Expect the product to be released in the first quarter of 2018. Pricing and bundling have not been firmed up yet, but from what we have seen the plans are reasonable and make sense.

Why is it Unique in the Industry?

Some of the first comments I saw on social media about ANSYS Discovery Live after the webinar were that it is not a unique tool.  There are other GPU based solvers out there. That is true. But even though those tools are super fast at solving, they have not been widely adopted.  The ANSYS product is unique because it: 1) combines GPU based solvers for multiple physics and 2) is built into a fully functioning solid modeling tools.  A third might be that it is also an ANSYS product, which means it will be backed technically and supported well.

Why I think that the Simple Fact that it Exists is Important?

During an interview for a magazine article about innovation in product development this week I was asked what is keeping innovation from happening more often.  My answer was that most companies with the resources, both money and people, to innovate are choosing to acquire rather than innovate internally.  They let others raise money, take all the risk, work out all the problems, deal with all the issues of trying to make something new. And then when they succeed, they buy them. There is nothing morally wrong with that approach, it is just inefficient and inaccurate.  Every innovation has to not only survive its technical challenges, it has to survive being a startup.

What ANSYS, Inc. has done is the opposite. They could have purchased a GPU based solver startup and checked the box. But instead, they took people from different business units, several that were acquired, and put them together and said: “innovate… but make it something very useful.”  And they did.  The fact that they executed on the logistics of a new product that used new and old technology across physics and across software development realms, is fantastic.  It makes me feel good about ANSYS, Inc’s true dedication to improving their products.

How will it Change Simulation?

In my career, I have had the same conversation dozens of times “Let me go out to the lab and tinker with it, I’ll figure out what is going on.” That is the way you had to explore your product to get a “feel” for what is going on. Simulation took too long and you became so wrapped up in the process of building and running a model that you could not really explore the behavior of your product. Now we can.

ANSYS Discovery Live is called Discovery Live not because anyone at ANSYS is a marketing genius (sorry guys…) but because that is what it lets you do. Discover the behavior of your product live. You simply play with it and see what happens. And this will change simulation because we know can move from verification or optimization to simply experimenting and gaining a deeper understanding, early in the design process. We will still do what is now I guess called traditional simulation.  We will need more accuracy, more complex physics, loads, and behavior.  But early on we can learn so much by virtually experimenting.

Is it the Perfect Tool Right out of the Box?

This is not a perfect-does-everything tool.  First off, it is a pre-release.  The basic functionality to make it useful is there.  More than I thought would be available in a first release. But there are limitations because it is new, or because of the approach.  It is not as accurate as more traditional approaches. The way it works takes some shortcuts on geometry and can’t include some behaviors. This should improve over time but it will never be accurate as more time-consuming approaches that simply have more functionality.

Over the next two to three years we will see it mature and add functionality and accuracy. The GPU’s the tool depends on will offer more performance for less money as well. This is a journey, but right now everyone I have talked to who has actually played with the pre-release is very happy with the functionality and accuracy that is there now. Because it is sufficient to do the experimentation and exploration it was designed to allow.

How do you Try it Out?

ANSYS, Inc. realized that this type of tool demos so well, and is so different, that a skeptical group of engineers will not accept what they see in a webinar as accurate.  So they have made the pre-release available for use. You can download it and install it, or explore with it in the cloud through your browser.

  • To get started, go to www.ansys.com/discovery and look around. The videos are awesome!  When you are ready to try it out, click on Download Now. Fill out the form. Don’t complain.  Yes you will get a few emails and a salesperson (gasp!) may call you. It’s worth some emails and maybe a phone call.
  • Set yourself up there.  There is a verification code step and once you put that in and create your login, you have to click on some legal agreements, including export controls.  Save your login info, you will need it to get back in.
  • After that either start the download or the Cloud Trial Option.  The cloud trial didn’t work for me, read below how I got to that function.
  • If you chose download it will download a big Zip File, over 1 GB. It is a full solid modeler and CFD/Structural/Thermal solver…  so it is big.
  • Once it is there, unzip, and  run Setup.exe. follow the steps and you will be there.
  • If you don’t have a graphics card that will run this, then use the cloud demo.  Like I said above, the button didn’t work for me.  If you have that problem or you want to use it after your first login, go to:
  • https://discoveryforum.ansys.com/ and click on “Getting Started.”
  • Scroll down a bit and find the “Cloud Trial” post. That one takes you to the page where you can find a server near you to try things out on. It’s pretty slick.
  • If you need to get back here, use https://discoveryforum.ansys.com/ and log in with the email and password you gave at registration,
 Here is a PDF Guide with even more details and a quick start.

Hardware Requirements

The only sticky bit about this whole thing is that it run a subset of Nvidia graphics cards. So you have to have one of those cards. According to the information in the forum:

ANSYS Discovery Live relies on the latest GPU technology to provide its computation and visual experience.  To run the software, you will require:

– A dedicated NVIDIA GPU card based on the Kepler, Maxwell or Pascal architecture. Most dedicated NVIDIA GPU cards produced in 2013 or later will be based on one of these architectures.
– At least 4GB of video RAM (8GB preferred) on the GPU.

Also, please ensure you have the latest driver for your graphics card, available from NVIDIA Driver Downloads.  You can also refer to the post on Graphics Performance Benchmarks. Performance of Discovery Live is less dependent on machine CPU and RAM.  A recent generation 64-bit CPU running Windows, and at least 4GB of RAM will be sufficient. If you do not have a graphics card that meets these specifications, the software will not run. However, you can try ANSYS Discovery Live through an online cloud-based trial, which requires only an internet browser and a reasonably fast internet connection.

I didn’t know if my GPU on my laptop would work, so I went to https://www.techpowerup.com and put in my card model (nvidia m500m) and it told me it was Maxwell technology.

Go Forth and Discover, and Share

Don’t hesitate, download this and try it out.  Even if you are a high-end combustion simulation expert that will never need it, if you are interested in Simulation you should still try it out.   Use the forum to share your thoughts and questions.  The gallery is already filling up with some fantastic real world examples.

Silicon Desert Insider: How close are we to 3-D Printing human organs?

Being able to grow your own replacement organ is one of those things, like flying cars, that we have been waiting a long time for.  The combination of stem cells and 3D Printing may be what we need to get that new liver on order.  In “How close are we to 3-D Printing human organs?” I go over where we are with this technology and what is needed to take those final steps.