Encore Lunch and Learn: Designing and Simulating Products for 3D Printing

3dprinting-production-1PADT would like to invite you to a free seminar or webinar on how to use 3D Printing to manufacture parts for your products.

In February, PADT held a Lunch and Learn with the AZ Tech Council on "Designing and Simulating Products for 3D Printing."  The event sold out and we received a lot of interest in being able to attend over the web. So we have scheduled a second version of this presentation to be given live at CEI in Phoenix on March 23rd, 2015 that will also be broadcast over the web.  

Here is some info on the presentation:

This proven technology has moved from prototyping to tooling and now the creation of final parts.  However, you can't just print your existing design. PADT will cover the techniques and processes needed to evaluate existing designs to find parts that can be switched to 3D printing as well as how to design new parts to take advantage of 3D printing. 

3dprinting-production-2

When:
Monday, March 23, 2015
11:30am – 1:00pm 
Where:
CEI
275 N. GateWay Drive
Phoenix, AZ 85034
Webinar:
WebEx
Please Register, we will send you login information 
  Lunch will be Served for those attending live

We will begin with a review on the current state of 3D Printing technologies, including the creation of accurate and usable metal parts. That will be followed with design guidelines and processes and finishing up with a look at how you can use simulation to drive the design your 3D Printed components so that they work.

Please Register

Lunch is included so we need a headcount for those joining us at CEI, and we need to send login information to those attending over the web.  So Please Register

 

Bringing Life to a Sculpture

Art_man-STL-PointsRecent 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.

Art_Man

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.

3D-Scan-Sculpture

Once the object was scanned we sent him to the 3D Printer. Here you can see him being made:

Art_Man-FDM-Building

And this is a shot of him taking his post build bath, to remove the support material from the print:

Art_Man-FDM-Bath

And the final part, looking good:

Art_Man-FDM-Part

The customer can use the scanned model to create different sized versions of their sculpture.

Learn more about our 3D Scanning capabilities on our website, or simply contact us at rp@padtinc.com

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geocube-hardware-pics

The Computer

The key to converting large scans into accurate 3D models revolves around having the right computer.  A complex model like this with so much detail can really bog down on a normal design workstation, so PADT developed a special line of CUBE Computers just for scanning, called geoCUBES.  For this project Ademola used a geoCUBE w4 which is crammed full of goodies.  Note the use of six Solid State Drives in raid to remove the I/O bottleneck along with an NVIDIA QUADRO K6000 which helps in visualization as a graphics card and as a GPU in doing all of the number crunching needed.

  • INTEL XEON e5-1620V2 – 4Cores@3.7GHz
  • HD Audio 7.1
  • 64GB DDR3-1866 ECC REG RAM
  • Hardware RAID Controller
  • 6 x 240GB Enterprise Class SSD’s
  • NVIDIA QUADRO K6000
  • Blu-Ray BDXL Combo Drive
  • 3D Connexion SpaceNavigator 3D Mouse

PHX Startup Week Going with Tours at CEI and PADT StartUPLab

PADT_StartUpLabs-1Phoenix Startup Week has started!  One of the key events on the first day centered on tours and talks at CEI, which kikced off with tours of PADT StartUpLabs, the advanced 3D Printing facility for startups located at CEI. This was followed with CEI tours and an afternoon of talks on Medical Device startups.  Then the tours repeated for those who could not make the early ones.

There is a great article in AZ Tech Beat today covering the event and what  we are doing at PADT StartupLabs:

Space travel to startups, 3D printing without limits – PHX Startup Week – AZ Tech Beat

IMG_5445Attendance was great, with a cross section of startups, established companies, the press, and people active in supporting the startup community.  The visits gave us a change to explain how PADT is working with CEI to provide 3D Printing and design expertise to new companies at a reduced price, focusing on getting them over the early stages of product development quickly and effectively. 

Right now 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. 

This week's events are being followed closely on the twittersphere: #PHXStartupWeek, #yesphx. Or if you are middle-aged like me and use Facebook, like Phoenix Startup Week.

aztechbeat-padt-startuplabs-1

Startup Week is still going and there are many more informative events. Check out the website to learn more and follow AZ Tech Beat's feed as they cover things to see what happened. 

We hope to run in to lots of you at upcoming events!

Not in Phoenix?

Many of you who read this blog are not from the Phoenix area. You may be wondering "What, a vibrant startup community? I thought Phoenix was old people and nutty gun-totting right-wing nut-jobs?"  Well, we certainly have a few of  those but since WWII when large aerospace and electronics companies moved to the valley, Phoenix has been a major high-technology hub.  It is an easy place to start a business and has all the resources and talent to be successful.  PADT has been helping startups in the area for over 20 years now, and we continue to see a steady increase in the number and diversity of new companies that we interact with.  So don't believe what you see on the news, this is a vibrant, high-tech place with great people and a business friendly outlook, affordable housing, and weather that doesn't force us to spend the morning shoveling out our driveways.  

Seminar Info: Designing and Simulating Products for 3D Printing

Note: We have scheduled an encore Lunch & Learn and companion Webinar for March 23, 2015.  Please register here to attend in person at CEI in Phoenix or here to attend via the web.

ds43dp-1People 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:

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.

Design and Simulation for 3D Printing Full House

The Full Power of SpaceClaim Engineer – Now Available from PADT

SpaceClaim-1We have been using SpaceClaim with ANSYS Workbench for about four years now, and we always liked it. Then it came as part of the Geomagic Spark tool and we got more excited.  This was a powerful geometry creation, editing, and reapir tool that was saving us time all across PADT.  The, when ANSYS, Inc. purchased the company SpaceClaim we got realy excited.  So excited that we decided to become a reseller of the full product, and not just the ANSYS or Geomagic tools.  The addition of a module for working with STL files sealed the deal and as of the begining of the year we are offering all flavors of SpaceClaim to our customers.

The official press release can be found here. You can learn a lot about the product by visiting the web page.

To get started learning about why we love this program so much, check out this video showing the new features in the latest version:

Then go visit their YouTube channel and watch videos that may be of special interest to you.

Or, contact us here at PADT and we would be happy to share with your our enthusiasm for this tool.

SpaceClaim-Model1b

 

Customer in the News: Soitec Sets Record for Solar Cell Efficiency at 46%

soitecWe noticed that customer and neighbor Soitec Phoenix Labs had a great writeup in the AZ Republic. Their substrate technology was used to make a multijunction solar cell for use with conentrated solar, delivering an amazing 46% efficiency. The standard right now in the mid to low 20% for single junction, the most common technology available. The article actually does a pretty good job of explaining the technology, why Soitec has something special, and some insight into their LED technology as well.

A big congrats to the team and we can not wait to hear when you break 50%!

They have a great video on their CPV efforts on their website.

Soitec is a french company that purchased GaNotec a few years back.  Their Phoenix Labs is across the lake in the ASU Research Park in the ASU MacroTechnology Works building and PADT has provided a variety of services to the company since it started as GaNotec.  We have worked with many of their employees at other Semiconductor Equipment companies before GaNotec was founded. 

Congrats to everyone!

soitec-HL

Press Release: Dedicated 3D Scanning Added to Round Out PADT’s Scanning Solutions

3d-optical-scanner-1

PADT has been offering 3D Scanning solutions for some time. Over time the company has added the sale of 3D Scanning hardware and software, training for 3D Scaning, and limited 3D Scanning services.  With the addition of a full time scanning engineer, PADT is now able to offer deciated scanning servcies to our customers.

Ademola Falada joins our team from Minnesota where he worked for a scanner manufacturer, CGI, for two years after graduating with an engineering degree from the University of Minnesota.  He brings extensive knowledge of scanning equipment and the scanning process.  Since joining PADT in the late summer, he has been providing limited services to our existing customers as he builds up our scanning capability and puts everything needed to provide a world class service in place.  He will be assisted by engineers and technicians that have been providing scanning on a part time basis in the past.

cross-sectional-scanning      

By offering optical and cross sectional scanning, PADT can provide a more accurate solution to a broader range of customers.  

Read the press release on this expanded service below

.Geomagic-Capture

You can also review our scanning services on our website

Or simply email us at rp@padtinc.com or call 480.813.4884 and our team will be more than happy to explain what we can do and provide you with a quote. 

 geomagic-qualify-probe-screenshot 

Press Release:

Dedicated 3D Scanning Added to Round Out PADT’s Scanning Solutions 

PADT now has a full time engineer and equipment dedicated to providing 3D Scanning services to customers.  Coupled with the sales and support of 3D scanners and software, PADT can now offer a complete solution to its growing number of scanning customers. 

Tempe, AZ – January 8, 2015 – Phoenix Analysis & Design Technologies, Inc. (PADT, Inc.), the Southwest’s largest provider of simulation, product development, and rapid prototyping services and products, is pleased to announce the addition of complete 3D part scanning to our services offering.  Based on growing customer requests, PADT has invested in equipment, software, and personnel to provide a dedicated resource in this area.  The company has been providing scanning as a service for many years, but on a part time basis when staff was free and customers could not find another resource.  PADT’s 3D Printing sales team has also been selling scanners and scanning software for over three years.  Bringing someone on board to focus on this critical need in product development was the next logical step.



3D Scanning is used by engineers to take a part in the real world and measure it accurately in order to get a model of the part on a computer.  This is done using a variety of technologies including lasers, patterned light, and high resolution pictures. The technology is used in product development to capture geometry of existing parts to reproduce (reverse engineering) them or design parts that attach or interact with them. It can also be used to inspect manufactured parts.



Ademola Falada joins our team from Minnesota where he worked for a scanner manufacturer, CGI, for two years after graduating with an engineering degree from the University of Minnesota.  He brings extensive knowledge of scanning equipment and the scanning process.  Since joining PADT in the late summer, he has been providing limited services to our existing customers as he builds up our scanning capability and puts everything needed to provide a world class service in place.  He will be assisted by engineers and technicians that have been providing scanning on a part time basis in the past.



“We are now ready to open our doors wide to customers who need accurate, timely, and useful scanning of their parts.” Commented Rey Chu, one of PADT’s owners and the Principal responsible for the company’s manufacturing services. “We never felt that we could deliver the level of service that customers expect from PADT until we had enough equipment and a dedicated engineer. We are there now.”



The scanning lab consists of two CGI Cross Sectional Scanners for high fidelity scanning of complex plastic parts with internal features, a Geomagic Capture blue light scanner, and a Steinbichler high resolution blue light scanner currently under evaluation. This combination of equipment is matched with the full suite of Geomagic scanning software to provide inspection data, cleaned point clouds, tessellated solids (STL), or usable CAD models. 



Customers who are interested in having parts scanned, or who want to learn more about the service, can contact the team at 480.813.4884 or scanning@padtinc.com 



Phoenix Analysis and Design Technologies, Inc. (PADT) is an engineering service company that focuses on helping customers who develop physical products by providing Numerical Simulation, Product Development, and Rapid Prototyping products and services. PADT’s worldwide reputation for technical excellence and an experienced staff is based on its proven record of building long term win-win partnerships with vendors and customers. Since its establishment in 1994, companies have relied on PADT because “We Make Innovation Work.“  With over 75 employees, PADT services customers from its headquarters at the Arizona State University Research Park in Tempe, Arizona, its Littleton, Colorado office, Albuquerque, New Mexico office, and Murray, Utah office, as well as through staff members located around the country. More information on PADT can be found at www.PADTINC.com.

In Memoriam: Dr. Mark Johnson

Mark_Johnson_PADT_Equations
A picture of Mark in his office at PADT. The equations on the white board were not put there for the picture. This was taken after a meeting where he and members of his team solved a tough rotor dynamics problem for a customer.
It is with incredible sadness that we must inform you that our friend and co-owner of PADT, Mark Johnson, passed away on November 25th from complications due to melanoma. He was with his wife, resting comfortably when he left us. This is a huge loss to anyone that ever knew Mark.

He joined PADT in the early days with the goal of building the company’s product development capability.  His focus and the focus of his team was using engineering to make the world a better place.  They did this directly through their work in alternative energy and medical devices and indirectly by helping companies from a wide range of industries.  There are hydrogen powered cars and buses today humming down the street using pumps and blowers that were Mark’s creations. Doctors are using devices every day to treat patients that Mark helped to design and test.  He also participated in the Startup and Medical Device engineering community in Arizona, serving as a judge, mentor, and board member across multiple organizations.  And as a co-owner of PADT, he helped direct the company, contributing strongly to our culture and reputation in the community.

Before joining PADT, Mark had a similar impact at Garrett (AlliedSignal, Honeywell), The University of Arkansas, and Ballard.  Few people in our industry had such a strong understanding of engineering fundamentals and his ability to apply that basic knowledge to help customers across industries will be sorely missed.

Outside of work, Mark was a loving father and husband, who always took time to be with his wife and two children.  Those of you who knew him outside of work know how important they were to him, and he to them.  

Since his passing many people have asked how they can honor Mark or share their thoughts on him.  We are recommending that those who wish to honor him simply follow his example.  Look for the good in people, help others when you can, and always ask questions.  Mark was a master questioner and often answering those questions revealed more to the person he was asking the question of than anyone else.  He often began meetings with new customers and partners with a simple statement: “I want to warn you, I like to ask questions, lots of questions.”

In that this blog is mostly read by people in technology, the best way you can honor his memory is to carry on his mission of using technology to make the world a better place. Help a startup, develop a more efficient system, commercialize a new technology that improves the lives of the less fortunate, enhance patient care, or help to explore and understand our universe.  There are so many ways that those of us involved in engineering and science can make a huge difference, just as Mark did.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts about Mark in the comments below. If you would like to send a note or card to his family, please mail it to:

Mark Johnson Memorial
PADT, Inc
7755 S Research Dr, Suite 110
Tempe, AZ  85284

The family has asked that any donations be made to Heifer International or Hospice of the Valley.

Coming Soon to CEI

PADT_StartUpLabs-1  cei_logo

Check out this great video from CEI about PADT’s new office in Phoenix.
Watch this space for more details as we get closer to launch.

geoCUBE: Computers for Scanning

PADT just released a line of computer workstations  specifically designed for use with a variety of optical scanners: geoCUBE Scanning Workstations.

Scanning technology has come a long way.  It is relatively easy to scan a real physical part with a variety of different scanning technologies and capture the geometry for use in inspection, design, reverse engineering, or to directly replicate a part with 3D Printing.  The problem is that a good scanner produces a huge  number of data points and a standard office computer, laptop, or even most CAD workstations bog down and perhaps even crash when you try to view or manipulate that much data.  

geocube-hardware-picsWhen we ran into that exact problem here at PADT when we were doing scanning services for customers.  On a nice CAD workstation it was taking almost a whole day to clean up and process a full scan or a large part.  Our manufacturing team asked if they could power one of the CUBE Simulation Computers we use for CFD.  If you know CFD people you know they said “No, but can I also run on your box if you are not using it?”  So they went to our IT staff, the people who design CUBE systems and asked for a custom built machine for scanning.

The result was a breakthrough.  That 20 hour job was finishing in about two hours and we were able to spin the points and the resulting triangle file around on the screen in real time. We liked it so much we decided to come up with four systems spanning the needs of scanning users, and offer them along with the scanner we sell, or to anyone that might need one.

Below is a screen shot of the table showing the four systems, from a basic small box that you can use to drive your scanner, to the power system that we use.  You can download the brochure here, or visit the web page here

geoCUBE-Spec-Table-Screen-Shot

As always, feel free to contact us to get more information and see how we can help you find the right scanner and the perfect computer to go with it.

Build the “Right” Product

Successful product commercialization is achieved when the product development process is integrated with customer development and is executed by an experienced team and organized by an effective process. At PADT we have spent the last 20 years building our team, establishing our infrastructure, and honing our processes. One of the key processes that strongly affect the outcome of a product development effort is the process of establishing product/market requirements. The idealized product development process that we use is shown below and the establishment of requirements is shown as the first development activity box.

product-development-process

Establishing requirements insures that we develop the “Right” product. Building the “Right” product means working closely with clients to understand what the end customers want and are willing to pay for. It also means testing the market by building prototypes early and validating design choices with end customers.

At PADT we have found it very effective to get with customers from the very first meeting to establish these market and product requirements. Even if you are part of a large organization and do not work directly with external customers, we recommend that you adopt a methodology that captures and documents market and product requirements as early as possible, and that you evaluate your design against these requirements through the development process. 

 One way we do this is by asking questions about the product from many perspectives as illustrated by the wheel below. By looking at the product from each of these perspectives, we capture important requirements, avoid late stage product revision, and end up with the “Right” product.

product-development-questions

A question based approach is effective because it opens up everyone involved to looking beyond their initial assumption. The more traditional method of making a list of requirements, often results in requirements from the point of view of the person making the list. By questioning the customer, or proxy customer, from these different points of view, the team looks at things in new and different way and this captures more realistic and comprehensive requirements.

product-development-examples-PADTVisit our case studies page to see examples of how our approach has been used across a wide variety of industries.

The best way to understand the benefits of properly building the right process by establishing product/market requirements is to partner with PADT on your next product development project.

A 3D Mouse Testimonial

The following is from an email that I received from Johnathon Wright.  I think he likes his brand new 3DConnexion Space Pilot Pro.
-David Mastel
  IT Manager
  PADT, Inc.

——————-

top-panel-deviceRecently PADT became a certified reseller for 3Dconnexion. Shortly following the agreement a sleek and elegant SpacePilot PRO landed on my desk. Immediately the ergonomic design, LCD display, and blue LED under the space ball appealed to the techie inside of me. As a new 3D mouse user I was a little skeptical about the effectiveness of this little machine, yet it quickly has gained my trust as an invaluable tool to any Designer or Engineer. On a daily basis it allows me to seamlessly transition from CAD to 3D printing software and then to Geomagic Scanning software, allowing dynamic control of my models, screen views, hotkeys and shortcuts.

Outside of its consistency as an exceptional 3D modeling aid, the SpacePilot PRO also has a configurable home screen that allows quick navigation of email, calendar or tasks. This ensures that I can keep in touch with my team without having to ever leave my engineering programs, which is invaluable to my production on a daily basis. Whether you are a first time user who is looking to tryout a 3D Mouse for the first time or an experienced 3D mouse user who is looking to upgrade, you need to check out the SpacePilot Pro. I can’t imagine returning to producing CAD models or manipulating scan data without one. Combine the SpacePilot PRO cross-compatibility with its programmability and ease of use and you have a quality computer tool that applies to a wide range of users who are looking at new ways to increase productivity.

Link to You Tube video – watch it do its thing along with a look at my 3D scanning workstation, the GEOCUBE: http://youtu.be/fsfkLPaZJe4

Johnathon Wright
Applications Engineer,
Hardware Solutions
PADT, Inc.

———————————————————————————————-
Editors Note:

Not familiar with what a 3D Mouse is?  It is a device that lets a use control 3D objects on their computer in an intuitive manner. Just as you move a 2D mouse on the plane of your desk, you spin a 3D Mouse in all three dimensions.  Learn more here

spacepilot-pro-cad-professional-2-209-p

FDA Opening to Simulation Supported Verification and Validation for Medical Devices

FDA-CDRH-Medical-Devices-SimulationBringing new medical device products to market requires verification and validation (V&V) of the product’s safety and efficacy. V&V is required by the FDA as part of their submission/approval process. The overall product development process is illustrated in the chart below and phases 4 and 5 show where verification is used to prove the device meets the design inputs (requirements) and where validation is used to prove the device’s efficacy. Historically, the V&V processes have required extensive and expensive testing. However, recently, the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) has issued a guidance document that helps companies uses computational modeling (e.g FEA and CFD) to support the medical device submission/approval process.

FDA-Medical-Device-Design-Process-Verification-Validation
Phases and Controls of Medical Device Development Process, Including Verification and Validation
 The document called, “Reporting of Computational Modeling Studies in Medical Device Submissions”, is a draft guidance document that was issued on January 17th, 2014. The guidance document specifically addresses the use of computation in the following areas for verification and/or validation:

  1. Computational Fluid Dynamics and Mass Transport
  2. Computation Solid Mechanics
  3. Computational Electromagnetics and Optics
  4. Computational Ultrasound
  5. Computational Heat Transfer

The guidance specifically outlines what form reports need to take if a device developer is going to use simulation for V&V.  By following the guidance, a device sponsor can be assured that all the information required by the FDA is included. The FDA can also work with a consistent set of input from various applicants. 

drug-delivery-1-large
CFD Simulation of a Drug Delivery System. Used to Verify Uniform Distribution of Drug

Computational Modeling & Simulation, or what we usually call simulation, has always been an ideal tool for reducing the cost of V&V by allowing virtual testing on the computer before physical testing. This reduces the number of iterations on physical testing and avoids the discovery of design problems during testing, which is usually late in the development process and when making changes is the most expensive. But in the past, you had to still conduct the physical testing. With these new guidelines, you may now be able to submit simulation results to reduce the amount of required testing.
mm_model_stresses
Simulation to Identify Stresses and Loads on Critical Components While Manipulating a Surgical Device

Validation and verification using simulation has been part of the product development process in the aerospace industry for decades and has been very successful in increasing product performance and safety while reducing development costs.  It has proven to be a very effective tool, when applied properly.  Just as with physical testing, it is important that the virtual test be designed to verify and validate specific items in the design, and that the simulation makes the right assumptions and that the results are meaningful and accurate.

PADT is somewhat unique because we have broad experience with product development, various types of computational modeling and simulation, and the process of submission/approval with the FDA. In addition, we are ISO 13485 certified. We can provide the testing that is needed for the V&V process and employ simulation to accelerate and support that testing to help our medical device customers get their products to market faster and with less testing cost.  We can also work with customers to help them understand the proper application of simulation in their product development process while operating within their quality system.

PADT Customer GlobalStar Featured in News Report

We were pleased to hear from customer GlobalStar that two of the products PADT  worked on for them were featured on a New Orleans television station. The Spot Gen3trace_title_banner_atv3 and Spot Trace are great devices that communicate to the GlobalStar satellite network no matter where you are, telling people where you are, that your assets have moved, or informing emergency services that you need help.  We learned in the story that SPOT systems had resulted in over 3,000 rescues world wide.  As the Spot Trace usage grows, we hope to see similar statistics for lost and stolen assets recovered.

View the video here:

You can review the work that PADT did on the Spot Gen3 in a case study here.

They haves some great product videos. Here is one for the Spot Trace and another for Spot Gen3.

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

xansys.org[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.”

Do your own Homework/Work 

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.

Ask about a Single Item 

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.

Learn More

If you want better help from online communities, here are some great links to give you pointers:

The moderators on XANSYS have developed a great set of rules that really work. Follow these and you will do well on almost any site: www.xansys.org/rules.html

A resource that has been around since the dawn of the internet is “How To Ask Questions The Smart Way” by Eric Steven Raymond: www.catb.org/~esr/faqs/smart-questions.html

And the Venerable Guy Kawasaki has a famous post on emails, that has a lot of tips that apply to online posts as well: blog.guykawasaki.com/2006/02/the_effective_e.html 

Check out the posts on Xansys.org/forum.html and CFD-Online . They are both vibrant and intelligent communities with good posts.