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

3dprinting-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.

Flownex and PADT Sponsor University of Houston’s Rankin Rollers Team

rankin-rollers-logoA group of enthusiastic students at the University of Houston are doing their part at solving that age old academia problem: not enough hand’s on experience.  They are designing and building a working steam turbine for the schools Thermodynamics lab so students can experiment with a Rankin cycle, learn how to take meaningful measurements, and study how to control a real thermodynamic system.

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Look! Flownex and PADT on Social Media! Thanks for the plug guys.
After meeting a team member at the 2014 Houston ANSYS User conference, PADT saw a great opportunity to help the team by providing them with access to a full seat of Flownex SE so that they can create a virtual prototype of their steam turbine and the control system they are developing. 

The four team members have the following goals for their project:

    1. Create a fully automated system control
    2. Create system with rolling frame for ease of transport
    3. Create system with dimensions of 4x2x3.5 ft
    4. Deliver pre-made lab experiments
    5.  Produce an aesthetically pleasing product

    Flownex should be a great tool for them, allowing the team to simulate the thermodynamics and flow in the system as well as the system controls before committing to hardware. 

    You can learn more about the team on their Facebook page here, or on their website here

    We hope to share their models and what they have learned when their project is complete. If you are interested in using Flownex for your work or school project, contact PADT.

    steam-turbine-table-setup
    This is the Team’s proposed configuration for the final test bench.
    flow-schematic
    We can’t wait to see this flow diagram translated into Flownex.

    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

    Integrating ANSYS Fluent and Mechanical with Flownex

    Component boundaries generated in Flownex are useful in CFD simulation (inlet velocities, pressures, temperatures, mass flow). Generation of fluid and surface temperature distribution results from Flownex can also be useful in many FEA simulations. For this reason the latest release of Flownex SE was enhance to include several levels of integration with ANSYS.  

    ANF Import

    By simply clicking on an Import ANF icon on the Flownex Ribbon bar users can select the file that they want to import. The user will be requested to select whether the file must be imported as 3D Geometry which conserves the coordinates system or as an isometric drawing.

    The user can also select the type of component which should be imported in the Flownex library. Since the import only supports lines and line related items this will typically be a pipe component.

    Following a similar procedure, a DXF importer allows users to import files from AutoCAD.

    This rapid model construction gives Flownex users the ability to create and simulate networks quicker. With faster model construction, users can easily get to results and spend less time constructing models.

    p1

    ANSYS Flow Solver Coupling and Generic Interface

    The Flownex library was extended to include components for co-simulation with ANSYS Fluent and ANSYS Mechanical.
    p2

    These include a flow solver coupling checks, combined convergence and exchanges data on each iteration, and a generic coupling that can be used for cases when convergence between the two software programs is not necessary.

    The general procedure for both the Fluent and Mechanical co-simulation is the same:

    1. By identifying specified named selections, Flownex will replace values in a Fluent journal file or ds.dat file in the case of Mechanical.
    2. From Flownex, Fluent/Mechanical will then be run in batch mode
    3. The ANSYS results are then written into text files that are used inputs into Flownex.
    4. When applicable, specified convergence criteria will be checked and the procedure repeated if necessary.

    p3

    Learn More

    To learn more about Flownex or how Flownex and ANSYS Mechanical contact PADT at 480.813.4884 or roy.haynie@padtinc.com.  You can also learn more about Flownex at www.flownex.com.

    Additive Manufacturing Motor Trends

    Additive manufacturing (AM) has been used in the motor sports world for years.  Now more than ever, race teams have found that additive manufactured parts have the quality and durability to meet their demands. From NASCAR to the World Rally Championship, race teams around the world are excited about the possibilities that AM brings to the table. For an interesting webinar on-demand and a great whitepaper, click the image below. 68905-Motor-Trends-Webinar_960x350

    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.

    Flownex 2014 Released and Webinars Announced

    987786-flownex_simulation_environment-11_12_13The June release of Flownex SE software includes numerous updates for companies that model thermal fluid systems; videos and webinars are available to showcase the impact of these enhancements.

    Flownex SE has increased the ability of engineers to accurately model their fluid-thermal with the release of version of Flownex 2014 on June 19th, 2014. The program is known for its in ease of use, breadth of capability, and depth of functionality.  With enhancements in turbomachinery modeling, support for 3D networks, GIS data import, heat transfer and a myriad of additional new features impacting efficiency, integration, and automation, this release expands the industries that can take advantage of it, and will help current users model their systems more accurately with greater ease.

    7271351-Flownex2014-GIS

    To help the user community understand the impact of these significant enhancements, PADT is offering two webinars. Both webinars will include a brief introduction to the tool, so if you are new to Flownex SE you will have a good foundation to get started.

    Webinar Sign-Up:

    Overview webinar: July 24, 2014, 1:00-2:00 PM MST

    This webinar will focus all of the new features in Flownex SE 8.3.6.  
    Register here

    7271351-Flownex2014-Rotating_ComponentsTurbomachinery webinar: August 7, 2014, 1:00-2:00 PM MST

    This webinar will be a deep dive into the extensive turbomachinery capabilities added in this release, and will be of interest to anyone simulating turbine engines, pumps, blowers, or other rotating machinery that involves fluids.
    Register here

    All registrants will be sent links to recordings so they can view the presentation even if they cannot attend them live.

    Video Resources:

    A video is also available that hits the important new capabilities: 

    If you are new to Flownex SE, visit PADT’s Flownex page to learn more:  

    Key Features:

    The key features introduced in Flownex 2014 (Flownex SE 8.3.6) are:  

    1. Rotating components, Swirl Boundary, and General Turbine and Compressor Models
    2. Importing and Geometries
    3. GIS File Support
    4. Connections to ANSYS Products
    5. Link to Mathcad
    6. Graphical Script Generation Tool
    7. New Designer Tools to Quickly Model Common Systems.
    8. Five Additional Convection Models
    9. Exit Thrust Nozzle Added
    10. Additional Enhancements ranging from 3D Graphs to Support for Miter Bends in Piping

    7271351-Flownex2014-Pipe-Results

    Visit here to see a detailed list of these key features, or download the complete release notes here.

    These additional features reflect the growing diversity of industries that are using Flownex SE to model their systems.  Users in oil and gas, mining, chemical processing, and turbomachinery will all see additional accuracy, functionality, and efficiency from this release. Built on an existing strong foundation that offers un-paralleled capability with  intuitive ease of use, a short look at Flownex SE will show you why so many users around the world are choosing it as their thermo-fluid modeling tool.

    PADT is the distributor of Flownex SE in the United States.  Our experienced staff is eager to discuss your system modeling needs and is ready to show you how Flownex SE can start delivering value almost immediately. Contact us today to meet with our experts.

    Video Tips: Workflow for Designing Electric Motors in ANSYS

    A quick video showing you a great workflow for designing electric motors. It shows going from a quick template based design tool to a full 3D analysis tool

    3D Printing and PADT hit the Airwaves

    money_radioLocal station Money Radio – 1510AM  99.3FM – is broadcasting a show on 3D Printing from PADT.  Technology, Opportunity and Happiness, hosted by John Barnabas, will be broadcasting live from PADT on July 29th from 12 noon till 1:00 pm.  The show includes a studio audience and will focus on how 3D printing is impacting business and the markets.  

    There is room in the audience for about 30 people, so register now to reserve your seat.  We will cover the basics of the technology, but the real discussion will be about how this technology has and is transforming the way people innovate, and the way companies manufacture products. Lunch will be served and we will keep the discussion going and giving tours after the broadcast for anyone that wants to learn more.

    If you can’t attend, you can listen live in Arizona on 1510 AM or 99.3 FM.  And you can always listen from anywhere over the web hereStratasy-Mojo-3D-Printer-in-Shopping-Cart_thumb.jpg

    Top 10 New Thermal Fluid Modeling Capabilities in Flownex 2014

    3D graphWe are pleased to announce the release of Flownex SE 2014.  This is a very exciting release for all of us involved in Flownex because it introduces a mix of advanced features and usability enhancements – we love better and easier.  We will be publishing more information about this release, as well as videos and webinars. While we set all of that up, we wanted to whet everyone’s appetite and give you a list of what we feel are the 10 most important enhancements.

    1. Rotating components, Swirl Boundary, and General Turbine and Compressor Models 
      A new library has been added which models rotating flow on a system level. Focusing on secondary flow and heat transfer in turbine engines, it includes all the components needed including compressors, turbines, seals, gaps, nozzles, and cavities. A complete library for Steam Turbine modeling was also added. 
    2. Importing and Geometries
      Users can read in 2D and 3D layout files in common formats and directly create Flownex models from the geometry. The model and results can then be visualized with the 3D geometry.
    3. GIS File Support
      When modeling systems that cover a large area, such as water or gas pipelines, the geographical data can be imported for display and to automatically include altitude into the model. 
    4. Connections to ANSYS Products
      Users can import 3D Pipe geometry as an ANF file, and connect to ANSYS Mechanical and ANSYS Fluent for co-simulation.
    5. Link to Mathcad
      Users can transfer parametric data to and from Mathcad worksheets
    6. Graphical Script Generation Tool
      Users can use Quick Script to create complex scripts to customize their processes or models without having to learn the full scripting language
    7. New Designer Tools to Quickly Model Common Systems.
      Designer tools atomically iterate on a user’s model to calculate unknown values for them. This release includes tools for calculating mass flow when only pressure is known at a boundary, automatically calculating steady state conditions in a two-phase tank, and a component designer that calculates input parameters for common components so that those components deliver the users requested mass flow.
    8. Five Additional Convection Models 
      Based on user input, five new models were added to the Dittus-Boelter correlation for calculating heat transfer coefficients: tube, shell-side single phase, shell-side horizontal tube condensation, ribbed wall channel, and channel with pedestals. 
    9. Exit Thrust Nozzle Added
      New model in subsonic and supersonic flow at the outlet of a flow network with gasses and superheated fluids
    10. Additional Enhancements:
      Support for miter bends in piping
      3D graphs
      Radiation supports multiple surface enclosures
      The range of methane two phase fluid was increased
      Support for 64 bit 
      Several more values can be changed during a transient solution

    The best way to learn more about these additions, or anything about Flownex, is to contact Roy Haynie at roy.haynie@padtinc.com or 480-813-4884.  
    There is also some more detailed material here:

     

    3D Color Printing the 2014 Arizona SciTech Festival Awards

    photo 2The best way to promote and celebrate science and technology is with science and technology.  And this year PADT was able to do just that by using 3D Color Printing to make the recognition awards for the 2014 sponsors of the Arizona SciTech Festival.

    The Arizona SciTech Festival is a new but growing player in the Arizona STEM landscape.  After three short years it has become the preferred way for science and technology companies and educators to engage with the public.  This year’s festival, held in February and March, was a huge success.  And none of it would be possible without the support of sponsors. PADT was honored to once again the awards that are given to these sponsors in recognition of their contributions. 

    In the past we mixed traditional manufacturing and 3D Printing to make the awards. But this year we were able to use our new Stratasys Objet500 Connex3 to make the bulk of this years awards, and our Stratasys FORTUS 400 to make the stands.  The resulting awards are better than we had hoped for. 

    The Process

    The way the color printer works is you have to create a separate STL file for each color you want to print. So I needed to take a 2D vector art file and convert it into a collection of 3D STL files that represent the part I want printed.

    I started by taking an Adobe Illustrator file of the AZ SciTech Festival logo, cleaning it up, and exporting it as a *.DWG file.
    azstf-award-illustrator
    I then imported it into my CAD tool. I happen to use SolidEdge, but the process should work with any modern CAD tool. I had to clean up the lines a lot.  In a graphic art image you can have small gaps, little line segments, and even polygons that self intersect. But in CAD you have to clean that all up. Plus some features were just too small to see in the 3D Printed object, so I simplified those. This was the most difficult part of the process.
    azstf-award-solidedge-sketch

    Once everything is clean you simply go through and extrude each polygon that you want printed, using the cleaned up sketch as your geometry.  Here is the first solid, and the simplest, the tail:
    azstf-award-solidedge-extrude1

    Once all the polygons are extruded, I assigned colors so I could visualize what the final part would look like. I also put a round on all the top edges, knowing from experience that even putting a small round on a part like this will increase the final parts attractiveness.
    azstf-award-solidedge-extruded

    The base needed to be a separate solid, because I needed it to be a different color. So I just made a new part for that and made an assembly. This keeps all of the solids separate. The letters were made just like the lizard logo, I went in to Adobe Illustrator and created the text outline, following the circle that defines the award. I exported that as DWG, imported it into SolidEdge, then extruded each letter.  
    azstf-award-solidedge-medalian

    The next step was to export the assembly as an STL file.  This file contained all the solids.  This was read in to the software that comes with the Objet500 Connex3. The operator then had to click on each object and assign a color from the chosen pallet.  It turns out that the official ScitTech Festival colors match one of the pallets closely, so we were able to get all the colors in the print. 

    Once this was done, we simply printed 28 at a 3″ diameter, and 9 at 2″. Here is a video showing the printing process.

    The resolution and brightness of the colors was very nice. Here are some images. Color parts just look better.
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    For the base, I just came up with something that was thin and easy to build in using FDM because I wanted a strong part that was inexpensive that would also take a decal with the recipients name on the front, and information about the award on the back.  
    azstf-award-solidedge-base

    Here is a stack of the printed bases.
    photo 1

    And the final awards, ready to go to all those sponsors.
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    Why Does it Matter

    This effort is great example of the power of 3D Printing to a create a smaller number of custom objects. Standard awards form an awards shop are cheaper, but they are generic.  Using traditional methods to make custom awards is expensive and often labor intensive.  By making the whole award using a 3D Printer we were able to reduce the cost and the time for these unique objects, and were able to use advanced technology to highlight the sponsorship of an event that celebrates just that.  Kind of cool.

    It is also a great example of the long term power of 3D Printing.  As was covered in a recent blog post, the real power of this technology is that it lets people without manufacturing or craftsman skills to create real objects, without a collection of equipment they don’t need or don’t know how to use. The applications of this power are endless. 

    If you want to learn more about how you can do your own 3D Printing or how PADT can provide it to you as a service, contact us today.

    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.  

    3D-printed-Ellis-Island-3D-Model-Don-Foley-via-3D-Printing-IndustryDesigner Don Foley  has created a very detailed model of the Ellis Island Customs House which you can download for free for the next 2 weeks.   

    instructions-for-3D-printed-Ellis-Island-Customs-House-by-Don-Foley-via-3D-Printing-Industry
    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!

    Ulthera Purchased by Merz

    Ulthera-Hand-Piece-SmallWe love to see our customers succeed – everyone here that has worked with Ulthera knew it would only be a matter of time before a large player recognized the value of this company. And, we just learned today that the German pharmaceutical company Merz is buying Ulthera for $600,000,000.  

    Here is a link to an article on the sale, and here is a link to the press release

    PADT worked with Ulthera to help them redesign their hand-piece design.  The process, called Ultherapy, is a non-surgical, non-invasive procedure for the face that uses high density, focused, ultrasound and the body’s own natural healing process to lift, tone, and tighten loose skin. Some of our employees also volunteered to test the device and pose for marketing material.  

    Read about the work we did in a case study we published a while back.

    Congratulations to everyone at Ulthera and we can’t wait to work with them again to help improve and grow this device and others in the future.

    Recommended Free Utilities for the ANSYS User’s Toolbox

    free-stuffWhat do you have in your toolbox? The ANSYS suite of tools is pretty comprehensive.  But an efficient user always has a collection of utilities that they use with ANSYS products to automate processes, convert data, and scrub results.  In 2008 we published a list of free and commercial tools that we were using at PADT, and web results show that it is one of our more popular posts. So we thought it was a good time to revisit and update those lists.

    We will start with the free tools, well because everyone loves something for free. This is by no means a comprehensive list, these are simply the tools we currently use here at PADT. If you have alternative suggestions, please leave them in a comment.  I tried to put them in some logical grouping, but failed.  So here they are, in no particular order:

    untitled python
    Scripting Language
    www.python.org

    Every good simulation user needs scripting.  We spend a lot of time dealing with large amounts of data and setting up all sorts of complicated processes.  Scripting can be used to create, modify, sift through, or translate text versions of our models, loads, and results.  Some users like to stick with APDL and never leave ANSYS, some know Matlab very well.  Others may use newer languages like Lua or older ones like perl.
    Here at PADT we have found that python is the best tool for scripting outside of ANSYS MAPDL (we use APDL if we are in the program).  Not only is it easy to learn and use, it has hundreds of free libraries that do almost anything you want. Lots of people know it, and you are not dependent on some other piece of software. Python also works on Linux and Windows. In addition, most CAE tools these days support python scripting.  This is certainly true of the Workbench project page and ANSYS ACT for ANSYS Mechanical. 

    Alternatives: perl, Lua, linux shell scripts.

    vtk VTK
    Visualization Library
    www.vtk.org

    Did you ever wish there was a toolkit out there that you could use to quickly build a visualization tool?  I know I spent days of my early career writing simple tools from scratch, and spending most of my time on graphics stuff.  Well, VTK is that toolkit.  It consists of C++ class libraries, and includes interpreters for Tcl/Tk, Java, and python.  With python, you can create little applications very quickly without having to know a full object oriented programming language.  The resulting graphics are fast and attractive. If you are going to be writting your own vertical application that works with your FEA or CFD tool, use VTK for the graphics.

    paraview ParaView
    Visualization Tool
    www.paraview.org 

    The first time you use ParaView, your response will most likely be OMG. It is a visualization tool written in VTK.  It reads most FEA and CFD formats, along with pretty much any faceted geometry data format.  [Unfortunately it is not reading the current ANSYS ds.dat file that ANSYS mechanical writes (or a cdb file)  I’ll try and submit a bug report. ]  But it does read a CGNS file, which you can export to from Workbench. 

    But we don’t use it for working with ANSYS files so much, we have tools for that. We use it to deal with other file formats like STL, NASTRAN, CGNS, ExodusII, etc…  Very handy and intuitive to use. It is also an example of how powerful VTK is.

    Alternatives: OpenCascade

    notepad  Notepad++
    Source Code Editor
    notepad-plus-plus.org 

    This is a great text editor.  Newer than most, it builds on the dozens of previous text editors out there.  It does syntax highlighting and auto completion for many languages. For ANSYS users, it has a powerful column editing mode, very sophisticated search and replace, and macro recording and playback.  I’m not aware of an APDL syntax highlighter, but you have PeDAL for that. There are a lot of text editors out there, and this one has bubbled to the top as the most popular at PADT.

    Alternatives: Notepad, PSPad, TextPad, UltraEdit, and dozens more

    vim Vim/GVim
    VI Text Editor
    www.vim.org 

    Some people love VI, the old Unix text editor.  I’m one of those people. I’ve been using VI for over 30 years.  So I have to have a VI editor on my machine and I use it instead of Notepad++ or other text editors. Because I don’t want to touch a mouse, I want to [Esc] jjjj llll .  instead.  Vim is really the only good VI tool out there anymore, and it comes standard on most Linux installs instead of the old Vi.  The windows version works great.

    Alternatives: Elvis, Vile, Lemmy

    openoffice OpenOffice
    Word Processor, Spreadsheet, Slide Shows, Database
    www.openoffice.org 

    Let’s be honest, MS Office dominates this type of tool. It works, everyone has it, and everyone knows it.  But sometime you don’t want to fork over cash to those guys in Seattle. Or maybe you spend your day on Linux.  OpenOffice is about 90% of what MS Office does, and it is free. It kind of died at Sun when they got bought by Oracle.. Since Apache has taken up the market, it has seen a lot of enhancements.

    Many people just think about the word processor, but remember it has a simple drawing tool, an equation editor, a a very good database program.

    Alternatives: GoogleDocs, LibreOffice

    latex LaTeX
    Document Perpetration System
    www.latex-project.org 

    How do you tell an engineer with an advanced degree from one who just has a BS?  The one with the MS or PhD like LaTeX.

    Traditionally the tool of thesis writers, LaTeX has significant utility for the ANSYS user.  It allows you to create nice looking documents by imbedding tags in the document.  A pain when we have WYSIWYG editors, but very useful if you want to use scripting to create a document.  It is also a great way to create very good looking equations and tables.  Think of it as HTML for nice looking documents.

    Alternatives: Word Processors

    cutepdf CutePDF
    PDF Creator/Writer
    www.cutepdf.com 

    This tool is not as important as it once was, since many programs write to PDF for you. But every once in a while you run across one that does not.  It installs like a printer, so anything program with a print command allows you to save as PDF. 

    Alternatives: Adobe Online PDF Creator, PDF reDirect, PDFCreator, and a ton more.

    adobe-reader-logo Adobe Reader
    PDF Viewer
    get.adobe.com/reader 

    I almost left this off the list, but to be fair I included this. If you don’t have Acrobat Reader, you must live in a cave.  It is pretty much required to do business in this day and age.

    ghostscript

    Ghostscript
    Ghostview
    GSView

    PostScript Tools
    pages.cs.wissc.edu/~ghost 

    Ghostscript is an old Gnu project that contains tools for working with PostScript.  Ghostview is the viewing tool on Linux, although it has been replaced by GV.  GSView is a viewer for Windows.  Look at the website to learn about which tool you should be using.

    If you just look at PDF’s, then Adobe Reader is all you need. But if you have an older program that output PostScript directly, or you want to write a tool that create PostScript, then this toolset is for you.

    windows-snipping 

    Windows Snipping Tool
    Screen Capture Tool
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snipping_Tool 

    This comes with all modern Window’s operating systems.  And, to be honest, this is the one free utility most of us use more than any other.  Who saves images to files any more, we just snip them!  If you don’t have it in your task bar, put it there and get used to using it. 

    Your Linux Desktop Environment will have a similar tool: KSnapshot or GNOME Screenshot

    camstudio

    CamStudio
    Screen Capture Tool
    camstudio.org 

    CamStudio is an open source tool for capturing video and audio off your screen.  Now one may want this to create screen grabs of “Lost in Space” reruns… but what does an ANSYS user need this for.  We use it to make tutorials for other users.  It is a great way to capture what you are doing on your screen for training or to share with co-workers.

    Alternatives:  We mostly use commercial tools for this… see the next article.

    gimp-logo

    GIMP
    Image Editing Tools
    www.gimp.org 

    I hate the name of this product. The politically-correct-Berkley-grad in me finds it very distasteful. But it stands for Gnu Image Manipulation Program.  It is not Adobe PhotoShop, but every release it gets closer. And in some areas it is better. It runs on Linux and Windows, always a plus.  We use it on our Unix machines to crop and clean up images. It can also be used to combine a series of images into an Animated GIF.  It is not bad at deleting backgrounds to make images with transparency for presentations as well.  It also has a fairly good vector creation layer.

    We used to recommend a mixture of free tools to deal with image manipulation and editing, but now we feel that GIMP does it all.

    Alternatives; ImageMagick, MS Paint

    Movie to GIF MovieToAniGif
    Make Animated GIF’s from AVI’s
    www.evanolds.com/movtogifsimple.html

    Everyone uses Microsoft PowerPoint to do presentations, and for most things it works great. But one thing is really sucks at is animations: you have to keep the movie files you are showing in the same directory because you can not embed them.  The simplest solution to this problem is to convert your animations into animated GIF files. Then insert those in your presentation. It also solves the problem of putting animations on your website without using YouTube or Flash.

    The tool we use mostly is Move to Animated GIF Converter.  It is old, the last version came out in 2010, but it still works just fine.  Not much to it, point it at an AVI file and then save it as an animated GIF.

    Alternatives: There are a bunch of tools out there, we have not used any so can’t really recommend an alternative.

    engauge-digitizer Engauge
    Converts Images of Graphs into Data
    digitizer.sourceforge.net

    Have you ever asked someone for material properties and you get a scan of a phototcopy of a book page back?  It happens less these days than it used to but you still sometimes get an image of a graph rather than a spreadsheet file.  Have no fear, Engauge is here!  It takes your image and allows you to identify the axis and the scale, then the data.  With a few clicks you have a table of useful data. 

    Alternatives: A ruler.

    Gnuplot Gnuplot
    Plotting Tool
    www.gnuplot.info

    Most FEA tools have their own 2D and 3D Graphing options, and of course Excel does a pretty good job. But sometimes you need more, or you want a plotting tool you can script. Gnuplot is that tool. It has been around forever and has about every type of graph imaginable. As a command line based program with its own scripting language, it can be generated by your programs to get the exact plot that you want.

    Alternatives: Python’s matplotlib or PyQtGraph, Scilab

    scilab Scilab
    Numerical Computation Tool
    www.scilab.org

    We don’t us a lot of Matlab here at PADT, we try and beat it out of new grads when we hire them… no not really.  It is a tool that our younger engineers are used to using.  The problem is it is kind of expensive when you use it every once in a while. Scilab is a nice open source alternative.  It works well and runs on Linux and Windows. 

    Alternatives: Julia, Sage.

    Remote_desktop_connection_icon

    Windows Remote Desktop
    Remote Desktop Tool
    Built in to Windows Operating Systems

    This is another “free” utility that comes with the windows operating system. Strictly speaking, it is not free because you paid for Windows, but it is so important, I thought it it was worth mentioning. 

    Accessing your a windows computer remotely was something we can now do all the time, even from a mobile device. And internet connections are fast enough to where you can do real work from a coffee shop, home, or even from an airplane with WiFi. 

    More importantly, in March of 2014, Microsoft released apps for iOS, Android, and Mac that work really, really well. We had been using 3rd party apps that were OK, but the new MS apps are great and I log on to my desktop all the time from my iPad and work fairly productively.

    vnc

    VNC
    Remote Desktop Tool
    www.tightvnc.com
    www.realvnc.com

    Remote Desktop works great for Windows boxes.  But if you want to do a remote desktop thing with Linux, or cross platform, we recommend VNC.  There are a ton of VNC tools out there, we seem to use tightVNC, and realVNC.  You need a server on the remote machine, and a viewer on the machine you are using. The viewers are free, not all servers are free.  There are also apps for iOS and Android for VNC viewers.

    We recommend using VNC only if you are connecting to a Linux machine from a Windows machine and you don’t want to mess with an X11 server on your Windows Machine (See below for X11 servers for Windows).  VNC does a pixel copy across the network, which is not as fast as X11 or Remote Desktop that send primitives back and forth.

    We have not had time to investigate VNC tools like TurboVNC that use VirtualGL and other tools to speed up the sending of the graphics window back and forth. NX (see below) uses VirtualGL

    Alternatives: Tons, just google.

    NX

    NX
    Remote X11 Desktop Client and Server
    www.nomachine.com

    Above we talk about Remote Desktop and VNC as ways to see remote machines.  If you want to see a Linux machine the best free way we have found is to use NX. This is one of those open source tools that is free and not free, and can get confusing.  It works like VNC in that you need a server on your remote machine, and a client on your machine. The client from www.nomachine.com is free.  The server is something you need to load on the remote machine, and probably comes in your Linux distribution. FreeNX seems to be the most popular.

    You should get very nice performance for 3D graphics on your internal internet, and not bad over the internet either.  We recomend NX over Cygwin if you don’t need a full unix clone on your windows machine, if you are just logging in to a LInux box, use NX.

    (and yes, we hate that the name is the same as the CAD/PLM tool… causes great confusion)

    Alternatives: Cygwin, VNC

    cygwin cygwin
    Linux on Windows
    www.cygwin.com

    If you need more than visualization on a remote Linux machine from your Windows box, you actually want to run Linux on top of Windows without rebooting or using a virtual machine, then you need cygwin.  It is a fairly full linux distribution that runs on Windows, including full X11 capability.  We don’t recommend it for people who are not Linux savvy, but if you are and you want to work in that environment, then it works very well.

    putty putty
    ssh Tool
    www.putty.org

    The best, and most secure, way to connect to a Linux machine is through SSH. If you have NX or cygwin you just open up a terminal and connect. But what if you just want a text connection. Putty is a simple tool that will store your connections and let you log right in and provide you with that terminal.  Better yet, it has an SCP tool (ssh copy) that is very handy for transferring files between machines.

    dropbox dropbox
    File sharing Tool
    www.dropbox.com

    There are a ton of “cloud” tools out there that let you load a file up on a server in the sky, backing it up or sharing it with others.  We use Dropbox at PADT for a couple of reasons.  The first is that it is more than a cloud solution, the files you put on Dropbox get copied to all of the computers you have that are connected to your Dropbox.  I keep all the essential files I need every day, and for whatever project I’m working on in a Dropbox folder and I have access to it at home, on my laptop, even on my iPad. 

    I also use it to transfer files to other people who don’t know what FTP is.

    Alternatives: Box, Copy, GoogleDrive (with Sync)

    filezilla filezilla
    FTP Tool
    www.filezilla-project.org

    Real simulation users FTP from the command line… and waste time doing so.  FileZilla is a great tool that uses a GUI to connect to FTP servers and transfer files by dragging and dropping.  It makes finding files, transferring multiple files, and monitoring those big transfers a breeze.

    Alternatives: ftp command line, cURL,lftp

    7zip 7-Zip
    File Compression Tool
    www.7-zip.org

    This is the most capable windows based compression tool we have found.  For many people the built in compression in Windows is fine, but if you want other options, and the ability to work with formats besides .ZIP ( including TAR, GZIP, RAR, LZH) this is the preferred tool.

    Alternatives: windows compression, we have not used any other free tools for this

    Encryption

    I was going to recommend two tools for encryption: TrueCrypt and PGP.  But it looks like both tools are in flux right now. 

    TrueCrypt makes virtual drives as files. When you decrypt them they show up as a drive on your machine. Very handy for achieving any special security concerns you may have.  But in march it was mysteriously shut down. They recommend that you use BitLocker which comes free with Windows.  We have not tried it so we can’t recommend it. Too bad, it was a great tool.  An alternative is PGPDisk, but that costs money or you have to compile it yourself.

    PGP encrypts files and had great email plug-ins. It was a nice tools for sending customer data back and forth in a secure way.  It was purchased by a series of companies and ended up sort of becoming static. You can read about it on Wikipedia. The good news is that there is an open source version called PGP, available on www.pgpi.org.  You want the GnuPG version which is free.  There are links here to PGPDisk source code as well.

    Bottom line, if you need to encrypt, you might as well pay for a commercial version that is supported.

    So, that is all of the tools we could think of, a very diverse list.  Remember, put any other suggestions you have in the comments below.