PADT is excited to celebrate the opening of PADT StartUp Labs, the advanced 3D Printing facility for startups located at CEI. PADT StartUpLabs is focused on working with other tenants at CEI. Engineers from PADT hold regular office hours to answer questions about 3D Printing and product development. Clients can also set up a consultation with anyone on our staff to talk about simulation, product design or test, quality systems, or manufacturing. The goal is to eventually expand these services to a broader audience.
What: Grand Opening of PADT StartUp Labs
When: April 20th, 3pm – 7pm
Where: CEI – 275 N. Gateway Drive, Phoenix, AZ 85034
Food and drinks will be provided.
If you have questions about the event, please contact Kathryn Pesta at email@example.com.
Last week was a big, and diverse, week for "team building" at PADT. We learned some things and "bonded" in not-as-nerdy as you would think ways. A fun week had by all, with a lot of hard work thrown in between. Over the years we have learned that we need to take a break now and then and do something "other" and mingle with people from different parts of the company.
PADT Running Team
The group preparing for this year's Pat's Run is over half way through their training. Everyone is getting stronger and faster and we are all pleased with the fact that we don't feel like we are going to pass out at the end of a training session. A sign that Physix has been doing a great job. We also got our team shirts:
Look for us at the race, we will not be hard to find.
While visiting Albuquerque, I was able to have some informal "team building" with Jeff Strain in the Albuquerque office. We headed up to the Sandia mountain foothills and hiked Emudito Canyon. A nice afternoon climb past some very beautiful scenery. I was reminded that Albuquerque is also a mile high… pant pant pant.
The trail head is just down the street from Hank and Marie's house in Breaking Bad.
2nd Annual Colorado Office Ski Trip (ACOST)
On Friday the PADT team in Colorado, accompanied by a two of us from the Tempe office, headed up to Breckenridge for a fantastic day of skiing. Their was a bit of fresh snow and no real lines on the lift. Fun was had by all even with a very wide range in ski/board skills.
[Left to Right: Cara, Pat, Manoj, Stephen, Doug, Eric, Ben (Eric's son)]
Back in Tempe we celebrating 3/14/15 a day early. We like Pi day and we are nerdy, but not nerdy enough to come in to the office on a Saturday to celebrate that nerdiness. We only have one Tauist in our ranks, so there was no open conflict. We decided to make moon pies, cookies with ice cream between.
Recent development in 3D scanning technologies have made a wide variety of application a possibility. 3D scanners can capture data on the shape and texture of real world object and transform it into useable 3D CAD model. Our structured light 3D scanners generate quality high density mesh results which are then used for rapid prototyping, computer-aided engineering (CAE) analysis, reverse engineering, or inspection to 3D CAD data. The scanner works by using a high resolution camera and lens pair to analyze the deformed projection pattern on an object.
Per customer request, we 3D scanned a custom hand crafted character sculpture and separate standing base. We efficiently scanned the sculpture and base using a turntable allowing for quicker and more accurate data. The scanned data was then sent to the computer for alignment or registration into a common reference system and merged into a complete STL model. Next, we optimized the mesh results for 3D printing and printed the model using our FDM printer.
Using PADT’s structured light scanner and FDM printer we were able to capture and produce a detailed model which brought the character to life.
Once the object was scanned we sent him to the 3D Printer. Here you can see him being made:
And this is a shot of him taking his post build bath, to remove the support material from the print:
And the final part, looking good:
The customer can use the scanned model to create different sized versions of their sculpture.
Not long ago the sages in the additive manufacturing world said "Someday in the future we will be able to print a complete Turbine Engine." That someday is now, much sooner than many of us predicted. Researchers at Monash University in Australia recently created a modified version of a Safron Microturbo Auxiliary Power Unit using 3D Printing. The whole thing. Milestone Achieved.
The best article on this amazing story is on the Melbourne Examiner page:
Turbine Engines are really the peak of machine design. They contain every nasty thing you might run into in other machines, but spin faster and run hotter. It's hard stuff. The geometry is difficult, lots of small features and holes, and significant assembly and tolerance constraints. Getting a demonstrator built like this is a huge deal. As a former turbine engine engineer and a long time user of additive manufacturing, I'm amazed.
Check out their video:
The "3d Printer" they used was a huge Concept Laser Direct Laser Melting system. The technology uses a laser to draw on the top of a bed of powder medal, melting the medal in small pools the bind and create a fully dense part with cast like properties. They used three different metals: nickel alloy, titanium, and aluminum.
PADT has chosen to partner with Concept Laser for our metal 3D Printing strategy, which gives us additional excitement for this sucessful project.
Now that someone has achieved this milestone, the industry can move forward with confidence that even more can be done with metal 3D Printing. Much was learned in the creation of this advanced device that we can build on and apply to other industries and applications.
Much is said in the twittersphere and press about printing food or custom dog tags, but this sort of high value industrial application is where the real impact of 3D Printing will be felt. It shows that companies can develop new more efficient products in less time and that are not constrained by traditional manufacturing methods.
People are interested in how to better do design and simulation for products they manufacture using 3D Printing. When the AZ Tech council let us know they had a cancelation for their monthly manufacturing Lunch and Learn, we figured why not do something on this topic, a few people might show up. We had over 105 people register, so we had to close registration. In the end around 95 total people made it to the seminar, which is more than expected so we had to add chairs. Who would have thought that many people would come for such a nerdy topic?.
For an hour and fifteen minutes they sat and listned to us talk about the ins and outs of using this growing technology to make end use parts. Here is a copy of the PowerPoint as a PDF.
We did add one bullet item in the design suggestions area based on a question. Someone pointed out that the machine instructions, what the AM machine uses to make the parts, should be a controlled document. They are exactly right and that is a very important process that needs to be put in place to get traceability and repeatability.
Here are some useful links:
Join or at least follow America Makes: https://americamakes.us/
Follow the evolving standards, and use the standard terminology, on the ASTM page: – http://www.astm.org/Standards/additive-manufacturing-technology-standards.html
Subscribe to this Blog: http://www.padtinc.com/blog or follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook.
As always, do not hesitate to contact us for more information or with any questions.
If you missed this presentation, don't worry, we are looking to schedule a live/web version of this talk with some enhancements sometime in March. Watch the usual channels for time, place, and registration information. We will also be publishing detailed blog posts on many of the topics covered today, diving deeper into areas of interest.
Thank you to the AZ Tech Council, ASU SkySong, and everyone that attended for making this our best attended non-web seminar ever.
There is still more debate going on about the deflated footballs that the New England Patriots used in their playoff game. "Who Deflated Them? When? Were they acting on orders?" But no one is asking if it makes a real difference.
Enter ANSYS simulation software. Using the newest ANSYS product, ANSYS AIM, the engineers at ANSYS, Inc. were able to simulate the effect of lower pressure on grip. It turns out that the the difference in pressure only made a 5mm difference in grip. No big deal.
Being a Multiphysics tool they were able to quickly also run a flow analysis and see what impact drag from "wobble" had on a pass. A 10% off axis wobble resulted in 20% more drag, that is a few yards on a long pass. Their conclusion, throwing a tight spiral is more important than the pressure of the ball.
Check out the full article on the ANSYS blog:
Here is the video as well:
In honor of the big game this weekend the folks at Stratasys scored big time with a 3D printed football. Stratasys has had a history of using 3D printing to improve on a variety of sports; however this time they out did themselves by possibly solving the infamous issue of deflategate. Since the Ideal Gas Law doesn't exactly explain it, maybe 3D printing could help prevent it from interfering in the big game until an answer is found. I’m not sure the NFL will be too keen on using these balls but it’s a thought
The football was created on the Objet500 Connex3 Color Multi-Material 3D Production System and was printed in three materials. VeroMagenta and VeroYellow was used for the bulk of the design however they were also able to replicate the true texture and feel of a real football using the rubber-like TangoPlus material and all in one print job. It is heavier than a game ball but can still be tossed around. Of course they wouldn’t print a football and not test it. Check out their video below.
Bonus Link – Here is a fun Brady Deflategate Inaction Figure from Shapeways.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: This was written some time ago and was set to automatically go out. But I just found it stuck in the “pending” folder. So late, but here it is]
It has been a great 20th anniversary year for PADT. And we decided to close it out with some fun. Now, if you know engineers, getting them to take part in any team building event is tough. And many of our employees came to PADT to get away from such things. The phrase "team building" causes a Pavlovian eye roll. As we discussed options for November, we looked at a lot of activities. When we settled on doing an event that not only involved teams, but also color coded shirts, puzzles, and (gasp) a lean towards being healthier I said "we should try it, but it probably won't work" and hoped to be proven wrong. Even with the help of the great folks at Physix, I didn't have high hopes. But you don't know until you try.
I was proven wrong.
Kickoff: Halloween and Pumpkin Launching
We started with a kickoff event on Halloween, which was nice enough to be on a Friday this year. In the past we have carved pumpkins and built a dry-ice pumpkin mortar. This year we fed everyone to get them in a good mood and then put them in teams. After some trivia contests we moved over the the first event – a pumpkin slingshot.
We finished up the kickoff event with rules and a list of ways to get points: go to lunch with team mates, go for a hike, attend a class at Physix, get a fitness assessment, lose weight, answer the weekly quiz, and walk. The easiest way to get points was to keep track of your step count.
Three Weeks of Getting Points
The next three weeks were fun. Different teams approached things differently. Some opted to lunch together, often.
Others did a fitness assessment or attended a class. One team even tried to take a hike… on Photoshop:
Funny how their picture on Camelback Mountain looks a lot like their lunch picture…
After a bit of a kerfuffle on Body Mass Index results from the fitness assessment, we held a brown bag seminar by the lake. The reason why Physix is a great match for PADT is that their approach to health is science and fact based. No chakra alignment here. So Shannon came armed with statistics, studies, and fancy measuring devices with dials on them that we could write down numbers from.
There was also a weight loss competition. Points for every pound lost. There are and will not be pictures from that portion of the event. But we can share that some people dropped a few pounds over the three week period, and some more than a few.
Turkey and Contests
At the end of the three weeks we gathered together again to take part in our annual Thanksgiving Feast, and compete to win some additional points for our teams.
We started with a plank contest. Expecting 5 or so people to participate, maybe one from each team. Everyone gave it a shot:
Most people lasted a minute, then they started to drop.
A ton of people lasted to 2 minutes, then 3, then 4. 6 people were holding at 4:30.
Purple had a strong showing, Renee lasting past 5 minutes. Clinton held strong for purple. Don, and Demola held on for Orange and Black.
In the end, Demola won a ton of points for his team, lasting past 6 minutes.
Next we tried a relay event that involved passing a ball over our heads and taking a step, then running to the back, then passing… what was that again. It took us a while to figure it out. In hindsight, we should have created a process diagram before the event.
But Green and Black figured it out and charged to the finish line… not even stopping when one competitor stumbled. No one left behind, as long as they have the right shirt color.
Inside, we had a timed puzzle building event. It got kind of nasty when the teams realized that each team had two pieces from another puzzle. People get aggressive when points are on the line. There may have been some hiding, there may have been some prying of fingers open.
The last event was to build a tower out of spaghetti, string, tape, and a marshmallow. Whoever got their marshmallow the highest got the points. Four of the teams built tripods and went for height.
Two teams figured out that spaghetti bends and breaks. Blue felt that building a box was better. I guess that is thinking outside the box?
But the winner was a combination of tripod and "stoutness." Green figured it out:
There was a dessert contest as well. I grudgingly mention it because my dessert didn't make it into the finals… but I'm not bitter, not at all.
After that we all went back to work while the PADT HR and Physix teams summed up all the points and figured out who won.
Green, thanks to their tower, squeaked into third place:
Some were happier than others about the competition.
Second place was won by the superior team, and we would have won if my dessert had been in the finals:
And the winners were the Black Team.
You have to admit, they do look pretty confident.
What we Learned
Overall, the three weeks were a nice distraction from a very busy period. Some people that would not have normally spent time together, did. Some people learned a bit about fitness or nutrition that they didn't know before. A lot of people walked a lot more.
We also learned a couple of lessons:
You can have a positive and constructive team building event at a company that is kind of wired to go against such corporate group-think activities.
Not everyone wants to participate. That's OK and it is no reason why those that do can't have fun. And you can find small ways for people to take part.
Some people are REALLY competitive.
The average core strength at PADT is stronger than we thought.
The breath mints we got to combat coffee breath are 50 calories, and the average person has to walk around 500 steps to burn them off.
If you don't take these things too seriously, they can be fun and a nice break.
PADT's employees are clever. They tried to get points for waking up in the morning and mouse clicks. You have seen the Photoshop picture. They also wanted to pass off the PADT Medical skeleton as Don Pegg after his diet. It didn't work.
For those of you who are thinking of doing a similar event at your company, some key words of advice:
Bring in someone to help that is a good fit for your culture. Don't try and fit a standard or large company approach to a small or medium company. Find someone that gets you and maybe pushes your organization a bit further than you would push it on your own.
Keep it short, keep it simple.
Don't let the negative people drag it down. You will have some people that this is not a good fit for. If you try and please them, they will still be unhappy and it will lesson the event for others. Just accept that not everyone will be on-board and move on.
Place your tongue firmly in your cheek. If you take these things too seriously, they will fail. Make some fun of yourselves and the activity, it takes that edge off.
If you do it right, you might even get engineers to touch each other.
Reading through my email this morning I saw an update from the "maker" site Instructables and I glanced at it quickly: "floating bed, how to make a sword, that's cool, 3D printable printer, folding chair charcoal forge, what?, parachord hammer holder, just buy one, duh, blah, blah, blah how do people have time for this… wait, 3D printable printer?" CLICK.
So this 17 year old kid used his 3D Printer, an arduino board and parts he scrounged from old DVD drives to make a 3D Printer. Read about it here. This kid, wootin24, designed and built an X, Y, Z positioning device that could be fited with a dremel tool to be a CNC machine, or an extruder to be a 3D Printer. No CAD experience, no formal engineering training, just a smart person. And the ad that popped up on the side of the how-to this kid wrote was for a Dremel 3D Printer, available at Home Depot. Not some kickstarter funded rehash of an opensource printer, Dremel. The big guys. As I was feeling bad about how I spent my time when I was 17 (I'm not going to go there but I never did become a the backup bass player for Rush nor did I get a second date from T—–) and starting to worry about how systems from very capable companies like Dremel will impact our sales of Stratasys equipment, I realized that the true revolution in 3D printing happened and most of us involved day-to-day in the industry didn't even notice.
3D Printing is Now Normal
When a revolutionary technology comes out there is a lot of hoopla and press. Tons of people start jumping on the bandwagon and your Aunt's friend in Topeka is sending you links on Facebook about 3D Printing and how it is "going to change everything." Do not get me started on how 3D Printing is not new, we've been doing it at PADT for over 20 years, and certainly do not ask about the "3D printed gun. The false-newness and fear-mongering stories are what the mainstream press picked up on. The good news is that the hype got the word out. And then smart people like this kid and the engineers at Dremel said "hmmm, that is useful. I can do something with this" and boom, the real revolution happened.
After all these years this tool that was really a special tool used when needed, has become just another screwdriver in the toolbox. A standard part of the process it is something most engineers understand well, and a majority of non-engineers are aware of. When we first started showing people our SLA machine back in the 90's they would either not understand what they were looking at or become flabergasted and amazed, treating it more like a magic box than a fairly simple additive curing system. Now when we give tours we hear "that one looks like the one we have in our office" or "oh yea, an Objet, I'd love to trade my older system in for one of those." And the dreaded "oh, we have three of these in our robotics lab at school, do you have anything interesting?"
There is a lot of power in 3D Printing. That is the real reason why the technology has blossomed as it has. The power of 3D Printing is that it lets you make physical objects without special equipment or knowledge, the laser printer of manufacturing. However, as long as the tool is treated as something to be used in special cases or as a mystical new magic bullet, it will not be used correctly. Now that it is mainstream, the use of additive manufacturing becomes mainstream and the power it brings to the table can be fully realized. We see this every day at PADT. Product managers have "3D Printed Prototypes" as a standard line item in their budget templates. Customers are increasingly talking about going back to their current product lines and identifying parts that are machined, injection molded, or cast and determining which can be replaced by 3D printed parts. And most importantly, the supply chain and quality people are sniffing around and starting to make paperwork to control and manage 3D Printed components.
As proponents of the technology since the early days, we could not be happier than when we see a check box for "Created with additive manufacturing" on a quality form. When it becomes part of the bureaucracy, the revolution has truly happened.
For our Christmas parties at PADT we generally have over 40 employees so a traditional secret Santa gift exchange takes to long. So a couple of years ago we downloaded a right-left gift exchange story from the internet and it was a big hit. We ran out of stories on the internet, so we started writing our own, usually in some sort of over-the-top style. This year we have a cationary fairy tale. Here is how it works.
Everyone gets their gift and forms a big circle in the middle of the room. Someone with a strong voice reads the story and every time the world LEFT is read, everyone passes the package they have to the left. Every time the world RIGHT is read, everyone passes the package they have to their right. You should pause a bit at each LEFT/RIGHT to give people a chance to pass.
You can find previous years stories here:
The Wooden Horse
In a village, that sits on the left bank of the river Dreamwald, there is a good and generous family, the Leftmulds. The father is the last barrel wright left in the duchy of Cornwil-o-day-leffon. He has a wife, two gorgeous twin daughters, and a son name… Albert. Albert was willful and spoiled. He thought he was always right and he always wanted what he wanted right now.
One day, about right when the cows needed to come in from pasture, Albert stormed in to his father’s workshop, walked right up to his father, and said: You have left me no choice but to go on strike. I demand you make me a wooden horse toy right now.
“Albert” his father said “You left the door open. Please close it.”
Albert replied: “I don’t care if I left the door open, you promised me a horse and I want it now. “
His father said “I told you, when you clean the right side of the barn, and there is no mud left on the floor, and there is no hay left outside, I will give you your horse”
“I hate you! I wish you had left me with the stork! I’m leaving right now”
And with that, he stormed out. All is father said was “You still left the door open my son. Something is not… correct with you”
Albert ran from the village. Right past the mill, right past the well, and right out the gate into the dark and ominous Dreamwald forest. He soon slowed, for the run had left him out of breath. But he kept walking and walking. Presently he noticed an old woman in black standing right in the middle of the path. He walked right up to her and said. “Excuse me old woman, but you are in my way, I would ask that you step aside right now.”
The old woman peered from beneath her hood and said “I’m waiting for you Albert. You left a wish at the wishing stone last night. I’m here to make it right.”
“You have my wooden horse?” Albert asked, having left off the idea of getting past this women.
“I do, but you must promise to give me whatever I want. Promise right now. “
He was left with no choice “I promise”
There was a boom and a crash and right next to Albert there was a gorgeous wooden horse. It left him breathless, and for the first time in his life, something left him speechless as well. It was more than he had hoped for.
“Is it all right?” asked the old crown.
“Oh yes” he replied “It is defiantly all right.
And then she began to cackle. The noise left his ears ringing it was so loud. And them POOF, Albert was no longer in the woods. He was inside a hut, tied right to a spit, left spinning over an open fire.
The old women continued to cackle as she pinched his left arm and licked her licks.
He screamed “Oh no! This is not right! In fairy tales the little child outsmarts the old witch. You have not left me a chance to even try!”
“You looked so tasty, I didn’t think it was right to play that silly old game. I decided to just put you right on the spit and roast you right away.”
Albert began to sob as the heat of the flames became more and more uncomfortable. He was left with a feeling of utter despair.
Then, to his left, he heard the sound of sleigh bells, then he heard the stomping of many animals. Then one of the hut doors, the one on the left, opened up and a man in a big rid suit stepped inside and pointed at the old lady.
“Ismerelda! You have left me no choice. Yes this boy is naughty, but you are worse. You have no right to cook him, no matter how selfish and lazy he is!” He lifted a staff in his right hand and brought it down with a thud on the ground. A blinding flash of light filled the hut and then snow began to fall right from the ceiling. Big, wet flakes fell right on to the witch and quickly covered her, freezing her right where she stood. The snow also fell right on the fire, till there were no flames left.
Albert freed his right hand, then his right ankle, and then untied his… other arm and leg.
“Thank you Santa! I thought I was left for dead!”
As the old man walked to the other door in the hut, the right door, he turned and said. “Don’t thank me little boy. Thank your good parents and sisters. When you left them, you left them heartbroken and they asked for my help. So I came right away and did what I could. Let this be a lesson to you. You need to learn Wrong from Right!”
And with that, he left the hut, jumped into his sleigh, flew away, and left Albert with nothing but his thoughts.
Technology has changed so much in our world that sometimes it is hard to get your head around it. The fact that Google is driving and walking around the world taking a picture of streets everywhere is something easy to say, but had to comprehend. Everyone now has the chance of having their blurred face saved for posterity – if you are in the right place at the right time.
On my current visit to PADT’s Colorado office someone mentioned that Manoj and Stephen were caught on Google Street View outside our office. I figured they were snapped while running out the front door to leap into a car and speed off to do an impromptu demo or provide face-to-face technical support to a struggling customer. something heroic and super hero like in a technical-guy sort of way.
So I went to Google maps and put in “PADT Colorado” and clicked on street view:
Looks like a nice summer day on main street in historic downtown Littleton. You can see the US, Colorado, and PADT flags on the balcony of our office. I bet if I move down the street I’ll see them racing out the door.
There they are, Manoj and Steve! Being the engineers that they are, they of course recognized the Google StreetView car and Manoj is waiving at it. Hey, what is that… a football? They weren’t rushing to solve a technical emergency, they were playing catch in the grass on a sunny bright day! No computers, laptop bags, or pocket protectors.
Much cooler thing to get caught doing on street view. Bravo.
They both made PADT proud in their 1500 pixels of fame.
Every year in November the Arizona technology community gathers to celebrate innovation in the state. The 2014 Governor’s Celebration of Innovation (GCOI) was a great event for the state and for PADT. This years winners ranged from high school students to legislators to internationally recognized leaders in the software industry. And, unlike most tech events in the state, everyone was dressed up all fancy. The gala is put on by our friends at the Arizona Technology Council and the Arizona Commerce Authority.
This is a special event for PADT for a variety of reasons. We have been a sponsor of the GCOI for several years, hauling out our equipment and samples for a booth to show off Mechanical Engineering in the state. This year we were also honored to provided a judge to help choose the winners and we also made the trophies for those who won. In addition, PADT was the winner of the 2011 Pioneering Award. Every year we add more good memories to this event which puts an exclamation point on the year.
Congratulations to the Winners
This years nominees was a great indication of the strength of technology companies and educators in the state. As always, the students who received recognition were the most inspiring. It is truly amazing what they have achieved while still in High School.
It was especially nice to see PADT customers Syncardia and Securaplane receive awards. Both companies are based in Tucson and are leading the way in their industries. Syncardia produces the only FDA approved total artificial heart, truly saving lives on a daily basis. Securaplane provides the aviation industry with a variety of security and power sub-systems.
We were also pleased to see Pat Sullivan take home a “Lifetime Achievement Award.” Pat started ACT! in the early days of personal computing, and many of us at PADT have been users of his software, and we still use it today at PADT. In addition, we are an investor in Pat’s new company, Contatta, through the Arizona Tech Investors.
This year the judges decided to add a special award, the Judges Award, for outstanding contributions to the technology community. The first ever winner was the Society of Women Engineers. This group is a big favorite of PADT because of their hard work to diversify the field and support many in school and in their careers.
Check out the article in the Phoenix Business Journal to see a full list of winners.
3D Printed Awards
Once again, PADT provided the awards for the winners. It is one thing to see people you know and admire win an award, it is even more meaningful when you see them holding an award that you designed and made. Seeing Governor Brewer pose with her special award was kind of cool.
In the past, we have used a combination of 3D Printing and traditional methods to make the awards, but this year we were able to produce everything using additive manufacturing technologies.
The top portion of the awards was created on our Stratasys Objet500 Connex3 polyjet machine. This device uses inkjet heads to deposit layers of photo-curable polymers. It has four heads, allowing us to lay down support material, a base material, and two colors. We used a transparent material for the base, and mixed yellow and magenta to get the different colors that “float” inside the transparent oval.
The base was created on our FORTUS 400 fused deposition modeling machine using ABS plastic. Both of the parts were generated in CAD and printed directly. This application shows the power of 3D Printing. We were able to create 11 unique trophies without the need for tooling, special equipment, or expertise in any given process. We simply visualized what we wanted on the computer, then sent the resulting custom designs to the printers. Specifically, the unique text for each award was extruded as a solid inside the main body, floating above the state of Arizona.
Ever been on a flight, hear someone sneeze, and then sit in fear as you imagine millions of tiny infectiousness germs laughing historically as they spread through the cabin of the plane? In my imagination they are green and drip mucus. In reality they are small liquid particles and instead of going everywhere, it appears they fall on just a few unlucky people.
ANSYS, Inc. put out a very cool video showing the results of an in-cabin CFD run done by Purdue University that tracks the pathogens as they leave the sick persons mouth, get caught in the climate control system’s air stream, and waft right on the people next to and behind them. The study was done for the FAA Center for Excellence for Airliner Cabin Environment Research.
Here is the video, check it out and share with your friends. Especially if you have a friend that doesn’t sneezes out into the open air:
Visit the ANSYS Blog to learn even more.
Last Thursday (10/30/2014) PADT was honored to host the closing event for this years “Arizona Manufacturing Month” The event was well attended with almost 300 people stopping for networking, food, beer, and some examples of the future of Manufacturing in the state.
The event was sponsored by:
A big draw for the evening was the “Future of Manufacturing” Exhibit where local firms showed off what they were doing. Exhibitors included:
In addition to all of the companies and customers who attended, we were pleased to have a great group of High School Robotics teams that showed up to share their robots with us and take part in a brief awards ceremony for PADT’s “2014 FIRST Robotics Grant” competition. Read more about that here.
All and all a great event and our staff wants to thank everyone for making it an enjoyable and value added gathering. We hope to see more of you here next year as momentum grows and more and more people learn about the Revolution in Manufacturing that is taking place in Arizona.
Here are some snapshots from the event:
A Little Project Background
Recently I’ve been working on developing a computer vision system for a long standing customer. We are developing software that enables them to use computers to “see” where a particular object is space, and accurately determine its precise location with respect to the camera. From that information, they can do all kinds of useful things.
In order to figure out where something is in 3D space from a 2D image you have to perform what is commonly referred to as pose estimation. It’s a highly interesting problem by itself, but it’s not something I want to focus on in detail here. If you are interested in obtaining more information, you can Google pose estimation or PnP problems. There are, however, a couple of aspects of that problem that do pertain to this blog article. First, pose estimation is typically a nonlinear, iterative process. (Not all algorithms are iterative, but the ones I’m using are.) Second, like any algorithm, its output is dependent upon its input; namely, the accuracy of its pose estimate is dependent upon the accuracy of the upstream image processing techniques. Whatever error happens upstream of this algorithm typically gets magnified as the algorithm processes the input.
The Problem I Wish to Solve
You might be wondering where we are going with HPC given all this talk about computer vision. It’s true that computer vision, especially image processing, is computationally intensive, but I’m not going to focus on that aspect. The problem I wanted to solve was this: Is there a particular kind of pattern that I can use as a target for the vision system such that the pose estimation is less sensitive to the input noise? In order to quantify “less sensitive” I needed to do some statistics. Statistics is almost-math, but just a hair shy. You can translate that statement as: My brain neither likes nor speaks statistics… (The probability of me not understanding statistical jargon is statistically significant. I took a p-test in a cup to figure that out…) At any rate, one thing that ALL statistics requires is a data set. A big data set. Making big data sets sounds like an HPC problem, and hence it was time to roll my own HPC.
The Toolbox and the Solution
The idea is pretty simple. You break the problem into chunks and you “Map” those chunks onto available processors. The processors do some work and then you “Reduce” the solution from each chunk into a single answer. This algorithm is recursive. That is, any single “Chunk” can itself become a new blue “Problem” that can be subdivided. As you can see, you can get explosive parallelism.
Now, there are tools that exist for this kind of thing. Hadoop is one such tool. I’m sure it is vastly superior to what I ended up using and implementing. However, I didn’t want to invest at this time in learning a specialized tool for this particular problem. I wanted to investigate a lower level tool on which this type of solution can be built. The tool I chose was node.js (www.nodejs.org).
I’m finding Node to be an awesome tool for hooking computers together in new and novel ways. It acts kind of like the post office in that you can send letters and messages and get letters and messages all while going about your normal day. It handles all of the coordinating and transporting. It basically sends out a helpful postman who taps you on the shoulder and says, “Hey, here’s a letter”. You are expected to do something (quickly) and maybe send back a letter to the original sender or someone else. More specifically, node turns everything that a computer can do into a “tap on the shoulder”, or an event. Things like: “Hey, go read this file for me.”, turns into, “OK. I’m happy to do that. I tell you what, I’ll tap you on the shoulder when I’m done. No need to wait for me.” So, now, instead of twiddling your thumbs while the computer spins up the harddrive, finds the file and reads it, you get to go do something else you need to do. As you can imagine, this is a really awesome way of doing things when stuff like network latency, hard drives spinning and little child processes that are doing useful work are all chewing up valuable time. Time that you could be using getting someone else started on some useful work. Also, like all children, these little helpful child processes that are doing real work never seem to take the same time to do the same task twice. However, simply being notified when they are done allows the coordinator to move on to other children. Think of a teacher in a class room. Everyone is doing work, but not at the same pace. Imagine if the teacher could only focus on one child at a time until that child fully finished. Nothing would ever get done!
It’s probably impossible to read the axes, but that’s 1200+ cores cranking away. Now, here is the real kicker. All of the machines have an instance of node running on them, but one machine is coordinating the whole thing. The CPU on the master node barely nudges above idle. That is, this computer can manage and distribute all this work by barely lifting a finger.
There are a couple of things I want to draw your attention to as I wrap this up.
- CUBE systems aren’t only useful for CAE simulation HPC! They can be used for a wide range of HPC needs.
- PADT has a great deal of experience in software development both within the CAE ecosystem and outside of this ecosystem. This is one of the more enjoyable aspects of my job in particular.
- Learning new things is a blast and can have benefit in other aspects of life. Thinking about how to structure a problem as a series of events rather than a sequential series of steps has been very enlightening. In more ways than one, it is also why this blog article exists. My Monte Carlo simulator is running right now. I’m waiting on it to finish. My natural tendency is to busy wait. That is, spin brain cycles watching the CPU graph or the status counter tick down. However, in the time I’ve taken to write this article, my simulator has proceeded in parallel to my effort by eight steps. Each step represents generating and reducing a sample of 500,000,000 pose estimates! That is over 4 billion pose estimates in a little under an hour. I’ve managed to write 1,167 words…