Silicon Desert Insider: What’s so exciting about metal 3-D printing anyway?

The ability to take a model of some object on a computer and make a physical copy with one machine, 3-D Printing or Additive Manufacturing, has been around for more than twenty-five years.  Recently, the bug noise in 3D Printing has been around metal 3D Printing.  It is a big deal, and in “What’s so exciting about metal 3-D printing anyway?” I explain why engineers are so head-over-heals for this new capability.

Recording – Leveraging On-Demand Cloud HPC for Simulation with Nimbix

High Performance Computing (HPC) has proven to be critical for simulation tools like ANSYS thanks to its ability to help engineers perform a wider range of analyses faster than ever before.

PADT is proud to be working with Nimbix, the creators of an award winning HPC platform developed for enterprises and end users who demand performance and ease of use in their process.

Check out the following recording of our co-hosted webinar, with Nimbix Application & Sales Engineer Adil Noor, and PADT’s Lead Application Engineer, Manoj Mahendran, discussing the benefits of leveraging HPC and Cloud Computing for simulation, along with a look at how PADT has deployed ANSYS on the Nimbix platform.

All Things ANSYS EP002: We talk about HFSS and Files Storage and Management with EKM

Published on: August 14, 2017
With: Ahmed Fayed, Michael Griesi, Joe Woodward, Eric Miller
Description: In our second try at a podcast we sit down with Michael, our inhouse HFSS expert, to talk about what HFSS is and how it can be used.  We also had the oportunity to have Ahmed join us from PADT’s IT team to talk about dealing with file storage when you use ANSYS products. We focused on how we use ANSYS EKM to get a handle on all of them.  This episode also includes news and our first ever commercial break.


All Things ANSYS EP001: Topological Optimization and other additions in ANSYS 18

Published on: July 31, 2017
With: Trevor Rubinoff, Joe Woodward, Ted Harris, and Eric Miller
Description: In our first ever attempt at a podcast we gather a few engineers around microphone and share our thoughts. Besides talking about our new podcast, we take a look at what we have learned about Topological Optimization with ANSYS as well as each of our favorite features in ANSYS 18. We also introduced a regular segment where we go over news in the ANSYS world.


ANSYS ACT Console Snippets

So this is just a quick post to point out a handy feature in ANSYS Workbench, the ACT Console. There are times when you want some functionality in Mechanical that just is not yet there. In this example, a customer wanted the ability to get a text list of all the Named Selections in his model.  A quick Python script does just that.

import string,re

a=ExtAPI.DataModel.AnalysisList[0]  #Get the first Analysis if multiple are present 

#Put the output file in the "user_files" directory for the project. 

#Use the name of the system in case the snippet is 
#used on multiple independent systems in the project. 
system_name=re.sub(" ","_",a.Name)  
model = ExtAPI.DataModel.Project.Model 
nsels = model.NamedSelections                  #Get the list of Named Selections 

if nsels:    #Do this if there are any Named Selections
     f=open("%s\\\\%s_named_selections_checked.txt"%(userdir,system_name), "w") 
     for child in nsels.Children:

So to use a piece of Python code, like this, we use the ACT Console in Mechanical. To access the ACT Console in Mechanical 17.0, or later, just hit this icon in the toolbar.

The Console allows you to type, or paste, text directly into the black command line at the bottom.  But if we are going to reuse this code, then the use of Snippets is the way to go. In R17.0 they were called ‘Bookmarks’, but they worked the same way.

When you add a Snippet, a new window allows you to name the snippet and type in, or paste in, your code.

When you hit Apply, your named snippet is added to the list

From then on, to use the snippet you just click on it, and hit ‘Enter’. The text is basically, repasted into the command window, so you can set any variables needed prior to hitting your snippet.

The snippets are persistent and remain in the console, so they are available for all new projects. Using snippets is a great way to reduce time for repetitive tasks, without having to create a full blown ACT extension.

Happy coding!

Phoenix Business Journal: ​Making a statement about who you are in a digital, shared world

In our new modern world, much has changed. We are more connected and more mobile, working anywhere we need to.  And with the emergence of the sharing economy we are letting others drive us and staying in other people’s homes.  This impacts a lot of things in our lives, but one major input is that “​Making a statement about who you are in a digital, shared world” is very different.  Take a look at this post and think about it.  How do you share who you are?

Getting to Know PADT: Simulation Services

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

The A in PADT actually stands for Analysis.  Back in 1994 when the company was started, computer modeling for mechanical engineering was called Analysis. It was such an important part of what we wanted to achieve that we put it in the name.  Unfortunately, Analysis was a bit to generic so the industry switched to Numerical Simulation, or simply simulation. In the 23 years since we started, analysis… sorry, simulation, has been not just a foundation for what PADT does for our customers, it has become a defacto tool in product development.  Through it all there has been a dedicated group here that is focused on providing the best simulation as a service to customers around the world.

Driving Designs with Simulation

Many companies know about PADT with regards to simulation because we are an ANSYS Elite Channel Partner – selling and supporting the entire suite of ANSYS simulation tools in the Southwestern US. The success of simulation in the design and development of physical products is a direct result of the fact that these fantastic tools from ANSYS can be used to drive the design of products.  This can be done in-house by companies designing the products, or outsourced to experts. And that is where PADT has come in for hundreds of customers around the world.  The expertise we use to support and train on ANSYS products derives directly from our real world experience providing CFD, structural, thermal, electromagnetic, and multiphysics simulations to help those customers drive their product development.

For those not familiar with simulation, or who only use the basic tools embedded in CAD software as a quick check, understanding why it is so important hinges on understand what it really is. Numerical Simulation is a methodology where a physical product is converted into a computer model that represents its physical behavior.  This behavior can be many different physics: stresses, vibration, fluid flow, temperature flow, high frequency electromagnetic radiation, sloshing of liquids, deformation during impact, piezoelectric response, heating from static electromagnetic waves, cooling from air flow. The list goes on and on. Pretty much anything you studied in physics can be modeled using a numerical simulation.

The process of doing the simulation consists of taking the physical object and breaking it into discrete chunks, often very small relative to the size of the object, so that equations can easily be written for each chunk that describes the physical behavior of that chunk relative to the chunks around it.  Imagine writing equations for the fluid flow in a complicated valve housing, very hard to do. But if you break it up into about one million small polyhedrons, you can write an equation for flow in and out of each polyhedron. These equations are then assembled into a giant matrix and solved using linear algebra.  That is why we need such large computers.  We mostly use the world’s leading software for this, from ANSYS, Inc.

More than Building and Running Models

Knowing how to build and run finite element and CFD models is key to providing simulation as a service. PADT’s team averages over 18 years of experience and few people come close to their knowledge on geometry preparation, meshing, setting up loads and boundary conditions, leveraging the advantages of each solver, and post processing. That is a good starting point. But what really sets PADT apart is the understanding of how the simulation fits into product development, and how the information gathered from simulation can and should be used.  Instead of providing a number or a plot, PADT’s experienced engineers deliver insight into the behavior of the products being simulated.

How each project is conducted is also something that customers keep coming back for.  Nothing is ever “thrown over the wall” our passed through a “black box.” From quote through delivery of final report, PADT’s engineers work closely with the customer’s engineers to understand requirements, get to the heart of what the customer is looking for, and deliver useful and actionable information.  And if you have your own in-house simulation team, we will work closely with them to help them understand what we did so they can add it to their capabilities. In fact, one of the most popular simulation services offered by PADT is automation of the simulation process with software tools written on top of ANSYS products.  This is a fantastic way to leverage PADT’s experience and knowledge to make your engineers more efficient and capable.

Unparalleled Breadth and Depth

Based on feedback from our customers, the other area where PADT really stands out is in the incredible breadth and depth of capability offered.  Whereas most service providers specialize in one type of simulation or a single industry, more than twenty years of delivering high-end simulation to evaluate hundreds of products has given PADT’s team a unique and special level of understanding and expertise. From fluid flow in aerospace cooling systems to electromagnetics for an antenna in a smart toy, a strong theoretical understanding is combined with knowledge about the software tools to apply the right approach to each unique problem.

No where is this breadth and depth exemplified than with PADT’s relationship with ANSYS, Inc. Since the company was founded, PADT engineers have worked closely with ANSYS development and product management to understand these powerful tools better and to offer their advice on how to make them better.  And each time ANSYS, Inc. develops or acquires a new capability, that same team steps up and digs deep into the functionality that has been added. And when necessary, adding new engineers to the team to offer our customers the same expert access to these new tools.


The best way to understand why hundreds of companies, many of them large corporations that are leaders in their industry, come to PADT from around the world for their simulation services needs is to talk to us about your simulation services needs. Regardless of the industry or the physics, our team is ready to help you drive your product development with simulation. Contact us now to start the discussion.


How ANSYS Helped Us View the Solar Eclipse

Here in the Phoenix area, we weren’t treated to the full total eclipse that others in the USA got to see.  Our maximum coverage of the sun was a bit over 60%.  Still, there was an eclipse buzz in the PADT headquarters and although we had some rare clouds for a few minutes, the skies did part and we did get to view the partial eclipse from the parking lot.

So, how did ANSYS help us view the eclipse?  It was in an indirect way – via a pinhole camera I made from an old ANSYS installation software box.  The software box, a hobby knife to cut out a viewing port, a couple of post-it notes to allow for a small hole and a clear projection area, and a thumb tack were all that was needed, along with a couple of minutes to modify the box.


Here we can see the viewing port cut into the software box.  On the opposite side is a pin hole to allow the sun’s light to enter the box.

After heading out to the eclipsing grounds (the parking lot), we quickly lined up the pin hole and the projection screen and got our views of the partially obscured sun:

Here is a close up of the sun’s image projected inside the box:

Others viewing the eclipse here at PADT HQ had a range of filters, eclipse glasses, etc.  With the projection method as shown above, though, we don’t have to worry about eye damage.  So, in a way, ANSYS did help us view the eclipse safely, by providing a box that was easy to convert to a pinhole camera.

While we enjoyed the partial eclipse here in Arizona, we did have a couple of PADT colleagues in the path of totality.  Here is a picture from one of my coworkers who viewed the eclipse in South Carolina:

We hope you enjoyed the eclipse as well, either in person or via images on the web.  We’re looking forward to the next one!

Finally, In case you missed an earlier astronomical rarity back in 2012, here is a photo of the planet Venus transiting in front of the sun’s disk (black dot on the left side).  The next one of these won’t be until December, 2117.


Phoenix Business Journal: ​Building tomorrow’s science and technology leaders with Arizona’s Pioneering Chief Science Officer program

There is a great STEM program here in Arizona called the “Chief Science Officer” that is backed by the Arizona Commerce Authority and the Arizona Technology Council.  In “Building tomorrow’s science and technology leaders with Arizona’s Pioneering Chief Science Officer program” I go over some highlights on how they take kids interested in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math and help them become leaders in their schools and advocates for better STEM education.

Phoenix Business Journal: ​Taking time to be thankful for being able to do this engineering thing

Not a lot of people have the same advantage that I do, I have a profession that I really like. Being an engineer is fascinating and a true pleasure because engineering is hard, and when smart people do it right it is so interesting and exciting. It is about the process and figuring stuff out – like a solving good puzzle, but better. Learn more about why I like what I do in “Taking time to be thankful for being able to do this engineering thing

Phoenix Business Journal: ​You will be shocked when you read what this technology expert has to say

I don’t like clickbait.  It undermines the trust between information provider and consumer, and I think it needs to stop. Take a look at “You will be shocked when you read what this technology expert has to say” where I go on a bit more and channel my inner Andy Rooney.  Id does also include some recommendations on how we as content users can make a difference.

The Advantages of Leveraging HPC with Nimbix – Webinar

Simulation has become even more prevalent in the world of engineering than it was even 5 years ago. Commercial tools have gotten significantly easier to use, whether you are looking at tools embedded within CAD programs or the standalone flagship analysis tools. The driving force behind these changes are to ultimately let engineers and companies understand their design quicker and with more fidelity than before.

High Performance Computing (HPC) has proven to be critical for simulation tools like ANSYS thanks to its ability to help engineers perform a wider range of analyses faster than ever before. PADT is proud to be working with Nimbix, the creators of an award winning HPC platform developed for enterprises and end users who demand performance and ease of use in their process.

Join Nimbix Application & Sales Engineer Adil Noor, and PADT’s Lead Application Engineer, Manoj Mahendran, for a discussion on the benefits of leveraging HPC and Cloud Computing for simulation, along with a look at how PADT has deployed ANSYS on the Nimbix platform.

From this webinar you will learn about:

  • The benefits of using Cloud Computing
  • The capabilities of HPC with ANSYS
  • The advantages Nimbix provides and why PADT leverages them for HPC

This webinar will be taking place on: 
Wednesday August 23rd, from 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM MST 
Don’t miss this opportunity, register and secure your place today!

Introducing the Stratasys J750 – Webinar

Introducing the Stratasys J750 – Webinar

August 30th, 2017 – 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM MST

The Stratasys J750 3D printer delivers unavailed aesthetic performance including true, full-color capability with the texture mapping and color gradients. Create prototypes that look, feel and operate like finished products, without the need for painting or assembly, thanks to the Stratasys J750’s wide range of material properties.

With this, students can easily experience both the prototyping and testing stages of the manufacturing process, helping to prepare them for what they will experience once they enter the workforce. The high quality materials available with the J750 also allow for the creation of highly intricate and realistic models, perfect for helping medical students with research.

The wide color spectrum, combined with the fine-finish, multi-material capability, let’s the Stratasys J750 produce parts with an incredible array of characteristics. Prototypes that need to look, feel and function like future products are possible in a single print operation, with minimal to no finishing steps, like painting, sanding or assembly.

With such an innovative machine comes a variety of user applications, such as:

  • Image Rapid Prototyping
  • Concept Models
  • Medical Models
  • Jigs & Fixtures
  • Colored Textures

Join PADT’s Sales executive Jeff Nichols and 3D Printing Application Engineer James Barker from 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM MST AZ for an in depth look at how the Stratasys J750 stacks up against it’s competition, and how it’s various attributes help to make it the perfect fit for institutions such as yours!


Don’t miss this unique opportunity to bring the future of manufacturing into your classroom or workplace, secure your spot today!


Phoenix Business Journal: 4 simple suggestions to deal with all those unread emails

We have all been there. You get back from vacation and you have eight hundred unread emails.  For a lot of us we never actually make our way through them all. In “4 simple suggestions to deal with all those unread emails” I cover some ways to get through that pile and get back to being productive.  If you like it… don’t email me.

Topological Optimization in ANSYS 18.1 – Motorcycle Component Example

We’ve discussed topological optimization in this space before, notably here:

If you’re not familiar with topological or topology optimization, a simple description is that we are using the physics of the problem combined with the finite element computational method to decide what the optimal shape is for a given design space and set of loads and constraints. Typically our goal is to maximize stiffness while reducing weight. We may also be trying to keep maximum stress below a certain value. Frequencies can come into play as well by linking a modal analysis to a topology optimization.

Why is topology optimization important? First, it produces shapes which may be more optimal than we could determine by engineering intuition coupled with trial and error. Second, with the rise of additive manufacturing, it is now much easier and more practical to produce the often complex and organic looking shapes which come out of a topological optimization.

ANSYS, Inc. has really upped the game when it comes to utilizing topology optimization. Starting with version 18.0, topo opt is built in functionality within ANSYS. If you already know ANSYS Mechanical, you already know the tool that’s used. The ANSYS capability uses the proven ANSYS solvers, including HPC capability for efficient solves. Another huge plus is the fact that SpaceClaim is linked right in to the process, allowing us to much more easily make the optimized mesh shape produced by a topological optimization into a more CAD representation set for use in validation simulations, 3D printing, or traditional manufacturing.

The intent of this blog is to show the current process in ANSYS version 18.1 using a simple example of an idealized motorcycle front fork bracket optimization. We don’t claim to be experts on motorcycle design, but we do want to showcase what the technology can do with a simple example. We start with a ‘blob’ or envelope for the geometry of our design space, then perform an optimization based on an assumed set of loads the system will experience. Next we convert the optimized mesh information into solid geometry using ANSYS SpaceClaim, and then perform a validation study on the optimized geometry.

Here we show our starting point – an idealized motorcycle fork with a fairly large blob of geometry. The intent is to let ANSYS come up with an optimal shape for the bracket connecting the two sides of the fork.

The first step of the simulation in this case is a traditional Static Structural simulation within ANSYS Workbench. The starting point for the geometry was ANSYS SpaceClaim, but the initial geometry could have come from any geometry source that ANSYS can read in, meaning most CAD systems as well as Parasolid, SAT, and STEP neutral file formats.
A single set of loads can be used, or multiple load cases can be defined. That’s what we did here, to simulate various sets of loads that the fork assembly might experience during optimization. All or a portion of the load cases can be utilized in the topological optimization, and weighting factors can be used on each set of loads if needed.
Here we see the workflow in the ANSYS Workbench Project Schematic:

Block A is the standard static structural analysis on the original, starting geometry. This includes all load cases needed to describe the operating environment. Block B is the actual topological optimization. Block C is a validation study, performed on the optimized geometry. This step is needed to ensure that the optimized shape still meets our design intent.

Within the topology optimization, we set our objective. He we choose minimizing compliance, which is a standard terminology in topology optimization and we can think of it as the inverse which is maximizing stiffness.

In the static structural analysis, 7 load cases were used to describe different loading situations on the motorcycle fork, and here all have been used in the optimization.
Further, we defined a response constraint, which in this example is to reduce mass (actually retain 15% of the mass):

Another quantity that’s often useful to specify is a minimum member constraint. That will keep the topology optimization from making regions that are too small to 3D print or otherwise manufacture. Here we have specified a minimum member size of 0.3 inches:

Since the topological optimization solution uses the same ANSYS solvers for the finite element solution as a normal solution, we can leverage high performance computing (distributed solvers, typically) to speed up the solution process. Multiple iterations are needed to converge on the topology optimization, so realize that the topo opt process is going to be more computationally expensive than a normal solution.

Once the optimization is complete, we can view the shape the topo opt method has obtained:

Notice that only a portion of the original model has been affected. ANSYS allows us to specify which regions of the model are to be considered for optimization, and which are to be excluded.

Now that we have a shape that looks promising, we still need to perform a validation step, in which we rerun our static simulation with the loads and constraints we expect the fork assembly to experience. To do that, we really want a ‘CAD’ model of the optimized shape. The images shown above show the mesh information that results from the topo opt solution. What we need to do next is leverage the ANSYS SpaceClaim geometry tool to create a solid model from the optimized shape.
A simple beauty in the ANSYS process is that with just a couple of clicks we proceed from Block B to Block C in the Workbench project schematic, and can then work with the optimized shape in SpaceClaim.

As you can see in the above image, SpaceClaim automatically has the original geometry as well as the new, optimized shape. We can do as much or as little to the optimized shape as we need, from smoothing and simplification to adding manufacturing features such as holes, bosses, etc. In this case we simply shrink wrapped it as-is.
Continuing with the validation step, the geometry from SpaceClaim automatically opens in the Mechanical window and we can then re-apply the needed loads and constraints and then solve to determine if the optimized shape truly meets our design objectives. If not, we can make some tweaks and run again.

The above image shows a result plot from the validation step. The geometry efficiently comes through SpaceClaim from the optimization step to the validation step. The needed tools are all nicely contained within ANSYS.

Hopefully this has given you an idea of what can be done with topology optimization in ANSYS as well as how it’s done. Again, if you already know ANSYS Mechanical, you already know the bulk of how to do this. If not, then perhaps what you have seen here will spark a craving to learn. We can’t wait to see what you create.