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

My problem reduced down to a classic Monte Carlo type simulation. This particular type of problem maps very nicely onto a parallel processing paradigm known as Map-Reduce. The concept is shown below:

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!

Here is a little graph of our internal cluster at PADT cranking away on my Monte Carlo simulation.

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.

Conclusion

There are a couple of things I want to draw your attention to as I wrap this up.

1. CUBE systems aren’t only useful for CAE simulation HPC! They can be used for a wide range of HPC needs.
2. 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.
3. 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…

WE ARE CELEBRATING MANUFACTURING IN ARIZONA

The state of Arizona has a vibrant and robust manufacturing community, something that most people do not know. To highlight this strong part of the state’s economy, the month of October has been designated as Manufacturing Month. Learn more at the ACA website.

PADT has been busy participating in a variety of events throughout the month of October.  We are excited to celebrate the culmination of this amazing month.

Everyone is welcome!

What:  Celebrating Arizona Manufacturing – The Special Closing Event of the 2014 Arizona Manufacturer’s Month

When: October 30th, 4-7pm

Where: PADT – 7755 S. Research Drive, Tempe, AZ 85284

Food and drinks will be provided.

In addition to networking and celebrating, several companies involved in Manufacturing will be in attendance for an exhibit focused on the future of manufacturing.

Exhibitors attending include:

…..and more

PADT Colorado is excited to be partnering again with Alignex for a 3D printer demo/happy hour at their upcoming networking event.

The event is from 10 am to 6pm and will feature guest speakers discussing the latest in engineering and design productivity.  PADT will be on site to discuss 3D printing during their happy hour from 5 to 6pm.

Four Events to Help Celebrate Manufacturing in Arizona

The month of October in Arizona is Manufacturer’s Month. Part of the Arizona Commerce Authoritie’s RevAZ program, this month of celebrations is an opportunity for those of us who make stuff, or support people to make stuff, to spread the word that the manufacturing community is robust, diverse, and has a major impact on the local economy.

PADT is attending three events, and hosting the closing event for the month. We hope to run in to you at the first three, and consider this the first of many invitations to join us for an open house and celebration on October 30th.

The three events open to the public are:

October 3rd, 2014 – 10:00 to 2:00
National Manufacturing Day Open House at AzAMI

The Arizona Advanced Manufacturing Institute (AzAMI) at Mesa Community College (MCC) is celebrating National Manufacturing Day by opening its doors to the community. Guided Tours of its enhanced machining, processing and additive manufacturing labs will be offered between 10am and 2pm.

1833 W. Southern Ave
Mesa, AZ 85202

Check out the event details here.

October 15th, 2014 – 12:30 to 6:30

AZTC Southern Arizona Tech + Business Expo: Where Technology and Manufacturing Connect

The Southern Arizona Tech + Business Expo is the regions premier showcase event for Manufacturing Month. Working in collaboration with the Southern Arizona Manufacturing Partners (SAMP), The Arizona Manufacturing Council (AMC), the RevAZ Program of the Arizona Commerce Authority, and the University of Arizona’s Tech Launch Arizona; the Expo will host informative panel discussions on strategies to grow your business faster.

The Westin La Paloma Resort
3800 E. Sunrise Drive
Tucson, AZ 85718

Check out the event details and register here.

October 30th, 2014 – 4:00 to 7:00pm

Celebrating Arizona Manufacturing

PADT is proud to host the closing celebration for Arizona Manufacturer’s Month. A variety of companies and organizations will be exhibiting their activities in the future of manufacturing. Visitors will get a chance to see some of the more advanced applications of manufacturing in the state as well as tours of the PADT facility.

Food and drinks will be provided along with great opportunities to network and get to know the community a little better.

7755 S. Research Drive
Suite 110
Tempe, AZ 85284

Register for the event here.

PADT Presents 3DPAZ Contest and FIRST Robotics Grant

PADT has always been a proud supporter of STEM education in our community.  This summer we have been busy planning some new activities to help support local schools.  Today we are busy attending the Innovation Arizona Summit which is a joint collaborative of the Arizona SciTech Festival, the MIT Enterprise Forum Phoenix and the Arizona Commerce Authority.

As part of our attendance, we will be promoting our first ever 3D printing contest, 3DPAZ  which will challenge high school students in Arizona with the task of creating or improving an existing engineering product.  We are very excited to be launching this contest and cannot wait to see what students come up with. Please visit our website for more information on how to take part in this contest by clicking here.

We are also very excited to be extending our support to the FIRST Robotics Competition by way of a new grant program for Arizona schools or organizations that are competing in the in the 2014/2015 FRC season.  If you are interested in either the 3DPAZ contest or the FRC Grant program, please email Kathryn Pesta at kathryn.pesta@padtinc.com.

3D Printed Quill Pen for GISHWHES 2014 Scavenger Hunt

Sometimes you get strange messages on Facebook.  This weekend I heard a beep and checked my phone “Can you 3D Print a Quill Pen?”  Most messages involve asking me why I posted something stupid or annoying, so this one caught my attention.  Turns out my friend Chelsea is taking part in the 2014 “GREATEST INTERNATIONAL SCAVENGER HUNT THE WORLD HAS EVER SEEN” or GISHWHES.  One of the items in the scavenger hunt is to print out an ink quill pen on a 3D Printer and write “We need to buy more Toner” on a sheet of paper with the pen.

I can’t resist a challenge like that, so I told her no problem.  And it worked like a charm.

The process we used was very straightforward:

First I went into a CAD program, SolidEdge in this case, and build a solid model of a quill pen.  Not being quill pen designer I found some web sites on how to cut a pen tip from a real feather, and tried to mimic the resulting geometry:

We then wrote an STL file out and sent that to our RP team.  They read that into our preparation software and separated the feathers from the stem, designating a rubber like material for the feather area for artistic purposes, and a hard white plastic for the stem and the tip.

That file was then sent to our Stratasys Objet500 Connex3 and printed in about 30 minutes.

This video shows the printing process:

Once it was done, we just needed to wash out the support material and it was ready to go.

The moment of truth was then here.  Our intreped Scavenger Hunter took out her handy-dandy pot of India Ink and dipped the quill in, the she wrote out the requested message:

I worked like a charm, our handwriting was the biggest issue.

Wanting to see if it enhanced my artistic skills, I used it to sketch the following masterpiece:

This is why I use CAD systems.

Here is an image of the final part. The tip is stained black from the ink.

All and all a fun project, and I guess the team gets 80 points for doing this task, so we were glad to help.

Throwback Thursday: 3D Printing on “Good Morning America” in 1989

Note: This post is not displaying correctly, here is a link to the video:
http://youtu.be/NpRDuJ5YgoQ

Take a look at this science segment that Jeff Strain found on Stereolithography from 1989.  If you ignore the hair styles (Joan Lunden rocked that helmet hair) the report isn’t that much different from news coverage that 3D Printing is getting today. But the technology has sure progressed.

To add some additional perspective, according to the 2014 Wohlers Report, 104 systems were sold in 1989. 94 SLA machines from 3D Systems and 10 systems from now defunct Japanese SLA providers.

The same report estimates that for 2013 9,823 commercial systems were sold by over 33 different suppliers.  This does not include the personal printer (low cost desktop) systems, which was estimated at over 72,000 units!.  That is 9,345% growth over 24 years for commercial systems.. 66,702 systems have been tracked as old.

Take a look at the video. It is truly fascinating how the message still resonates and how predictions for replacing traditional manufacturing were maybe a bit optimistic.  But even in the early days, this report captured the promise of the technology.

It has been an incredible ride, and it is not over yet.

3D Thursday – 4th of July Style

I was in search of something Independence Day/3D printing related to celebrate the 4th of July.  It seems like a lot of people had the same idea.  Thomas Jefferson……yup, he was 3D printed at RedEye on Demand.  President Obama was 3D printed at the first ever White House Maker Faire last month.   So, after sifting through replicas of the Statue of Liberty or American Flags, I came across something really cool.

His design is in 4 separate sections that can be taken apart to see the beautiful and intricate detail on each of the floors.  It’s a beautiful design of a very important part of American history.

And just for fun, here is an interesting article about the creation of an exact replica of the Liberty Bell using 3D scanning.

Happy 4th of July!

A look inside the Objet500 Connex3 Multi-material 3D printer

This week our we printed some beautiful multi-colored sponsor awards for the 2014 Arizona SciTech Festival which officially launches in August.  Intern extraordinaire, Diserae Saunders, placed a GoPro inside our Objet500 Connex3 to record the magic.  Enjoy the video and check out the Arizona SciTech Festival for information on this great program that promotes science, technology and innovation in Arizona!

An inside look at our Connex500

We wanted to see what 3d printing looked like from the inside of the machine so our new intern, Diserae Sanders, placed a GoPro inside our Connex500 during a print job.  The item being printed is a demo bicycle pedal printed in multiple materials.

This video is the first in a series we plan to do on 3D printing. If there is something you would like to see us do a video on, please post it in the comments below.

3D Scanning & Printing for Makers

Attention Makers, Tinkerers & 3D Enthusiasts

When :   Monday, June 23, 2014
6:00 PM to 7:00 PM

Where: TechShop Chandler
249 E. Chicago Street
Chandler, AZ 85225

Attend Live – Register Now
Attend Virtually – Register Now

We will be discussing some practical ways to utilize 3D scanning and printing specifically for Makers.

Whether you are new to 3D printing or you need a refresher on how 3D scanning can help with your designs, this workshop is for you. Anyone, novice to seasoned expert, is invited and encouraged to attend and share their knowledge and questions.

Two ways to participate:

In Person

Virtually

If you can’t be here in person, you can join us virtually by registering HERE.
Light refreshments will be served (only to in-person attendees, sorry virtual participants)

Registration is required as space is limited.

Stratasys adds flexible color to their digital material palettes

Earlier this week, Stratasys announced the addition of 10 new color pallets expanding the digital materials offering to represent hundreds of new options of both flexible color materials and rigid gray materials available for the Objet500 Connex3 Color Multi-material 3D Printer

The first three pallets are built using TangoPlus combined with combinations of VeroCyan, VeroMagenta and VeroYellow. These new pallets allow for the printing of a range of colors and translucent tints in nine Shore A values (Shore A 27-95).

Three additional pallets using TangoBlack Plus and combinations of VeroCyan, VeroMagenta and VeroYellow allow for users to blend a wide range of subtle vibrant-to-dark shades into the same part with TangoBlack Plus in seven Shore A values.

The final four palettes that were introduced offer additional combinations of VeroWhite and VeroBlack with either VeroCyan, VeroMagenta or VeroYellow allowing for users to build sophisticated prototypes in a range of subtle grays alongside muted or vibrant color.

The addition of these ten palettes combined with their existing palettes allow for virtually limitless combinations of flexible, rigid and translucent colors in one print job.

“The Objet500 Connex3 is the only 3D printer that combines colors with multi-material 3D printing. The ability to mix rigid, flexible, transparent and opaque colors offers users unprecedented versatility to design and perfect products faster,” says Stratasys Director of Materials & Applications Fred Fischer. “By extending the range of material options available, users can improve workflow speeds and enhance efficiency.”

These new options are available immediately to Objet500 Connex3 Color Multi-material 3D Printer owners through a free software update.

Check out this great video on the new materials.

Slide Rules, Logarithms, and Compute Servers

If any of you have been to PADT’s headquarters in Tempe, Arizona, you probably noticed the giant slide rule in the middle of our building.  You can see a portion of it in the picture below, at the top of our Training, Mentoring, and Support group picture.

This thing is huge, over 6 feet (2 m) from side to side, in its un-extended position hanging on the wall.

In theory a gigantic slide rule could provide more accuracy, but our trophy, a Kueffel & Esser model 68 1929 copyrighted 1947 and 1961, was intended for teaching purposes in classrooms.  Most engineers had essentially pocket size or belt holder sized slide rules, also known as slip sticks.

For the real thing, here is a picture of a slide rule used by Eric Miller’s father Col. BT Miller while at West Point from 1955 to 1958 as well as during his Master’s program in 1964.

Why do we care about the slide rule today?  Have you ever seen World War II aircraft, submarines, or aircraft carriers?  These were designed using slide rules and/or logarithms.  The early space program?  Slide rules were used then too.  Some phenomenal engineering was accomplished by our predecessors using these devices.  Back then the numerical operations were just a tool to utilize their engineering knowledge.  Now I think we have a tendency to focus on the numerical due to its ease of use and impressive presentation, while perhaps forgetting or at least de-emphasizing the underlying engineering.  That’s not to say that we don’t have great engineers out there; rather it’s a call to energize you all to remember, consider, and utilize your engineering knowledge as you use your simulation tools.

By contrast, here is a picture of PADT’s brand new server room, with cluster machines being put together in the big cabinets.  Hundreds of cores.

What about the giant slide rule?

My father found a thick book at an estate sale a few months ago.  There are a lot of retirees living in Arizona, so estate sales are quite common and popular.  They occur at a life stage when due to death or the need for assisted living, folks are no longer able to live in their home so the contents are sold, clearing out the home and generating some cash for the family.  This particular estate sale was for a retired engineer.  The book caught my father’s eye, first because it was quite thick and second because the title was, Mechanical Engineers’ Handbook.  Figuring it was a bargain for the amazing price of \$1.00, he bought it for me.  This book is better known as Marks’ Handbook.  It’s apparently still in publication, at least as late as the 11th Edition in 2006, but the particular edition my father bought for me is the Fifth Edition from 1951.

Although the slide rule is mostly a curiosity to us today, in 1951 it was state of the art for numerical computation.  While Marks’ has a couple of paragraphs on “Computing Machines”, described as “electrically driven mechanical desk calculators such as the Marchant, Monroe, or Friden”, the slide rule was what I will call the calculator of choice by mechanical engineers at the beginning of the 2nd half of the 20th century.

As an aside, these mechanical calculators performed multiplication and division, using what I will describe as incredibly complex mechanisms.  Here is a link to a Wikipedia article on the Marchant Calculator:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marchant_Calculator

Marks’ Handbook devotes about 3 pages to the operation of the slide rule, starting with simple multiplication and division and then discussing various methods of utilization and various types of slide rules.  It starts off by stating, “The slide rule is an indispensable aid in all problems in multiplication, division, proportion, squares, square roots, etc., in which a limited degree of accuracy is sufficient.”

The slide rule operates using logarithms.  If you’re not familiar with using logarithms then you are probably younger than me, since I recall learning them in math class in probably junior high in the late 1970’s.  The slide rule uses common logarithms, meaning the log of a number is the exponent needed to raise a base of 10 to get that number.  For example, the common log of 100 is 2.  The common log table in the 1951 edition of Marks shows us that the common log of 4.44 is 0.6474.  For the sake of completeness, the ‘other’ logarithm is the natural log, meaning the base is the irrational number e, approximated as 2.718.

Getting back to common (base of 10) logs, the math magic is that logarithms allow for shortcuts in fairly complex computations.  For example, log (ab) = log a + log b.  That means if we want to multiple two fairly complicated numbers, we can simply look up the common log of each and add them together.  Similarly, log (a/b) = log a – log b.

Here is an example, which I will keep simple.  Let’s say we want to multiple 0.0512 by 0.624.  On a calculator this is simple, but what if you are stranded on a remote island and all you have is a log table?  Knowing the equations above, you can look up the log of 0.0512 which is 0.7093-2 and the log of 0.624 which is 0.7952-1.  We now add:

Writing that sum as a positive decimal minus an integer is important to being able to look up the antilogarithm or number whose log is 0.5045 – 2.

Looking up the number whose log is 0.5045 we get 3.195, using a little bit of linear interpolation.  The “-2” tells us to shift the decimal point to the left twice, meaning our answer is 0.003195.  Thus, using a little addition, some table lookup, a bit of in the head interpolation, and some knowledge on how to shift decimal points, we fairly easily arrive at the product of two three digit fractional numbers.  Now you are free to look for more coconuts on the island.  Or maybe get back to a hatch in the ground where you need to type in the numbers 4, 8, 14, 16, 23, and 42 every 108 minutes.  Oops, I’m really becoming Lost here…

Getting back to the slide rule, one way to think of it is a graphical representation of the log tables.  In its most basic form, the slide rule consists of two logarithmic scales.  By lining up the scales, the log values can be added or subtracted.  For example, if we want to multiply something simple, like 4 x 6, we simply look from left to right on the scale on the ‘fixed’ portion of the slide rule to get to 4, then slide the moving portion of the slide so that its 1 lines up with the 4 found above on the fixed portion.  We then move left to right on the movable scale to find the 6.  Where the 6 on the movable slide lines up with on the fixed portion is our solution, 24.  What we’ve really done is add the log of 4 to the log of 6 and then find the antilog of that result, which is 24.  Now that we’ve found 24, we’re not Lost

We don’t intend to give detailed instructions on all phases of performing calculations using slide rules here, but hopefully you get the basics of how it is done.  There are plenty of online resources as well as slide rule apps that provide all sorts of details.  Besides multiplication and division, slide rules can be used for squares and square roots.  There are (were) specialty slide rules for other purposes.  Note that with additional knowledge and skill in visually interpolating on a log scale, up to 3 or even 4 significant digits can be determined depending on the size of the slide rule.

The author, attempting to prove that 4 x 6 is indeed 24

After having studied the Marks’ section on slide rules, experimenting with a slide rule app on an iPad as well as the PADT behemoth on the wall, I conclude that it was a very elegant method for calculating numbers much more quickly than could be done by traditional pencil and paper.  It’s must faster to add and subtract vs. complicated multiplication and long division.  My high school physics teacher actually spent a day or two teaching us how to use slide rules back in the early 1980’s.  By then they had been made functionally obsolete by scientific calculators, so looking back it was perhaps more about nostalgia than the math needed.  It does help me to appreciate the accomplishments made in science and engineering before the advent of numerical computing.

The preparation of this article has made me wonder what the guys and gals who used these tools proficiently back in the 1930’s, 40’s, and 50’s would think if they had access to the kind of compute power we have available today.  It also makes me wonder what people will think of our current tools 50 or 60 years from now.  When I first started in simulation over 25 years ago, it would have seemed quite a stretch to be able to solve simultaneously on hundreds if not thousands of compute cores as can be done today.  Back then we were happy to get time on the one number cruncher we had that was dedicated to ANSYS simulation.

Incidentally, this article was inspired by my colleague David Mastel’s recent blog entry on numerical simulation and how PADT is helping our customers take compute servers and work stations to the next level:

If you are ever in our PADT headquarters building in Tempe, don’t forget to look for the giant slide rule.  Now you will know its original purpose.

3D Printing brings history to life

Did you hear that they have 3D printed Vincent van Gogh’s ear? How about the 3D printed spine of King Richard III?  This week alone 3D printing has given us two amazing examples of how this technology can be used to look at history in amazing new ways.

In the case of van Gogh, researchers used real living cells from his great-grandson to bioprint the cells to resemble van Gogh’s severed ear.  The ear is being kept technically alive in a nutrient solution and is said to be able to actually “hear”.  You can read more about this amazing application here.

King Richard III has been famously written as having a hunched back by William Shakespeare.  Anthropologists at the University of Cambridge wanted to determine if the description was accurate or exaggerated. Utilizing CT scans to create a model of the spine they were able to create 3D printed replica of his spine based on the models.  It turns out that while he did have terrible scoliosis, there was no evidence that he had a hunch as described by Shakespeare.  You can read more about this research here.

Just two of many new and innovative ways to integrate 3D printing into just about anything!

why does no1 respon to my request for help (Some Pointers to Students Looking for Help on Forums, Social Media, and Blogs)

[Note: I know I misspelled respond… that is the point] As many of you know, PADT hosts a very successful mailing list and forum called XANSYS.org. It is one of the most successful online community help places I have ever seen.  There are a lot of reasons for that success, but the biggest is the moderators and how strongly they enforce rules for those posting.  Especially on using complete sentences, punctuation, showing that you have tried, and fully identifying yourself.

I bring this up because I’ve seen several posts on Facebook and LinkedIn groups for ANSYS users that just don’t get many responses, or don’t get the quality of response that posts on XANSYS get. I thought it might not be a bad idea to make some comments on the subject and share this post on some of those other forums.  Although I’ll focus on the ANSYS community, what is said applies to any community that supports engineering and technology tools.

Show Some Effort

The thing that posters need to remember is that they are often asking industry experts to take time out of their busy day to help them.  Those experts want to see some effort put in to the question.  It is very important that the requester form the question in proper English, or whatever language the forum uses.  Even if the poster is not a native speaker, an effort needs to be made to use full and complete sentences, even if grammar is a bit off. (I won’t comment about speling, because that is a my weakest area… so I’ll forgive others on that one)

The easiest way to show a lack of respect to the people you want to answer your question is to not use capitalization or punctuation. As someone commented one time on XANSYS

“If you can’t find the time to use a shift key, I don’t have the time to answer your question.”

The most famous “bad post” on XANSYS was something along the lines of:

“i have been told to model a turbine blade in ansys, can someone show me how to do this”

Needless to say, no one helped them.  Before you post a question you need to try and figure things out yourself. Read the manual, search the internet, talk to co-workers. Most importantly, just try it.  Trial and error is a great learning experience. If you can’t get that to work or you still can’t find the information you need, then post your question. But, make sure you let people know what you have already done and tried.

The people who can help you on forums want to help, they don’t want to do your homework or your work for you.

The quote above is not just notorious  because it is asking someone to do their work for them, it is also well known because the question is insanely too general.  Questions that are very specific are the ones that are answered the quickest and with the most useful information.  Even if you have lots of questions, break them up – solve one, then try and solve the next.

Identify Yourself

Saying who you are and where you go to work or school is huge. It is a professional courtesy that says “I have nothing to hide.”  When you hide your identity, people assume you are trying to get someone else to do your work and that you don’t want your professor or boss to know. Or, more seriously, you could be posting from an embargoed country or using illegal copies of the software.

Give Back

This is obvious.  Many people who answer a lot of questions also ask a lot of questions. Even if you are new to the tool you are asking about, share what you learned on the thread when you get it all working. And as you get better, go back and answer some other people’s questions. Remember, it is a community.